Monday, May 12, 2014

Meeting the Prime Minister of Latvia: Just Another Tuesday in DC

Laimdota Straujuma has been Latvia's Prime Minister since January, and this spring she made her inaugural visit to the U.S. I was fortunate to be invited to a reception at the Embassy of Latvia where she and Ambassador Andris Razans opened a new exhibit in the Embassy's Art Space. The exhibit "Latvian Voice in Glass" features exquisite glass pieces by artist Artis Nimanis, and can be viewed this month on Fridays and Saturdays. Ambassador Razans, Prime Minister Straujuma and the artist each spoke very briefly, then it was time to mix and mingle. I met and caught up with some friends I'd not seen in a while, chatted with a Latvian ambassador whom I knew when I was a kid but had not seen since, saw (but unfortunately did not chat with) the current U.S. Ambassador to Latvia Mark Pekkala and former Ambassador to Latvia Judith Garber. I also briefly met and exchanged pleasantries with the Prime Minister herself. She is a sincere and down-to-earth person, and I wish her the best of luck in this difficult job!

PM Straujuma meeting VP Biden during DC visit (Source:
As high-ranking foreign dignitaries, a visiting President or Prime Minister is protected by Diplomatic Security agents. These men look similar to Secret Service agents - dressed in conservative dark suits, some wearing communication ear pieces. The dignitary is driven around in a large black van with a small American flag on one side of the front of the car and his/her country's flag on the other side, and further escorted by a couple of DC police vehicles. I was outside the Embassy at one point when a family of tourists walked past, and noticed the police cars and the huge dark van with the flags. They immediately started talking amongst themselves, "Oh, look at that! What does that mean? Who do you think is in that car?" But for me it was just a somewhat typical Tuesday evening in the DMV.

For a short Latvian TV report on the exhibit opening, click here.

I realize that with no photos here to document my meeting the Prime Minister, you might think that I've dreamed all of this. These are a few photos on Latvia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Flickr page; I didn't make the cut, but a few of my good friends did. This is the point where some of my friends/family would say, "A smart phone would be great in such a situation!" so that I could have snapped a selfie with Laimdota. Maybe one day I will acquiesce...

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