By Tiberiu Dianu
Looking back, I can say that, over the years, I have had several important occasions to meet with a number of important leaders from the United States (presidents), Romania (monarchs, presidents and prime ministers) and the Republic of Moldova (prime ministers). For this reason, I find it useful to recall these meetings. In this article I will limit myself to my meetings with heads of state.
King Michael I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1921-2017), the last king of Romania (1927-1930, 1940-1947)
I met King Michael I of Romania once, on April 27, 1992, in the city of Curtea de Argeş, Argeş County, Romania.
King Michael I reigned Romania twice. The first reign took place between 1927 and 1930, after the death of his grandfather, Ferdinand (the second king of Romania) because his father, Carol II, had given up the throne in 1925 and remained abroad. Being a minor, the king led by regency. The second reign took place between 1940 and 1947. On August 23, 1944 the king removed Romania from the alliance with Nazi Germany, proclaimed the country’s allegiance to the Allies (United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union) and declared war on Germany. On March 6, 1945, a pro-Soviet government led by Prime Minister Petru Groza is imposed from Moscow. On December 30, 1947, Prime Minister Groza and Communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej forced the king to abdicate. As a result, the communists announced the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a “people’s republic” of communist type. Between 1948 and 1989 King Mihai I remains in exile.
In December 1990, the king tries to visit Romania, but his visit is refused by President Ion Iliescu.
In April 1992 the king was allowed to spend the Easter holidays in the country, in Putna, Suceava county (April 25), Bucharest (April 26) and Curtea de Argeş, Argeş County (April 27). At that time I was working as a senior legal researcher for the Romanian Academy Institute of Legal Research in Bucharest.
Monday, April 27, 1992, finding out the king’s schedule, I left Bucharest to Curtea de Argeş. The city of Curtea de Argeş was familiar to me since I had previously worked there as judge for the local court (1987-1988). The king, accompanied by Queen Anne, princess Elena and prince Nicolae (at that time, only 7 years old), arrives in Curtea de Argeş at noon. He is greeted by about 30,000 people who wore tricolor flags and portraits of the king. The king attends a memorial service for kings Carol I and Ferdinand I (the first two kings of Romania), buried at the cathedral near the monastery in the city. After he left the monastery, the king addresses to those present, thanking them for the reception and ending with the words “Christ has risen!” to which the crowd replied “In truth He has risen!” After that, the king greeted the crowd and passed through it to the exit. Then I could see him closer. Although he was old (he was 70 at the time) and slim, he was walking tall.
In the afternoon of the same day, the king and his escort returned to Bucharest, where boarded a special aircraft at Otopeni Airport and left Romania at around 4 pm. The king’s visit to Romania attracted an indescribable popular enthusiasm. The press reported that during the visit there were 6,000 participants in Putna, 500,000 in Bucharest, at the King’s speech from the balcony of the Continental Hotel (and over 1 million people gathered in the capital) and about 30,000 people in Curtea de Argeş.
President Ion Iliescu, alarmed by the king’s popularity, refused the king to enter Romania in 1994 and 1995.
King Michael I was one of the most long-standing leaders after the World War II. He died at the age of 97, on December 5, 2017 at his residence in Switzerland and was buried in the cathedral near Curtea de Argeş Monastery, together with his wife, Queen Anne, who had died in 2016.
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej (1901-1965), the first communist leader of Romania (1945-1954, 1955-1965)
I did not personally meet Chairman of the State Council Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, but as a preschooler I looked at his pictures in my kindergarten class every day more or less involuntarily.
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, trained as electrician, had been a member of the Communist Party of Romania since 1930. In 1933 he organized a strike at the Railroad “Griviţa” Factory in Bucharest and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for communist agitation. In 1936 he became the leader of the prison faction of the Communist Party. In 1944 he escaped from prison, and in 1945 he was elected secretary general of the party. On December 30, 1947 Gheorghiu-Dej, together with the Prime Minister Petru Groza, forced King Mihai I to resign. Monarchy is abolished and Romania becomes, with no national referendum, a communist republic. In 1952, Gheorghiu-Dej purged the pro-Moscow group from the party. After 1958 he distanced himself from Moscow and imposed a communist government of national type. During this period Romania intensifies its commercial relations with the western countries (Great Britain, France and West Germany). Domestically, however, his government was harshly criticized for serious human rights violations.
On March 19, 1965, Gheorghiu-Dej died of lung cancer. His protégé, Nicolae Ceauşescu, succeeded him as party and state leader.
Although, as I said, I did not personally meet Gheorghiu-Dej, his presence was permanently felt in society. In February 1961, Gheorghiu-Dej had a working visit in the city of Piteşti.
Between September 1964 and March 1965, I was only 4 years old and a preschooler at Kindergarten #2 in Piteşti, Argeş county, Romania. Gheorghiu-Dej had framed paintings in each and every classroom, so it was hard for me to ignore his presence. During those days our kindergarten lady educators were teaching us to sing songs dedicated to Gheorghiu-Dej, as well as songs in Russian language.
We, as small children, were not aware of what we were singing. I had only some vague idea the lyrics were about the leader of the party, peace, welfare and friendship with the “great Soviet people.” After Gheorghiu-Dej passed away, his pictures in black box were dominating the newspapers, while in the city a solemn and rigid atmosphere prevailed, which, even as a child, I felt it very tense and stressful.
Nicolae Ceauşescu (1918-1989), the first president of Romania (1965-1989)
I met President Nicolae Ceauşescu once, on April 16, 1981, in the city of Câmpulung, Argeş County, Romania.
After Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej’s death in 1965, Nicolae Ceauşescu ruled Romania as leader of the communist party (secretary general) (1965-1974), and then as country president (1974-1989).
On Thursday, April 16, 1981, President Ceauşescu visited the “Dacia” Car Company in Colibaşi (near Piteşti), which produced Dacia city cars and, in the second part of the day, he visited the “Muscel” Mechanical Enterprise in Câmpulung (51 kilometers north to Piteşti) that produced “ARO” (Romanian Automobile) jeeps (see “Working Visits XVII”).
Ceauşescu’s visit took place during a tense international period. In February 1981, Republican President Ronald Reagan, in his first month since inauguration, changed the détente policy promoted by his predecessor, Democratic President Jimmy Carter, as a result of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In order to discourage a possible invasion of the Soviets in Europe, Reagan reactivated an older plan, the neutron bomb, quickly labeled by leftist movements in Europe, including the Ceauşescu’s administration in Romania, as a “capitalist bomb.” Of course, the Romanian mainstream media in general, and the military media in particular, were full of articles about the “capitalist N bomb of the decade,” creating an atmosphere of hysteria and paroxysm both in society and in the military circles. According to most of the editorials that we discussed during our classes of military doctrine in the garrison, the World War III was just a question of time.
At the time, I was 19 years old and stationed in the Câmpulung mountain infantry (called “Mountain Huntsmen”) garrison. I had my military training from September 1980 to June 1981 in the cadets company. The head of our military unit, a colonel, had selected our company to be the honor guard for President Ceauşescu, and we had been training intensively for some time. Given the circumstances, our company had quite an experience in the field, because it served as an honor guard for both the chief-commander of the Mountain Hunters Brigade in Curtea de Argeş, a general-major, and the Secretary of Defense, General-Colonel Ion Olteanu, both visitors of our garrison in that period.
Before President Ceauşescu’s visit in the city, our cadets company, consisting in 30 sergeants, had been transported to the jeep factory. I was extremely nervous. We were all aligned in a straight position, with weapons at our chest. I was carrying a sniper rifle and was barely breathing. President Nicolae Ceauşescu, accompanied by another official, was standing right in front of me, 1 to 2 meters away, greeting us. I could see him very close then. The president looked very tired, his face was pale, his eyes fixed, and he seemed quite absent. The experience was quite shocking to me. The president’s actual image contrasted sharply with his retouched images from the official propaganda photos. The ceremony lasted for a few minutes, after which the president and the official delegation continued their visit to the factory. I returned to the garrison meditating and having a new set of impressions.
Ion Iliescu (born in 1930), first president of post-communist Romania (1989-1996, 2000-2004)
I met President Ion Iliescu twice, on the occasion of the U.S. Independence Day, on July 4, 1992, in Bucharest, Romania and on October 27, 2003 in Washington, DC, United States.
Ion Iliescu was a former protégé of Nicolae Ceauşescu during the communist period in Romania, but he later posed as a dissenter in order to increase his political capital. After the fall of Ceauşescu’s regime, Iliescu became the representative of the group of reformed communists in the government, who did not want a swift transition of the country to capitalism, but rather mimic reform and deceive the international community’s expectations. In fact, from his very first public speeches in December 1989, Iliescu stated that Ceauşescu did not apply “socialism” correctly and that he, Ceauşescu “only defiled the ideals of socialism.”
In 1992, on the occasion of the US Independence Day on July 4, I received an invitation from the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest for a reception on U.S. Independence Day that was to be held during the afternoon at the American Ambassador’s residence. I accepted the invitation and arrived at the ambassador’s residence without delay. Ion Iliescu showed up later and he began to shake hands with the guests. I avoided shaking hands with the president for personal reasons. I had not voted for him. Iliescu was responsible for the division of the Romanian society since January 1990, when he had called for miners from the mountains of Transylvania to come to Bucharest and attack the opposition members. During the reception the president walked quite alone through the guest room, with a glass of white wine in his hand. I preferred to watch him from a distance and did not want to engage in a dialogue with him, although I could have. In fact, I had not noticed then too many guests approaching President Iliescu.
Iliescu took advantage of the system’s legislative shortcomings in the first years of post-communism and extended his presidential mandates to over 10 years, instead of only eight years imposed by constitutional regulations (1989-1996, 2000-2004). In 2000, the right-wing parties were divided, and Iliescu won the elections as a candidate of the “moderate left” against Corneliu Vadim Tudor, a representative of the populist radical-left.
On November 23, 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush visits Romania.
In 2003, towards the end of his last term, Ion Iliescu visited Washington, DC in order to hold a speech, launch a book and receive a presidential medal from George Washington University. The event was organized for Monday, October 27, between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm.
At that time I was a Ph.D. student in Criminology and Criminal Science at the University of Maryland in College Park. I attended that meeting. The president was introduced to the audience by the university’s vice president, Dr. John F. Williams and Zbigniew Brzezinski, former adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson and former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. After the President Iliescu’s speech, during the session of questions and answers, I asked the president the first question from the audience. My question referred to the possible reunification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania in the near future and I asked the president for his personal perspective. Iliescu avoided a direct answer. His answer was a routine one, about the integration of the Republic of Moldova into the European Union, without firm commitments, full of political clichés and diplomatic templates.
On March 29, 2004 Romania becomes a NATO member.
Emil Constantinescu (born in 1939), Romania’s first “democratic president” (1996-2000)
I met President Emil Constantinescu three times, in September 1991, in Bucharest, Romania, then on July 15, 1998 and October 14, 2014 respectively, in Washington, DC, United States.
In December 1989, Emil Constantinescu was a Geology and Geography professor at the University of Bucharest. After the revolution of December 1989 he was promoted as pro-rector (vice president) (1990-1992) and then as rector (president) of the university (1992-1996).
Emil Constantinescu ran for presidential elections in Romania against Ion Iliescu in 1992, when he lost, and in 1996, when he won. He represented the alliance of the right-wing parties, reunited in an alliance called the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR).
My first meeting with Professor Emil Constantinescu took place in September 1991, when he was a pro-rector (vice-president) of the University of Bucharest. I had just returned from my first visit to the United States (May 20 – June 9, 1991), and Bucharest was quite agitated after the attempted of coup d’état against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (August 19 – August 22, 1991).
During those days, the main conservative newspaper “România liberă” published on its front page an op-ed of mine, called “Lenin’s Statue Is Shaking” that was capturing perfectly the Romanian authorities’ confusion. They were unable to position themselves for or against the coup d’état members. As the morning edition was already sold out before 6:00 am, I had to find a copy late in the afternoon from one of my friends in order to read my own article.
The U.S. Embassy was sending a request for a Romanian interpreter for a Department of State delegation which was about to visit several Romanian agencies, including the University of Bucharest and the Ministry of Defense. I was appointed as their interpreter, so I accompanied the delegation, led by John R. Davis, Jr., a former US ambassador to Poland (1988-1990) and future ambassador to Romania (December 1991 – August 1994). Part of the delegation was also Cuyler Walker, an assistant to the Department of Justice’s Attorney General. At that time the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest was very conveniently located downtown, right behind the Intercontinental Hotel, just two blocks away from the University of Bucharest. So we went on foot to Constantinescu’s office. In the meantime I was talking with Cuyler about the evolving situation in the Soviet Union. In spite of Boris Yeltsin’s prominent role in freeing President Gorbachev during the aborted coup d’état, Cuyler was considering him as an episodic character in the sequence of events. I, on the other hand, saw a promising future for Yeltsin. The future proved me right. On December 26, 1991, Soviet President Gorbachev announced the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a state, and Boris Yeltsin, who had already been elected as President of Russia on July 10, 1991, emerged as the sole leader at the Kremlin.
We arrived at Emil Constantinescu’s office at the university sometime around noon and we found the professor waiting for us in front of a desk full of papers. As an interpreter, I could not help but notice the short and consistent sentences of the ambassador, in stark contrast to Constantinescu’s long sentences, with many twists and turns, in a typically Romanian flourish style. Constantinescu spoke quite quickly and in long sentences. I was trying to be as synthetic as possible in my translation and to render the main ideas, which I had to select mentally and very quickly while listening to the professor, who was speaking with no interruption. At one point, Constantinescu mentioned in a sentence the expression “the source of Romanian-American relations.” Initially, the expression had blocked me because in Romanian the word “source” has two meanings, “creek” and “origin”, and all I had in mind during those moments were mountain springs. I paused briefly to find the right term. Ambassador Davis, who was sitting next to me, and was a connoisseur of the Romanian language, whispered in my ear: “source.” I quickly picked that up and completed my translation with a peace of mind, with “the source of the U.S.-Romanian relationship,” being very grateful to the ambassador for his help.
During the 1996 presidential election I was a member of the electoral commission at the Romanian Embassy in Washington, DC. After midnight the results were sent to Bucharest, where it was already 7 o’clock in the morning, and the preliminary results were already known. The Romanian Embassy was in a general state of disarray, most of its members being appointed by President Iliescu. Constantinescu managed to defeat Iliescu in the second round, securing a victory by a margin of 10 percent. Ambassador Mircea Geoană, however, quickly declared his “support” for the newly elected president, securing his ambassadorship in Washington, DC until the end of Constantinescu’s presidential term, in 2000.
Between July 14 and July 21, 1998, President Emil Constantinescu made his first visit to the United States, in response to the visit of U.S. President Bill Clinton on July 11, 1997 in Bucharest.
At that time, Romania wanted to join NATO, and President Clinton said that “the door of the alliance remains open,” without a firm commitment to granting full NATO membership to Romania. Romania became a full NATO member much later, in April 2004, towards the end of President Ion Iliescu’s last presidential term.
Emil Constantinescu’s official visit to the United States gave a new dimension to the Romanian-American strategic relations.
On July 15, 1998, at 9:00 am, Emil Constantinescu met with Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and at 6:00 pm, he went to the World Bank for a meeting scheduled at 7:00 pm with President of the World Bank Group James Wolfensohn. On that occasion, I met President Emil Constantinescu in the bank’s lobby and took some pictures. At the entrance hall there were many representatives of the Romanian-American community. The president went to a separate room for a question and answer session with representatives of the diaspora and the press. At that session I referred to the “15,000 specialists” mentioned by the president in his previous speeches, and asked him where he hopes to discover and bring them to Romania. The president told me that he fully trusted that he would discover them from countries like the United States, and that he could persuade them to return to Romania and contribute to the reconstruction of the country.
On October 14, 2014, between 9:30 am and 11 am, I had my third meeting with President Emil Constantinescu. The event, titled “Romania’s Last Frontier: The Ally, the Partner and the Foe,” was held at the Georgetown University in Washington, DC. President Constantinescu came with his former Romanian Army Chief-of-Staff, General Constantin Degeratu, and discussed issues of strategy and security.
After the conference I had a brief discussion with the president about various political, military and strategic issues related to Romania and the Russian threat in the area, and we took some pictures. The president was relaxed and the discussion was fascinating.
Currently, President Emil Constantinescu remains involved in politics through his presence at various Romanian and international non-governmental organizations.
Traian Băsescu (born 1951), the first democratic president re-elected in two successive terms (2004-2014)
I met President Traian Basescu twice, on March 10, 2005 and September 13, 2011 respectively, in Washington, United States.
Traian Băsescu won the 2004 elections with a center-right platform based on an anti-communist and anti-corruption message. He was elected president for two five-year successive terms. His foreign policy was focused on three important directions: the so-called “Bucharest-London-Washington Axis,” the special interest for the Black Sea area, and the special relationship with the Republic of Moldova.
President Băsescu’s first visit to Washington took place from Tuesday, March 8 to Thursday, March 10, 2005, at the invitation of his American counterpart, George W. Bush. Băsescu met with that occasion Republican President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
On the evening of Thursday, March 10, 2005, President Băsescu met with representatives of the Romanian community in the USA at the headquarters of a building near the White House. I had received an invitation, which I honored with pleasure. Prior to the president’s appearance for a speech, I talked with Romanian Bank Governor Mugur Isărescu, a former 2000 presidential candidate for the Democratic Convention of Romania. See PICTURE here.
I told him that I had voted with him in the first round, and that I regretted that he could not qualify for the second round. The second round had been won by Ion Iliescu against Corneliu Vadim Tudor, another Ceauşescu’s protégé and former propaganda poet, representing the communist nostalgic electorate.
President Băsescu showed up a bit late, but in a very a stormy manner, being accompanied by his official delegation. In his speech he thanked the Romanian-American community for supporting him overwhelmingly. I managed to take some pictures with the president during his speech, since I had positioned myself pretty close to the podium. See PICTURE here.
The president won with only 51.23 percent against Prime Minister Adrian Năstase, an Iliescu protégé. Given the circumstances, the 90 percent of the votes in the United States for Băsescu really helped. The president ended his speech and stormed to the exit. I managed, however, to shake his hand and addressed him a few words, congratulating him warmly for his electoral victory. The president shook my hand firmly, looked into my eyes and he replied briefly: “Thank you so very much to those of you here!” Then, he “left the building” Elvis Presley style.
In November 2009, Băsescu wins his second five-year term as president of Romania, defeating his Social Democrat counter-candidate, Mircea Geoană, the former ambassador of Romania to Washington. Băsescu received 50.3% of the votes in the second round. The Romanians overseas and those from the Republic of Moldova voted for him in a proportion of 70%. Băsescu won again with a right-wing populist platform and painted Geoană as a Moscow man.
On Tuesday, September 13, 2011 President Băsescu had a 10-hour marathon visit to Washington, DC. He met with President Barack Obama (for 30 minutes), Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the CIA Director. He signed an agreement on the installation of the missile shield, adopted a new strategic partnership, and he received assurances that the visa conditions for Romania would be re-evaluated.
During the afternoon he met the Romanian-American community representatives at the Romanian Embassy in Washington. DC. There I had a second meeting with President Traian Băsescu. In spite of his busy schedule, the president was quite relaxed. He had a briefing on his visit and answered some questions from the audience. He mentioned that he had an early flight and he could stay only for a few minutes. I took advantage of the situation and chatted with the president for several minutes. See PICTURE here.
During this time I took pictures with the president, and he was kind enough to sign a picture for me.
During my conversation with the president I had a feeling of nostalgia. I had voted for him twice as a president, in 2004 and 2008, and twice against his suspension by the Romanian Parliament, in 2007 and 2012. So, I can say I voted for him four times. I asked the president if he planned to have somebody continuing his policies. To my surprise, he was amused and replied: “I don’t have anybody, Sir! Maybe you’ll find one for me!” He laughed lustfully and went to the exit. I inferred that the president was ready to enter quite relaxed in his post-presidential period.
Klaus Werner Iohannis (born 1959), the first ethnic German president of Romania (2014 – present)
I met President Klaus Werner Iohannis twice, on April 1, 2016 and June 7, 2017 respectively, in Washington, DC, United States.
Iohannis is the first president of Romania who comes from an ethnic minority community. He is an ethnic German, a Saxon, born in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, also known as Hermannstadt. He used to be the leader of the organization of the Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania (2002-2003) and mayor of the city of Sibiu (2002-2014). He won the Romanian presidential elections in 2014 with 54.43 percent of the votes, with a center-right platform focused on an anti-corruption campaign and improving the judicial system.
From September 23 to September 30, 2015, he makes his first visit to the United States, to New York and Washington, DC, where he represented Romania at the United Nations General Assembly and met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Between March 31 and April 1, 2016, the president visited Washington again, as a participant to a summit on security and nuclear terrorism at the White House and a conference center. On that occasion, he met again with President Barack Obama and Vice President James Biden, with whom had discussions on the U.S.-American strategic partnership. On the evening of Friday, April 1, 2016, President Iohannis attended a meeting with the Romanian-American community at the Romanian Embassy in Washington, DC.
The Romanian Embassy sent me an invitation, but I initially thought it was an April fool’s Day scam. The meeting with the president was scheduled for 7:00 pm. I showed up promptly at 6:30 pm, when I was welcomed by Ambassador George Maior, who came directly to me and shook my hand. He smiled at me, said that he remembered me, that he knew who I was and what I do. I was pleasantly impressed by the ambassador’s cheerfulness.
The meeting was limited to about 100 people. President Iohannis wanted to inform the guests about his participation in the cyber-terrorism seminar and his meeting with President Obama. He also confessed that he wanted to meet with the Romanian community. I chatted with the president for a few minutes. I introduced myself and told him that I train U.S. diplomatic and military personnel for the U.S. embassies in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. President Iohannis and First Lady Carmen Iohannis were pleasantly surprised. He told me that I had an important mission to carry out. I told the president: “Mr. President, on behalf of the Romanian language professors in Washington, we support your efforts to deliver Romanian books in America.” The president replied: “You are our hope!” See PICTURE here.
I then took some pictures with the president and the First Lady. See PICTURE here.
The second time I met President Iohannis was during the following year. On June 4-9, 2017, the president made an official visit to the United States and met with President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
On Wednesday, June 7, 2017, I met President Iohannis at the Romanian Embassy reception scheduled for 6:30 pm. This time the president showed up earlier, at 6:45 pm, than the last time (after 7:00 pm). The number of guests was again limited to about 150 people due to the special security measures. I came early and I occupied a very close position to the podium.
Romanian Ambassador George Maior introduced President Iohannis. Then, the president talked about the role of the Romanian-American community and the importance of Romanian language. During the speech the president looked several times in my direction, saying “I see more familiar faces…” At the end, the president and the First Lady chatted and took pictures with the guests. I introduced myself again and told the president about my job. He wished me to teach Romanian well to Americans, which was exactly what I was doing. Finally, the president gave some interviews to the local reporters.
The Romanian media covered widely the event. As a result, I appeared in several Romanian journals and television video clips. Watch VIDEO, the time sequences from 0:33 to 0:36, 1:01 to 1:02, 1:30 to 1:38, 1:57 to 2:05, and 2:29 to 2:32.
The chief of protocol lady did not allow the guests to take individual shots with the president, as the last time, but somehow I managed to take three shots with the president. See PICTURE here.
George Walker Bush (born 1946), the 43rd President of the United States of America (2001-2009)
I met President George W. Bush once, on March 29, 2004, in Washington, DC, United States.
During the administration of President George W. Bush, the NATO enlargement has remained the most robust ever. No less than seven countries joined the world’s strongest military alliance: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
I met President George W. Bush at the White House, at the ceremony on Monday, March 29, 2004, when Romania, along with six other Eastern European states, was admitted as a NATO full member. At 1:00 pm the prime ministers of the seven countries handed over the NATO access instruments to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who accepted them on behalf of the United States, as the depositary nation for the Treaty. As a result, the NATO members grew to 26 member countries. It was the fifth and the largest expansion of the military organization.
The event was celebrated by a special ceremony hosted by U.S. President George W. Bush in front of the White House. The ceremony was also attended by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. I had received an invitation through the CORA (Congress of Romanian Americans) organization of the late Armand Scala (1941-2011), and I showed up on the White House esplanade much earlier due to the time-consuming extended security measures. I was about 30 meters away from President George W. Bush, when he gave his speech. He was framed by the seven representatives of the newly admitted nations and the NATO Secretary General, on both sides. In front of me there were the mainstream media representatives. See PICTURE here.
I have an extra reason to be grateful to President George W. Bush. In 2008, the president signed my Certificate of Naturalization as a U.S. citizen. In July 2008, I had the citizenship interview, and at the end of September 2008 I received my U.S. passport. See PICTURE here.
In November 2008, I voted for the first time for the U.S. presidential election. My vote went to the Republican candidate John McCain. I was one of the 4 percent DC residents who did not vote for Barack Obama.
(October 19, 2019)
NOTE – The article is part of the author’s incoming book, TRUMPLANDIA.