UMD Celebrates IHM2015 in Congress and at White House

On June 1, 2015, the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) joined with Welcome.us and sixteen other leading ethnic organizations to kick-off the 2nd Annual Immigrant Heritage Month with a celebratory reception in the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. Over 200 guests filled the Rayburn House Office Building Foyer to listen to Congressman Richard Hanna (Lebanese origin), Congressman Brendan Boyle (Irish origin), Congressman Paul Tonko (Polish origin), Congressman Tony Cardenas (Mexican origin) describe their own ethnic heritage and what makes them proud to be an American. Alexandra Chalupa of U.S. United With Ukraine Coalition and UMD President Metodija A. Koloski, highlighting their own Ukrainian and Macedonian heritage respectively, emceed the evening.

Todd Shulte of FWD.us, Billy Lawless of the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform, and James Zogby of the Arab American Institute stressed the importance of recognizing and appreciating the sacrifices of those who immigrated into the U.S. made in their pursuit of a better life and shared their own immigration stories. Allison Jarus from the office of Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (Polish/Ukrainian origin), and representatives of the American Polish Advisory Council, Hungarian American Congress and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America highlighted the relationship all communities have had in Ohio.

The following day, June 2, 2015, UMD President Koloski led a delegation of Macedonian-Americans to attend the 2nd Annual White House Ethnic Day, which UMD helped sponsor. The delegation consisted of Very Reverend Father Branko Postolovski of St. George Macedonian Orthodox Church, Gorgi Popstefanov, Kyle Anastas Rosher, Katerina Trajkova, David Turkaleski, Ryan Turkaleski, and Vera Zlidar. This was the first time ever that a Macedonian Orthodox Church clergyman has had the opportunity to attend meetings in the White House. Click HERE to read press release from the 1st White House Ethnic Day in 2014.

Around 170 ethnic leaders attended to listen to senior White House officials speak about immigration and foreign policy issues. Guests heard from: Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Dr. Celeste A. Wallander, special assistant to the President and senior director of the Russia and Central Asia National Security Council, and Michael Carpenter, the special advisor to the Vice President for Europe and Eurasia. Ethnic leaders from the African, Arab, Irish, Polish, and Ukrainian communities participated in a panel and shared their own immigrant stories, sometimes at great difficulty.

UMD President Koloski had the opportunity to pose questions of the distinguished speakers. He commended the White House for hosting the second annual ethnic day and highlight immigrant communities by holding the event during Immigrant Heritage Month, which he urged the President to officially proclaim June as such month. (Since this press release was issued, President Obama issued a video statement to honor Immigrant Heritage Month). Following the remarks by Melissa Rogers, he thanked the Administration for their statement commemorating Orthodox Christmas, but noted that the Administration did not issue a statement for Orthodox Easter this year, which they did in previous years. He urged her office to ensure this is corrected in the future.

During the foreign policy briefing, Koloski requested more information on the U.S. policy of NATO’s open door policy for new members, and of postponing membership for prospective nations. He reminded the White House advisors of the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit of 2008, where the door to Macedonia was blocked from receiving an invitation, and Georgia and Ukraine were prevented from getting NATO Membership Action Plans. Both Georgia and Ukraine faced hindering of their territorial integrity from Russia, and Macedonia is currently undergoing a political crisis. He urged the Obama Administration to change their policy of allowing Greece to jeopardize the future of Macedonia and the region.

The White House then hosted a lunch, and Very Reverend Father Branko Postolovski offered grace, thanked the White House Office of Public Engagement for organizing such a well-attended professional event, and prayed for greater dialogue among the different ethnic groups for the benefit of the United States.

Later in the day, Very Reverend Father Branko Postolovski, Mrs. Liljana Postolovska, and UMD International Policy Director Gorgi Popstefanov met with Congressman John Katko of the 24th Congressional District of New York, which covers Syracuse and the Macedonian-American community. During the meeting, the delegation briefed Congressman Katko about U.S.-Macedonia relations, the Syracuse community, and invited the Congressman to attend the annual Syracuse Macedonian cultural festival on July 31st, August 1st, and 2nd.

June 1st reception sponsors included: Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Africa Diaspora Coalition, American Jewish Committee, American Polish Advisory Council, American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights, Arab American Institute, Armenian National Committee of America, Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform, Friends of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, Greek American Teachers Federation Association, Hungarian American Coalition, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Federation of Croatian Americans, Polish American Congress, Turkish Coalition of America, Turkish Heritage Organization, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, the United Macedonian Diaspora, and Welcome.us.

June 2nd White House Ethnic Day sponsors included: Africa Diaspora Coalition, American Center for a European Ukraine, American Polish Advisory Council, American Russian-Speaking Association for Civil & Human Rights, Arab American Institute, Armenian National Committee of America, Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform, Friends of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, Hellenic American Leadership Council, Hungarian American Coalition, Polish American Congress, Serbian American Business Council, Turkish Heritage Organization, the United Macedonian Diaspora, and U.S. United with Ukraine Coalition.