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Former U.S. Secretary of Defense
Chuck Hagel Speaker At APAC Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Politics, Polonia and Poland Mix Emphasized. The American Polish Advisory Council (APAC) held its annual conference here downtown on October 10, 2015 at The Atlantic Council. APAC President Edward Rowny (U.S. Army Lieutenant General and Ambassador, both retired), Executive Director Darek Barcikowski and Political Director Agnes Marczak organized the event. “Polish Americans and their institutions must speak with a strong voice” was one the conclave’s main focal points – as expounded upon in detail by Directors Barcikowski and Marczak – at the politically nonpartisan conference attended by over 80 very interested and focused persons.

In photo: Poland’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ryszard Schnepf addressing the conference.

The all-day event featured guest speakers, discussion panels, politicians, experts on international business and politics, a cross section of Washington think tank fellows, diplomats from the Embassy of Poland, and an official delegation visiting from Rzeszow, Poland, led by the Honorable Bogdan Romaniuk – Chairman of the Provincial Parliament.

The main topics addressed during the conference was The 2016 Presidential Elections and the Ethnic Vote; The Economic and Energy Security Impact of a Belligerent Russia; The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Trade, Jobs and Energy Independence; and Polish American Affairs in 2015. The multifaceted agenda provided much important information and expert insight and opinions at this unique gathering of luminaries, much to the benefit of the attendees. The audience peppered the presenters with a myriad of prescience questions which added a lively and challenging dimension to the academic atmosphere.

Ambassador Ryszard Schnepf – Embassy of the Republic of Poland, was the Guest Speaker. After surveying the audience he said “I’m encouraged by the young people here, particularly the Polish Americans who want to get involved in U.S. politics. Use your most positive young energy and please don’t forget about those generations of Polish Americans that built up the Polish American presence here in the U.S. They did great things in the most difficult years when we needed the Polish American community here.”

HagelDSC03956In photo: Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressing a salient point

Ambassador Schnepf continued: “I want to confirm that relations between Poland and America are better than ever. Last week Poland’s President Duda met here with your President Obama on matters of importance to both countries. The commitment of the U.S. presence in Europe was reconfirmed. In light of the dire situation in Ukraine, the defensive NATO alliance is more important than ever. Washington and Warsaw are outspoken and active in keeping the Trans-Atlantic Community united against the aggression in Ukraine. NATO will not hesitate to protect against any aggression to its allied member countries. It will take up any new challenges as they arise, especially during the ongoing immigration crisis to Europe, and acting in unison against the so-called Islamic State and terrorism in the Middle East.”

Poland’s inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver program is of extreme importance stated Ambassador Schnepf. He lauded APAC for its extensive lobby efforts in the U.S. Congress for Poland’s inclusion, and encouraged all present to be politically active on Poland’s behalf during this congressional session in Washington. “Thank you all for your work, dedication and perseverance in joint efforts to promote our heritage” said the ambassador in closing his remarks.

U.S. on the Front Lines: Poland, NATO and Emerging Challenges to Global Security was the topic addressed by the Honorable Chuck Hagel – former U.S. Secretary of Defense, serving under President Obama. His speech began with a memory of a visit to his maternal grandmother’s village in the vicinity Poznan, Poland: “I was in the church where my grandmother and family members married and where their children where baptized … it was a very sentimental journey.”

RomanDSC03954Secretary Hagel devoted the majority of his remarks to the current challenges to world security: “After 9/11 the world is entering a new era, changes in every dimension … in terms of technology, economy, demographics and new forces to contend with. The Middle East has never in history been so unstable. It’s a difficult time to be a world power; everything in the world has become more complicated. It’s not true that America is no longer a strong country. There is no other country in the world that is able to work with its allied partners like America is.”

In photo: Hon. Bogdan Romaniuk (right)

Responding to the question of “How safe are we in the United States”? Mr. Hagel stated that the U.S. is more secure than 5 or 10 years ago. “The actions of the intelligent agencies are at the highest level, adapted to the current threats,” he assured.

Questioned about Poland’s role in issues between Russia and the Western powers, Mr. Hagel spoke that “Of all the countries behind the Iron Curtain, Poland shone in economic leadership. Poland has played, and continues to play, a huge role. Its geopolitical location is important, as well as the fact that Poland has a long history of cooperation with the U.S. – being one of the few NATO countries that has such a bond. We will make sure that if necessary NATO will fulfill its obligations in relation to members of the organization.” The audience really appreciated Hagel’s expertise as a person who possesses a unique ‘been there-done that’ status.

rownyDSC03952A post-conference reception was held at the Washington Plaza Hotel featuring a degustation of Polish Fusion cuisine and libations, at which the principals and participants could network and converse in a convivial atmosphere.

In photo: Gen./Amb. Ed Rowny (right)

Richard P. Poremski
Polish American Journal
Washington, DC Bureau

December 10, 2015

Text & Photos: Richard P. Poremski