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President Yushchenko visits Chicago
Marta FARION, a chairperson of the Chicago-Kyiv Sister Cities Committee
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s whirlwind visit to Chicago on April 4 and 5 triggered an emotional hero’s welcome from the city’s political and business leaders and electrified thousands of Chicago’s Ukrainian community with cheers and tears.
Organized by The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan organization, President Yushchenko’s Chicago agenda included a head of state keynote address at the Palmer House Hilton Grand Ballroom; a subsequent dinner banquet in the State Ballroom on the evening of April 4, and a breakfast meeting with 50 Chicago area business executives the following morning. Two other special events were arranged for Ukraine’s First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko, a Chicago native — a breakfast meeting with over a dozen members of Chicago’s arts community, organized by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago-Kyiv Sister Cities Committee, and a speech by Mrs. Yushchenko to faculty, students and friends of the University of Chicago.
Keynote Address and Banquet
Although Chicago often hosts foreign heads of state, President Yushchenko’s arrival on the night of April 4, 2005 will be remembered by the massive outpouring of enthusiastic affection. As the presidential motorcade swept into Chicago’s loop, the streets surrounding The Palmer House were clogged and jammed by scores of vehicles and orange-clad Yushchenko supporters.
An enthusiastic throng of 1,400 filled the hall to see President Yushchenko and hear his speech. When Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and Chicago Council on Foreign Relations president Marshall B. Bouton appeared in the hall with President Yushchenko, they were met by thunderous applause and the familiar chants of “Yush-chen-ko, Yush-chen-ko, Yush-chen-ko!” and “Together We are Many and Will Not be Defeated.”
Richard H. Cooper, a Council board member and founder of Cooperfund, Inc. introduced Mayor Richard M. Daley and Mayor Daley introduced the Ukrainian President, calling Mr Yushchenko a “hero for democracy.” “I’m proud to welcome President Yushchenko to Chicago — not only on behalf of our proud Ukrainian community, but on behalf of all 3 million residents of our city. I look forward to a continued friendship and good will between the people of Chicago and the people of Ukraine,” said Mayor Daley.
When President Yushchenko addressed his large audience, he departed from the expected foreign policy speech and used the occasion to tell the city’s large Ukrainian community that its support of his political career helped advance Ukraine’s slow march toward democracy.
“I am particularly happy that the Ukrainian nation has risen from its knees,” he said. “And we rose from our knees because you were with us. You were ambassadors of the new Ukraine that still did not exist on the map. The experience of the new Ukraine owes a lot to your contributions.”
The Chicago audience roared when Yushchenko said, “I am happy to have the Chicago [Ukrainian] community giving most of their votes to me. I think the count was 99.6 percent of the votes,” referring to the 4,400 local Ukrainians whose Ukrainian citizenship permitted them to vote at the city’s Ukrainian Consulate in the recent election.
Accompanying President Yushchenko to Chicago were several members of his cabinet of ministers, including Borys Tarasyuk, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Petro Poroshenko, Secretary of National Security, Head of the President’s Administration Oleksandr Zinchenko and Yevhen Chervonenko, Minister of Transportation and Communication. Also attending were Mykailo Reznik, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States and Consul General Borys Basylevski of the Chicago Ukrainian Consulate. A surprise addition to the Ukrainian delegation was Ukrainian boxing champion Vitaly Klychko who entered the hall unannounced but was greeted with applause and cheers when he was recognized by the large audience.
First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko briefly addressed hundreds of her hometown friends and acquaintances, saying, “I return to Chicago, the city of my birth and the home of one of the most active communities of the Ukrainian diaspora. We love you and we thank you for your warm support.”
Following Yushchenko’s address, a smaller group of approximately 300 guests drawn from the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations membership and representatives of local Ukrainian community groups convened in an adjoining banquet room for a head of state dinner. Following the traditional presentation of bread and salt and performances by Hromovytsia, a Chicago Ukrainian dance troupe led by Roxana Dykyj-Pylypchak, and the city’s Ukrainian children’s choir led by Irka Dychiy, Mayor Daley and President Yushchenko exchanged toasts and warm remarks. President Yushchenko again offered gracious appreciation to the Chicago community for its interest and support. The evening’s events were covered by local TV stations, NPR Radio and Chicago newspapers.
In addition to The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, the head of state address and dinner also were sponsored by the support of the following corporations: Project Finance Development International, LLC, Motorola, Boeing, Archer Daniel Midland, Holtec International Cargill, Selfreliance Ukrainian Federal Credit Union and MB Financial Bank. The events were also co-sponsored by the following organizations: Consulate General of Ukraine in Chicago, World Trade Center Chicago, Northwestern University and the Chicago-Kyiv Sister Cities Committee.
Breakfast Meeting with Chicago Business Executives
More than 50 local business leaders met with President Yushchenko the next morning for an invitational executive breakfast. Mr Yushchenko outlined his vision for Ukraine’s economic reforms and its need for changing its foreign investment climate. Various business leaders asked specific questions about the prospects and problems associated with their possible entry into the Ukrainian market.
The Chicago-based companies represented at the executive breakfast included Archer Daniel Midland Company, Brook Furniture Rental, Inc., Boeing Company, Cargill, Inc., Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Gas Technology Institute, CH2M Hill, Crate & Barrel, Datacard Group, Evans Food Products, Inc., Holtec International, Hyatt Hotels Corp., Invenergy, JETRO Chicago, MB Financial Bank, MacArthur Foundation, Merrill Lynch & Co., Motorola, Inc., National Strategy Forum, Project Finance Development International, Polly Service Ukraine, Reproductive Genetics Institute, Sachnoff & Weaver, Self Reliance Credit Union, Sidley Austin, Brown & Wood, SmithBarney Citigroup, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Sea Launch Company, USG Corp. and World Trade Center Chicago. Corporate sponsors of the executive breakfast included Archer Daniels Midland, Boeing Company, Cargill, Inc., Holtec, MB Financial Inc., Motorola, Inc., Project Finance/Datacard and Selfreliance Credit Union.
Following the executive breakfast, President Yushchenko met with the editors of the Chicago Tribune and reporters from CNN-TV and also with representatives of the local Ukrainian press for exclusive interviews.