President Adamkus took the podium and spoke, in Lithuanian. While I don't yet speak the language beyond a few words, my presence at the church has led to recognition of even more words and the capacity to get a gist. Saulius, on my left, took out a piece of scrap paper and began to write list of bulleted points in English for me, which was a big help. The President addressed remarks to our parish and then moved on to the challenges that Lithuania faces as a nation, ending on a note of hope.
Later I had the pleasure of shaking his hand. Actually, I felt such a surge of emotion that I was up to his forearm before I collected myself. I told him that it was an honor to meet him and thanked him for his interest in our church.
My father and his sisters died within months of each other in 1993. They rejoiced in Lithuanian independence and again in 1992 when the Lithuanian men's basketball team won bronze medal in the Olympics. They were so happy that they did not even make snide comments about the tie-dye outfits that the team wore on the podium. I truly felt them smiling down as I shook the hand of Valdus Adamkus.