Opening of the OLF 2.0
The official opening of the renewed Open Lithuania Foundation (OLF) took place on April 18, 2017. An opening ceremony in the evening followed a press conference in the morning and interviews for media in the afternoon.
Didžioji Street number 5 in Vilnius, the iconic home of the old OLF where many NGOs are still based, hosted the celebration. It is once again the address of the Open Lithuania Foundation House.
The invitees assembled to mark the new beginning, discuss current affairs and prospects for working together, including old friends and young supporters, as well as current and future partners of the OLF.
“This club looks nice,” said Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, the First Head of State when Lithuania reestablished its independence in 1990.
The word “club”, though not a part of the OLF’s name or its strategy of activities, is quite an accurate description of certain values, goals and objectives of the renewed OLF. The foundation’s ambition is to serve as a place for lively discussions, a search for conceptual ideas and the advancement of a polylogue culture.
Dynamic, multifaceted and meaningful, the agenda of the opening reinforced the impression of a ‘club’. There were five welcoming speeches during the first half hour by Vytautas Landsbergis, Irena Veisaitė, Milda Ališauskienė, Nerijus Milerius, and Aurimas Švedas that were supplemented by video greetings from two young intellectuals from abroad (Aušra Kaziliūnaitė and Lukas Brašiškis) and a two-minute video clip that reviewed the history and current challenges faced by the OLF.
After the agenda and participants were introduced by Gražina Sviderskytė, the OLF’s former longstanding Chairperson of the Board and current Honorary Member Irena Veisaitė was the first to welcome the guests. She raised the issue of alarming trends in society and the state. She spoke of the need for recommitment to advancing and defending the idea of an open society and rejoiced in the new beginning for the OLF. She strongly articulated the concept of courage. Veisaitė thanked the most active members of the OLF, including Prof. Leonidas Donskis who died in September last year and was mentioned by the speaker as a particularly painful bereavement. She also wished the best of luck to the new champions of open society, especially the new Head of the OLF, Sandra Adomavičiūtė, whose energetic efforts made it possible to reestablish the Foundation.
The Chairperson of the OLF Board, M. Ališauskienė, briefly recounted the achievements of the OLF during 1990-2008 and detailed the specifics of the renewed foundation, its areas of concern and guidelines for activities.
Philosopher N. Milerius, an OLF member of the Board, used video clips from A. Kaziliūnaitė and L. Brašiškis, doctoral candidates for philosophy and cinema in Amsterdam and New York, respectively, for adding diversity to his welcome remarks and demonstrating “polylogue in practice”. It brought together perspectives from different geographic locations, political contexts and sociocultural experiences in a collage of comparative analysis of threats to an open society as well as the necessity for reactivation, consolidation and expression of society’s resilience, still much stronger in the Netherlands and the United States than in Lithuania.
Historian A. Švedas presented Search for a European Idea, an OLF series of discussions, and invited everyone to the first event in the series on April 27.
The last one to speak,was the eminent Prof. V. Landsbergis. He shared his memories of meeting George Soros in the early 1990s when Lithuania reestablished its independence and expressed appreciation for his support to Lithuania during the maturing of its open society and state. Echoing I. Veisaitė, he mentioned growing geopolitical and internal tensions, but stressed that he is an optimist and encouraged others to believe in a better future. In a reference to René Descartes’ idea of “I think, therefore I am”, the professor reflected on the reality of many people who are currently experiencing hard times and “only think that they think”. This was a very apt reference by V. Landsbergis towards the OLF’s long-term goal of tackling a lack of critical thinking, educating, provoking critical thought, stepping up monitoring and the analysis of public policies, and promoting greater civic participation in policy-making and democratic governance.
It took a long session of sharing memories, friendly conversation, discussion of common activities and plans for the guests to satisfy their hunger for communication. Many left with an agenda of the upcoming first discussion in the OLF’s series and promised to meet again on April 27.
After the inspiring opening ceremony, the Open Lithuania Foundation would like to invite everyone to co-create and continue working towards the development and implementation of new ideas, to meet and talk at events at the Open Lithuania Foundation House, both indoors and outdoors in a cozy backyard under the blue or, sometimes, starry night sky of the upcoming summer.
Ask, share and join.