MALC2016 Asserts the Importance of Macedonian Diaspora Youth Engagement

The 3rd Macedonian-American Leadership Conference (MALC2016) was held in Washington, D.C., from June 9 to 11 and brought together Macedonian-American leaders from throughout the United States and Canada. The event, promoted and known as #MALC2016, was organized and hosted by the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) and its next generation program for young leaders, Generation M. The conference featured leaders from various Macedonian cultural, business, and faith based organizations attending from California, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Ontario, Canada.

Download copy of #MALC2016 Program Book designed by UMD Fellow Nicholas DeMichele HERE.

Photos from the entire conference can be downloaded HERE.

Click HERE for a full video of the conference, and interviews done by Macedonian TV with UMD and Gen M leaders.

MALC2016 kicked off on June 9 with an opening reception at the Embassy of Macedonia in honor of His Excellency Dr. Vasko Naumovski, Ambassador of Macedonia to the United States of America. Ambassador Naumovski addressed attendees, expressing his gratitude for the important relationship the Embassy has with UMD and Generation M, as well as the success of the Macedonian-American community in Washington, D.C., and throughout the U.S.

Friday, June 10 was the focal point of the weekend. MALC’s Advocacy day began with a breakfast briefing to the Congressional Caucus on Macedonia and Macedonian-Americans in the House Administration Committee Hearing Room of the Longworth House Office Building. Congressional Staffers George Hadijski of the House Administration Committee, Robert Hand of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Jeff Orzechowski from the Office of Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI), and Dylan Sodaro from the Office of Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) outlined each of their personal journeys into congressional affairs and discussed the importance of mobilizing the younger generation.

Following breakfast, MALC2016 participants met with representatives from both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. While discussing the current American presidential election, conference attendees considered the ramifications of election results for the Macedonian-American community and, more broadly, how the election could affect foreign policy and U.S. relations with Balkan states. Representatives from the two parties also discussed how Macedonian-American leaders can engage their own communities and involve them in the political process in their own states.

The day continued with tours of the White House and the Library of Congress, in which Macedonian texts and manuscripts were highlighted from the extensive library collection.

After the tours, participants arrived at the UMD office for lunch. Mark Moyar, a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Initiative, spoke on the foreign policy priorities and objectives of the next executive administration, discussing the potential agendas of both a Clinton and Trump presidency. Moyar also fielded questions from MALC2016 attendees on subjects including NATO enlargement and the current Macedonian political crisis.

Lunch was followed by a briefing from White House and State Department officials in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building and centered on domestic Macedonian politics as well as a general update on Macedonia’s place in the international political theatre. Hosted by Asher Mayerson from the Office of Public Engagement, the briefing occurred in three sections: foreign policy, immigration, and President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland.

The foreign policy briefing included a panel of the following individuals: Victoria Taylor, Director for Balkans, Black Sea, and Caucasus Affairs of the National Security Council,; Ian Campbell, Deputy Director of the Office of South Central European Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, and Carina Canaan, Desk Officer for Macedonian and Montenegro, Office of South Central European Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. The immigration briefing was held by Ginette Magaña, Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, while the final portion of the briefing, John Bisognano, Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement spoke about Garland’s nomination.

Friday concluded with a Generation M Board Meeting held at the UMD office. American and Canadian board members discussed international strategy and ongoing initiatives to further both the mission of UMD and youth outreach. With the conclusion of a successful board meeting, a reception was held for attendees that featured traditional Macedonian cuisine, wine from Macedonia, and dancing. Keenan Toohey spoke during the reception about Immigrant Heritage Month, the campaign, and how Macedonian-Americans can get involved to showcase their own Macedonian immigrant heritage stories.

Saturday, June 11 was organized around a full schedule of panelists and forums, as well as question and answer periods on a variety of relevant topics.

Video greeting messages were played by U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess L. Baily, and Macedonia’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Vasko Naumovski. Click HERE for video message by Ambassador Baily. Click HERE for video message by Ambassador Naumovski.

United Macedonian Diaspora President, Metodija A. Koloski, Director of U.S. Operations, Trajko Papuckoski, and Director of Policy and Strategy Zhikica Pagovski provided opening remarks and discussed the success and future plans of UMD. Koloski specifically discussed the importance of UMD’s scholarship program, the Bitove Scholarship, Birthright Macedonia, and UMD’s outreach to the younger generation.

Elaborating on UMD’s new youth initiative, leaders in Generation M continued the presentations. Mario Hristovski, Generation M’s Chairman of U.S. Operations and President of MASO at Ohio State University, Filip Jotevski, Global Chair of Generation M, and Kristina Dimitrievski, Chair of Canadian Operations for Generation M, discussed how young Macedonians can become politically and culturally engaged in their communities, specifically underlining why this is a crucial time for the youth of Macedonia, and of the greater global Macedonian diaspora.

To illustrate the success of youth involvement, Generation M highlighted past and current members’ experience with UMD internships, committee meetings across the U.S. and Canada, as well as the Birthright Macedonia program, UMD’s unique cultural engagement program aimed at providing members with the opportunity to develop an understanding of Macedonian history, culture, and language.

Following up on the importance of preserving Macedonian culture and language, Dr. Biljana Belamaric Wilsey presented her online e-learning center, which provides interactive multimedia resources for learning, practicing, and teaching the Macedonian language. Dr. Belamaric Wilsey’s training and background have helped to build great resources including interactive multimedia tutorials, language learning games, audiocasts, texts about Macedonian culture, including customs, folklore, and children’s rhymes and games, as well as children’s books, available as paperbacks and digitally for the iPad. Most importantly, Dr. Belamaric Wilsey showed how diaspora members can incorporate learning Macedonian in their everyday lives. Please click HERE to visit the website of the Macedonian Language E-Learning Center and improve your Macedonian skills.

Mishko Josifov continued a day of great presentations. Citing Tom Rath and Barry Conchies’ book Strengths-Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, Josifov highlighted the importance of a leader’s understanding and development of their own specific and diverse strengths. Josifov concluded his presentation by generously offering to mail Rath and Conchies’ book to the first two audience members to email him.

Extending the idea of professional development, Igor Dabik, Jessica Bowser, John McCarthy, moderated by Zhikica Pagovski, spoke on networking, joking one should never eat alone, because effective networking is centered on building relationships. The panelists stressed the importance of a genuine approach in making connections with people.

Once again, attendees enjoyed authentic Macedonian food while UMD President Koloski, UMD Director of Policy and Strategy Zhikica Pagovski, and Zlata Unerkova from the Europe and Eurasia Department of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative provided vital insight into the current political crisis in Macedonia, citing the importance of including the diaspora and civil society to create a Macedonian-led resolution.

Continuing on the theme of diaspora leadership, the Executive Director of the Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ajla Delkic, Senior Officer at the Calvert Foundation, Leigh Moran, and the Assistant Regional Director for AJC Washington, Susan Sloan, discussed the role of diasporas in helping the homeland. Delkic, Moran, and Sloan encouraged members to learn about their heritage and seek political involvement in both their perspective countries.

Next, Steve Anevski and Maria DiBiaggio narrated the successes and struggles of starting their own business. Anevski has recently start collaborating with the Skopje-based IT company Kinetiq, and DiBiaggio runs an athletic sports clothing company with operations in New York City and in Skopje and Kriva Palanka, in Macedonia. As recipients of UMD’s 40 Under 40 list, Anevski and DiBiaggio are leaders in their respective fields and serve as effective role models for Generation M and other youth of the Macedonian diaspora. UMD 40 under 40 recipient David Turkaleski moderated the panel. To learn more about Anevski, click HERE and DiBiaggio, click HERE.

The conference closed with Ana Dukoska, UMD New Jersey Regional Representative, and Gordana Mirkoska, UMD Washington, D.C. Regional Representative showing audience members what steps they can take individually and what contributions they can give collectively to the diaspora in light of everything they have learned while attending MALC2016. UMD Generation M Global Chairman Filip Jotevski moderated this panel and highlight once again the importance of programs like Birthright Macedonia.

Considering the success of events like MALC2016, supporters and attendees were encouraged by Director of U.S. Operations Trajko Papuckoski to donate to UMD and become full members to continue attending such events and expand the efforts of programs such as Generation M. As with every non-profit, every donation to UMD helps deliver services to the Macedonian-American community. Finally, as was the theme of many presentations, members were encouraged to also donate their time and skills as volunteers. It is not only a great way to develop professionally in the community, but also provides tremendous help to UMD and Generation M

To find out more about the United Macedonian Diaspora, visit us online at For Generation M, visit For updates on UMD and Gen M events like #MALC2016 and news relevant to the diaspora, follow us on Facebook and Twitter at @UMDiaspora and @GenerationM.

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