During a ceremony at noontime in Gallier Hall, the old New Orleans City Hall, Jacquelyn ‘Jacky’ Brechtel Clarkson became the 23rd Honourable Consul of Lithuania to the United States. Mayor Mitchell Landrieu of the City of New Orleans hosted this milestone event in the presence of an overflow crowd. The popular Mayor praised Lithuania in the choice of Jacky Clarkson, a former leader of the City Council, as first Honorary Consul in one of the major port cities of the US. Mayor Landrieu expressed the hope that the appointment of the Consul, following an earlier agreement with Klaipeda to become twin sisters, would lead to more international business for both cities and two countries. Mayor Landrieu said that there were a number of similarities between Lithuania and his city in their resilience to overcome first very difficult circumstances and then to go on raising the level of prosperity of its citizens. “New Orleans had overcome the difficulties after hurricane Katrina, whilst Lithuania had defied Soviet oppression”, said Mayor Landrieu. The Mayor announced his ordinance to declare 15 December as “Lithuania Day” in the Southern port city and handed the framed proclamation to a visibly pleased, Ambassador Pavilionis.
Ambassador Žygimantis Pavilionis, pointed out the common values of the USA and Lithuania in support of democracy, increased trade opportunities between countries free of tyranny, and cultural ties. Jazz and the activity of ports are strong common themes between Klaipeda and New Orleans that grease the wheels of international commerce and increased wealth. “Most of the trade at present consists of poultry from the American Midwest being shipped via the port of Klaipeda to the Eurasian hinterland” said the Ambassador, while “most of Lithuania’s exports are fertilizers produced by Achema.” He expressed the hope that the USA would liberalize the LNG trade so that in the near future LNG exports from the USA would add to the increasing trade between the two countries.
It was just a few years ago that Klaipėda and New Orleans signed a sister city agreement. Everybody seemed to remember when the Ambassador fondly stated that Klaipeda’s Mayor Vytautas Grubliauskas had played ‘What a Wonderful World’ on the trumpet after signing the twin city agreement with Mayor Landrieu. It was that song by one of New Orleans’s most famous sons, Louis Armstrong, which brought memories of even further historic ties. It was the immigrant Lithuanian Litvak family, the Karnofskys, that adopted Louis Armstrong whilst living in New Orleans, and provided Louis with his first trumpet, paving the way to a successful career.
Former New Orleans City Council politician and businesswoman Jacky Clarkson, now the 23rd Lithuanian Honourable Consul in the USA, told the audience how her grandmother had escaped Lithuania as a stowaway. After meeting her grandpa on Ellis Island they established themselves in New Orleans. Joined by her family, including her first great-grandchild, Ms. Clarkson, pointed out the many opportunities to further potential trade between the two nations, including LNG exports.
Earlier in the morning during a breakfast meeting of the local Business Leaders, the Lithuanian Ambassador to the USA, Žygimantis Pavilionis underscored the importance of having a Honourable Consul in New Orleans, stating that “the twin city agreement between the port cities of Klaipėda and New Orleans, now has an important extra dimension in the person of Honourable Consul Jacky Clarkson”. Added Ambassador Pavilionis “New Orleans is an important shipping gateway to the United States, as it connect the entire Mississippi River basin, representing two-thirds of the US territory” and “New Orleans is particularly important for Lithuania given the concentration of natural gas fields nearby in Louisiana and Texas and the potential of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports” This is very important given the willingness of Cheniere, a major energy company in the LNG business, to start exporting to Lithuania as soon as he US will lift the export embargo of this geopolitical important energy resource.
The ambassador also stated that the presence of the Agricultural Attaché during the celebrations underscored Lithuania’s desire to export more agricultural products, including meat and cheese to the USA. “Diversification of food markets is important for Lithuania” said the Ambassador “especially given the food embargo that the Russians have levelled against Lithuania and we hope that Americans will take up our high quality food products”.
The Ambassador also pointed out that there are now 23 Honorary Consuls in the USA and that New Orleans in Louisiana follows recent openings in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alaska, Wisconsin and Vermont. All six were opened during Ambassador’s Pavilionis’ tenure in the US Capital. The Ambassador expressed the hope that in the Spring of 2015, Lithuania will also open a Consulate General in Los Angeles, California, following formal approval by the US Department of State.