The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) held its first Macedonian-American Leadership Conference (MALC2013) from April 11-13, 2013 in Washington, D.C. MALC2013 brought together Macedonian-American leaders of various Macedonian cultural and faith-based organizations from throughout the United States. Macedonian-Americans from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, and Florida participated.
“The weekend-long conference was a first of its kind unique opportunity for our leaders to come to a central location to network with each other, meet U.S. government representatives, and leaders of other established ethnic organizations,” said UMD Director of U.S. Operations Trajko Papuckoski. “By strengthening Macedonian-American organizations and collaborating together, we can accomplish more for our community.”
April 11th started off with the first official visit to Washington, D.C. by His Eminence Metropolitan Metodi of the American-Canadian Macedonian Orthodox Diocese. As part of his agenda, Metropolitan Metodi visited the U.S. Congress to meet with long-standing friends of Macedonia and the Macedonian-American community, Congresswoman Candice Miller of Michigan, who is founder and chair of Macedonia Caucus, and Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, a member of the Macedonia Caucus.
April 12th featured Hill meetings, followed by a roundtable on international religious freedom issues affecting the Macedonian Orthodox Church in Southeast Europe. Later, guests participated in a roundtable discussion on U.S.-Macedonia relations with the Director of the Office of South Central European Affairs at the U.S. Department of State Jonathan Moore, and Macedonia Desk Officer Anne Barghetta.
April 13th kicked off with remarks by Metropolitan Metodi on the role of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in the United States, followed by His Excellency Dr. Zoran Jolevski, Ambassador of Macedonia to the U.S. on current affairs in Macedonia and its relations with the U.S. Guests were particularly interested in economic development opportunities in Macedonia. UMD Fellow Ana David, and UMD and UMAD Board Member George Peters then provided for the guests grassroots advocacy training on how to best communicate with U.S. policymakers and stakeholders. Igor Dabik, a student at Georgetown University, Borko Handjiski who works at the World Bank, and Zhikica Pagovski, a student at American University and UMD’s Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia Representative spoke about building lasting relationships in Washington, D.C. and within the Macedonian-American community. Dabik and Pagovski also discussed current affairs in Macedonia and the effect and role the Macedonian-American community can play.
The Director of the Washington Office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Melanie Maron Pell spoke about the work of the AJC, its diplomatic engagement, its annual Global Forum and ACCESS Summit, programs for youth and young professionals, as well as its work within the overall Jewish-American community. Lydia Borland followed next by talking about the role of the Turkish-American community and its efforts to build greater support in the U.S. Congress.
Lunch featured a panel with three Macedonian-American rising stars, George Hadijski, Director of Member and Committee Services, House Administration Committee, Gregory Michaelidis, Director of Speechwriting, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Marina Veljanovska, Judicial Clerk, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and UMD Founder/Past Board Member.
Following lunch, Biljana Belamaric Wilsey, Executive Director of the Macedonian Language E-Learning Center spoke through Skype conference call on the importance of preserving the Macedonian language in the United States, especially through children’s language books for the next generation. The panel Giving Back to Macedonia featured Beti Arsovska, AJVAR 5K RUN/WALK, which discussed her efforts to raise funds for orphans in Macedonia through sports events like a run/walk, Nikola Labudovski, Macedonian Orthodox Philanthropic Society discussing their annual golf tournament in Columbus, Ohio to help the community, and George Peters, UMD and United Macedonian-Americans of Detroit Board Member, discussing UMAD’s work to help orphans in Macedonia and students by providing scholarships. The working portion of MALC2013 concluded with a discussion on passing the torch to our next generation of leaders with Zhikica Pagovski providing training on how to be a leader.
That evening, UMD, together with its partner and sponsor of the MALC2013, Realington, one of the fastest real estate development companies in the greater Washington, D.C. hosted a reception at the Embassy of Macedonia in support of flood relief efforts in Strumica raising funds for a free health clinic for the poor. Over 150 guests participated, including a couple of Macedonian guests from Sydney, Australia who were in D.C. sightseeing, and enjoyed Macedonian food, and Stobi wine provided by the Balkan Wine Project. The Macedonian oro dancing ended a wonderful evening and a great conclusion to a hopeful annual Macedonian-American Leadership Conference.