A new chapter
The upcoming visit by President Viktor Yushchenko to the United States may not be a "first" because it is not the first visit to this country by a president of Ukraine. His two predecessors, Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma, both visited the United States during their terms of office - President Kravchuk twice and President Kuchma five times. And, the date of May 6, 1992, has already gone down in history as the first time a president of independent Ukraine arrived in the United States.
However, the dates April 4-6, 2005, will have their own reserved spot in the history books as Mr. Yushchenko, who won a hard-fought battle for the presidency of Ukraine amid unprecedented falsifications and machinations - and in the process secured victory for the Orange Revolution - visits the United States.
He will arrive in this country as a hero to Ukrainians who reside in the United States and as a strong defender of democracy in the eyes of U.S. leaders, including countless members of Congress and the executive branch whose words and deeds offered support for free and fair elections in Ukraine. The leader of the Orange Revolution will be greeted at the White House, where he will meet with President George W. Bush and other members of his administration, among them Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
He will also address a joint meeting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, becoming the first president of Ukraine to be accorded this extraordinary honor. As he speaks, to the American public he will represent much more than himself; he will represent the heroic people of Ukraine who took to the streets and barricades to defend their rights and guarantee their future. He will be the embodiment of the Orange Revolution seen by hundreds of millions of people around the globe.
Mr. Yushchenko's first U.S. visit comprises components aimed at both the U.S. government and the Ukrainian community, including tens of thousands of people who have recently immigrated to the United States from Ukraine.
We are sure that U.S. officials are anxious to meet the new Ukrainian president, in whom they see the potential of a new Ukraine. No doubt they want to hear for themselves the Yushchenko administration's vision for Ukraine and its place in the world. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist noted in announcing his speech before a joint meeting of Congress: "President Yushchenko's election is inspiring the spread of democracy throughout the world, in spite of threats and intimidations. We welcome him to this cathedral of democracy and look forward to hearing from him." Thus, President Yushchenko's every word will be crucial.
As for us, Ukrainians in the United States, well, the excitement surrounding President Yushchenko's visit is palpable. All of us, it seems, followed the events of November-December 2004 - which Ukraine's Foreign Affairs Minister Borys Tarasyuk recently described as a "political miracle" - with keen interest. All of us were emotionally caught up in the struggle for democracy and truth, and a better tomorrow for Ukraine. After all, for some of us, Ukraine is our homeland, while for others it is the homeland of our fathers and forefathers. Thus, we want to celebrate the heady days of the Orange Revolution and welcome Ukraine's new leader, the president in whom so many have placed so many of their hopes.
At the same time, we, too, will be listening to Mr. Yushchenko's every word as we know that what he says here in the United States will carry enormous weight and will determine how Ukraine is perceived and, as a result, treated by the U.S. and others.
Just as President Kravchuk's U.S. visit in 1992 was hailed as opening a new page in relations between Ukraine and the United States, President Yushchenko's 2005 visit will open an entirely new chapter in that relationship, one that we hope will be characterized by renewed contacts on the highest levels of government as the United States and Ukraine resume their strategic partnership.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 3, 2005, No. 14, Vol. LXXIII
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