Friday, February 17, 2012

Valdas Adamkus

Valdas Adamkus (born Voldemaras Adamkavičius; November 3, 1926) was President of Lithuania from 1998 to 2003 and again from 2004 to 2009.

In Lithuania, the President's tenure lasts for five years; Adamkus' first term in office began on February 26, 1998 and ended on February 28, 2003, following his defeat by Rolandas Paksas in the next presidential election. Paksas was later impeached and removed from office by a parliamentary vote on April 6, 2004. Soon afterwards, when a new election was announced, Adamkus again ran for president and was re-elected. His approval ratings were high and he was regarded as a moral authority in the state. He chose not to run for re-election during the Lithuanian presidential election in 2009 and was succeeded on 12 July 2009 by Dalia Grybauskaitė.

He is married to Alma Adamkienė, who is involved in charitable activities in Lithuania.

Adamkus was born into a Roman Catholic family in Kaunas. His father was one of the first heads of the Lithuanian Air Force School in the Republic of Lithuania. As a young man, Adamkus joined the underground against the first Soviet occupation of 1940. During World War II, his family fled Lithuania in order to avoid the second Soviet occupation in 1944. He attended the University of Munich in Germany before emigrating to the United States in 1949. Fluent in five languages — Lithuanian, Polish, English, Russian, and German — he served as a senior non-commissioned officer with the 5th Army Reserve's military intelligence unit in the 1950s. During his youth, Adamkus was interested in track and field. He also set national record at 100 metres running. In 1951, Adamkus got married to Alma Nutautaite. However, they have no children.

After arriving in Chicago, Illinois as a displaced person, he worked in an automobile factory and later as a draftsman. Adamkus graduated as a civil engineer from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1961. While a student, Adamkus, together with other Lithuanian Americans, collected about 40,000 signatures petitioning the United States Government to intervene in the ongoing deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia by the Soviets. The petition was presented to then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Adamkus also raised concerns about other Soviet activities in occupied Lithuania to United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1958, and to President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

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