A new name – that of George Walker Bush – has been entered onto the list of Vilnius city citizens of honour. In order to honour the 43th US President, the city Council decided to award to him the name of a Vilnius citizen of honour. This year is 15 years since the first and until now the only visit of a US President in Vilnius. There is a commemoration plate on the wall of the Vilnius City Hall with particularly significant and inspiring words spoken then by George W. Bush “Anyone who would choose Lithuania as an enemy has also made an enemy of the United States of America”.
“We, Vilnius citizens, are honoured to once again give a meaning to the commemoration of the centenary, thanking George W. Bush for his integrity taking significant decisions that helped us grow, he was among the first who bravely stood for seekers of freedom and democracy. I believe that I am not mistaken saying that the USA and Lithuania have been more than political allies for already a hundred years. Our countries act united not only in creating a common policy and security system, but also protecting common and cultural values, opening borders for artists, exchanging art initiatives and projects. And, of course, jointly commemorating and celebrating the most important festivals of our nations and countries. I think that it is a true expression of respect for the centenary of the friendship of Lithuania and the United States of America,” the Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius said.
The name of a Vilnius city citizen of honour is the highest appreciation, which the city citizens may initiate and award to personalities. Both Lithuanian and foreign nationals can become a citizen of honour. Under the rule of the 43th President, the USA consistently supported the NATO open door policy for all democratic states seeking membership and was in constant pursuance of freedom, democracy and supremacy of law. The Administration of George W. Bush started actively supporting increase of the energy independence of Central Europe. All this coincided with strategic interests of Lithuania. Until now, George W. Bush has been the only ES President having ever visited Lithuania. On 23 November 2002, the then President of America delivered a memorable and encouraging speech to a crow of many thousands people gathered by the Vilnius City Hall.
Vilnius has been awarding the name of a citizen of honour since 1996. That year, the first name of a Vilnius city citizen of honour was awarded to Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, for support to Lithuania in its fight for freedom. Last year, the name of a citizen of honour was given to Samuel Bak – a famous Lithuanian Jew painter.
Photos by Saulius Žiūra.