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House of Representatives Adopts Connolly-Kinzinger Georgia Support Act

Georgian Association in the USA is happy to share the news that on October 23 the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 598, the Georgia Support Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). The legislation asserts the United States’ continued support for the independence and sovereignty of Georgia, recognizes Georgia’s commitment to democratic values including free and fair elections, and affirms U.S. opposition to Russian aggression in the region.

As Representative Connoly stated: “With this vote, the House sends a clear and unequivocal statement of support to the people of Georgia in their struggle against an ever-looming Russian threat. As the head of the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I am particularly pleased that this bill recognizes that Georgia has been a longstanding NATO-aspirant country. I thank my colleague, Rep. Kinzinger, for working with me to protect and strengthen the relationship between Georgia and the United States.”

“The United States plays a pivotal role in encouraging our Georgian allies to continue working towards independence and complete separation from their aggressive neighbor, Russia,” said Kinzinger. “And I’m proud of their efforts and aspirations to join the NATO alliance, and applaud their commitment to democratic values. Today, the House reasserted the importance of a strong U.S.-Georgia partnership, and I thank my colleagues for their support, especially Rep. Connolly for his efforts to bring this to the floor.”

Georgian Association in the USA expresses its deep gratitude to the initiating Representatives and Cosponsors of the Act and hopes for the continuous USA-Georgia cooperation.

Please follow the link for the full text of the legislation. More information here.

 

Cosponsors                                                                   Date Cosponsored

Rep. Kinzinger, Adam [R-IL-16]*                             01/16/2019

Rep. Rooney, Francis [R-FL-19]                                01/25/2019

Rep. Fitzpatrick, Brian K. [R-PA-1]                           01/25/2019

Rep. Wilson, Joe [R-SC-2]                                           01/25/2019

Rep. Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [R-WI-5]            01/30/2019

Rep. Sherman, Brad [D-CA-30]                                   02/11/2019

Rep. Flores, Bill [R-TX-17]                                            02/14/2019

Rep. Chabot, Steve [R-OH-1]                                        02/19/2019

Rep. Kuster, Ann M. [D-NH-2]                                    03/21/2019

Rep. Keating, William R. [D-MA-9]                            04/04/2019

Rep. Crenshaw, Dan [R-TX-2]                                     04/09/2019

Rep. Wright, Ron [R-TX-6]                                          04/12/2019

Rep. Phillips, Dean [D-MN-3]                                     04/25/2019

Rep. Turner, Michael R. [R-OH-10]                           04/25/2019

Rep. Miller, Carol D. [R-WV-3]                                   04/25/2019

Rep. Cook, Paul [R-CA-8]                                             04/25/2019

Rep. Kaptur, Marcy [D-OH-9]                                     04/25/2019

Rep. Hudson, Richard [R-NC-8]                                 05/01/2019

Rep. Wagner, Ann [R-MO-2]                                       05/20/2019

Rep. Trone, David J. [D-MD-6]                                   05/20/2019

Rep. Gonzalez, Vicente [D-TX-15]                               05/20/2019

Rep. Guest, Michael [R-MS-3]                                     05/20/2019

Rep. Cicilline, David N. [D-RI-1]                                 05/22/2019

Rep. Titus, Dina [D-NV-1]                                             05/22/2019

Rep. Cohen, Steve [D-TN-9]                                         06/05/2019

Rep. Riggleman, Denver [R-VA-5]                              06/12/2019

Rep. Rice, Tom [R-SC-7]                                               07/23/2019

Rep. Schweikert, David [R-AZ-6]                                09/17/2019

Rep. Taylor, Van [R-TX-3]                                            10/21/2019

Rep. Price, David E. [D-NC-4]                                     10/21/2019

Startup Grind

Georgian Association Partner Startup Grind Tbilisi to host International Startup Conference

Join world-class founders and funders in an exploration of the frontier markets from Eastern Europe through Central Asia. Hosted at the ancient Silk Road destination Tbilisi, it will showcase Georgia’s legendary hospitality and creativity & will provide a welcoming and exciting environment to mingle with brilliant founders and investors and inspiring visionaries in a variety of fields.

For more information please follow the link.

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Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program 2019

ColumbiaGorgeGeorgiaBrochuresFromEmbassyGiftedToStudentPanelVolunteersThe inaugural Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program took place from May 11 to 20 in Portland and was organized by Global Youth Entrepreneurs. The goal of the program was to provide a group of enterprising high schoolers from Georgia with the opportunity to participate in a collaborative entrepreneurial project and citywide startup event, experience academic and student life at one of the top grade schools in the country, network with like-minded Oregon students, entrepreneurs, and community leaders, and tour the city and state in the spirit of exchange. The Georgian Association partially funded this initiative as part of its expanding engagement to support connections between US counterparts and Georgian entrepreneurs of all ages!

School XXI Century in Tbilisi, Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ educational partner in Georgia, sent tenth-grade students Levan Gvineria and Luka Todua on the exchange, along with English teacher Irma Kalmakhelidze as a chaperone. Eleventh-grade student Mariam Gogidze of the European School in Tbilisi completed the delegation. XXI Century selected Gvineria and Todua based on their demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and diplomacy and excellent performance on a series of English examinations, while Global Youth Entrepreneurs invited Gogidze for her leading role in growing Tbilisi’s community of high school entrepreneurs. The Georgian Association in the USA, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency, and Kargi Gogo (the Northwestern United States’ only Georgian restaurant, located in Portland, OR) generously sponsored the students’ travel to Portland, and the United States Embassy in Georgia hosted the students for an orientation prior to their visit to the United States. Seth Talyansky, who accompanied the group throughout the week, Solomon Olshin, Britton Masback, and Li Lambert of Global Youth Entrepreneurs arranged the group’s itinerary in the U.S.

In Portland, the participants were taken aback by the prevalence of homelessness, a rarity in Tbilisi. They found such cases of social isolation and neglect by fellow citizens anathema to Georgian culture. For their entrepreneurial project, the students set about designing ways to diffuse cultural traits like strong family ties and social cohesion into a society that tends to emphasize individual independence and success. The students received continuous mentorship from WorldOregon, which hosted their project work. They also visited Autodesk, eBay, and Intel, where technologists, entrepreneurs, and other company staff applauded their efforts to tackle the problem of their choice and offered feedback on ideas. Ultimately, after several days of work, Gvineria and Todua produced a resolution outlining a multi-pronged approach to combating homelessness for the city government to consider, and Gogidze devised a plan for a compassion-building game app for young children.  On the weekend of May 17 to 19, and together with around 30 peers from ten Portland-area high schools, the students took part in Startup Camp Youth Portland 2019, Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ third such event around the world. Startup Camp Youth Portland was hosted and sponsored by the Catlin Gabel School. All but a few students pitched business or non-profit ideas on Friday night, and teams coalesced around the five most popular ideas. On Saturday and most of Sunday, teams developed their concepts under the mentorship of about a dozen local business, entrepreneurship, innovation, and education experts before presenting to fellow students and distinguished guest judges on Sunday evening. The two top-performing teams—the first designing motivational programs for youth with speech impediments and the second proposing an app incentivizing carbon consciousness among those who commute by car—came away with prizes from Intel and Nike.

The Georgian Association was pleased to be able to support the Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program 2019 which represents a milestone in a burgeoning creative partnership between the youth and, ultimately, citizenries, of Portland and Tbilisi. This exchange represents Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ next logical effort, after its Startup Weekend Youth Tbilisi event last June, to foster the autonomous participation of Georgia’s young people in their country’s economy, which will promote democracy and prosperity in Georgia. Multiple appearances on television have been arranged for Gvineria, Todua, and their teacher to tell the story of their visit to Portland to a national audience. To carry this momentum forward, Global Youth Entrepreneurs plans to hold an event in Batumi next summer in partnership with a local educational institute and School XXI Century that will draw student participants from all across the country together for a weekend of immersion in entrepreneurship and diplomacy. Global Youth Entrepreneurs will also advise Gogidze on the execution of the second iteration of Startup Weekend Youth Tbilisi in June (this time not affiliated with Startup Weekend), which she is organizing at the European School together with several classmates. This program holds promise as a model of youth-led cross-cultural engagement and exchange that can be replicated between any pair of cities or countries. The government, commercial, and non-profit actors who interfaced with the students underlined the value of—and their support for—bringing in fresh cultural perspectives on local issues, especially those, like homelessness, to which many Americans have become desensitized. Gogidze, Gvineria, and Todua are eager to continue developing the projects they began in Portland, inspired by the lesson all youth involved in this program took away: organic collaboration between youth across borders is key to strengthening international understanding and ties.

The program in the participants’ words:

“Luka and I valued the experience: getting to know American teens, looking into homelessness and other traits of the city. From meeting with the companies and leaders, we realized that if you have a goal to achieve and you are doing everything to make it real, nothing is impossible. —Levan Gvineria, 10th Grade, School XXI Century, Tbilisi

“During the startup camp, I worked on problems that I’d never faced before which was a very rewarding experience for me as I had to collaborate with people of diverse cultures and ethnicities to form an understanding of those problems.” —Mariam Gogidze, 11th Grade, European School, Tbilisi

“I’ve never seen students gain so much wisdom in so few days.” —Irma Kalmakhelidze, English Teacher, School XXI Century, Tbilisi

 

 

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Startup Grind Tbilisi Works for Georgian Startups

On April 23, 2019, Georgian Association partner StartupGrind Tbilisi hosted an event at Tbilisi State Conservatoire which featured successful Georgian entrepreneur Valeri Chekheria, CEO of the Adjara Group Hospitality. The event attracted 500 attendees in Tbilisi and another 60 “virtually” through live stream in Zugdidi. Mr. Chekheria discussed the growing international recognition of Georgian brands. […]

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Georgian Association Ongoing Advocacy

As part of its ongoing advocacy effort to raise the consciousness of issues important to Georgian Americans and their friends, on May 6, 2019, the President of the Georgian Association in the USA (GA), Elisabeth Kvitashvili, along with Board of Directors members, John Tsotne Dadiani, Veronika Metonidze, and Darina Markozashvili, met with Mr. Collin Davenport, Legislative Director, and Ms. Molly Cole, Legislative Assistant, of Representative Gerald Connolly’s office (U.S. House of Representatives, 11th District, Virginia). Rep. Connolly is the co-chair of the Congressional Georgia Caucus, along with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (U.S. House of Representatives, 16th District, Illinois). In January 2019, Rep. Connolly and Rep. Kinzinger introduced H.R. 598, also known as “Georgia Support Act,” in support of Georgia’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The Georgian Association thanked Rep. Connolly’s office for his continuing strong support to Georgia. The GA pressed to have the HR passed in 2019 if possible. In addition, we welcomed Congressional support for maintenance of assistance levels to Georgia (both civilian and military) for FYs 2019 and ’20. The discussion primarily focused on the continuing creeping annexation of Georgian territories by Russia and Russia’s violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

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We followed the meeting on Capitol Hill with a May 8th meeting at the State Department.  President Elisabeth Kvitashvili was joined by Board Member Darina Markozashvili, and together they raised concerns with Ms. Alicia Allison, Director, Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Mr. Aaron Rupert, Senior Georgia Desk Officer, and Mr. Christopher Hallett, Georgia Desk Officer. Although the discussion focused on the strong U.S.- Georgia bilateral relations, the GA expressed dismay that Georgia is yet to have a confirmed US Ambassador at post. The Department is hopeful a name may be forthcoming in the near future. The Department reaffirmed its support for robust levels of U.S. assistance in support of Georgia’s economic and democratic development but noted disappointment with Georgia’s judiciary.  The Georgian Association updated State Department colleagues about the cultural and educational projects the Association is currently supporting.

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The Event that shook the World

By Irakli Kakabadze

April 9, 1989 was a historic date that contributed to the demise of the Soviet Empire. Ten years ago on this date, a bloody massacre on Rustaveli Avenue in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi occurred when 4,000 unarmed nonviolent protesters were beaten, killed and dispersed by the Soviet Army.  This was the first “crack” that eventually led to the demise of the Soviet Union. I was 20 years old during these protests in 1989 actively participating as a member of the students central striking committee. Many of my friends, compatriots and colleagues were seriously wounded by the violent behavior of the Soviet occupation forces.

Leaders of the Georgian National Liberation movement, Zviad K. Gamsakhurdia, Merab Kostava, Gia Chanturia, Zurab Chavchavadze, Irakli Tsereteli, Tamar Chkheidze and others decided to demand independence from Soviet occupation that had begun in 1921. This was a very shocking and highly unusual demand even during the so called PERESTROIKA since no other Soviet Republic had demanded independence prior to these April 9th events. Yes, there were demands for more democracy and human rights, environmental protection and higher salaries – but there was no other precedent of demanding complete and total independence from Soviet leaders. Considering the high popularity of the then Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev among world leaders, it was generally felt that an independence struggle was a fruitless exercise. Most Western leaders were in the process of developing improved almost warm relations with the Soviet leadership; the Georgians were going against the tide. Nevertheless, the leaders of the Georgian Liberation Movement decided to follow the footsteps of Gandhi’s ‘Swaraj’ – total liberty with no spilling of blood. This decision proved to be difficult and tragic at the time, but in the long run, successful, as these steps led to the eventual defeat of one of the biggest empires in the history of human kind. Zviad Gamsakhurdia even had a picture of Mahatma Gandhi in his pocket when he was getting arrested right after the bloody massacre by Soviet Occupation Forces on that fateful April day.

What was amazing and totally unbelievable during the protest on April 9th was the fact that people self organized in a totally nonviolent way and met brute force with singing and dancing. The Georgian protesters were able to defeat one of the strongest armies of the world with creativity, empathy and nonviolence. On that day, 16 women and 4 men sacrificed their lives to the cause of independence, became heroes and paved the way not just for independence of Georgia, but the demolition of the entire Soviet Empire. No weapons had any strength when the will of the people manifested itself so strongly by nonviolent action.

I cannot forget the words of our national hero, perhaps the biggest influence of our struggle, Merab Kostava: “We have two choices to lead our independence struggle. One is an armed insurrection, that is doomed to fail, because violence never liberates from violence. We will always lose once we pick up the weapons of destruction and death. But we will always win, when we have the greatest strength of love and nonviolence the example of which was given by great Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior. There is no alternative to nonviolent struggle and we will destroy and deconstruct Soviet Empire – more then this, no Empire is immune to the power of nonviolent struggle and Georgian Polyphonic song ‘Mravaljhamieri’ (მრავალჟამიერი).

In the end, the words of Merab Kostava proved to be right as well as unforgettable – even more so today, 30 years after the bloody massacre of April 9th.

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Discussing US-Georgia Relations with Johns Hopkins SAIS Students

On March 5, the Georgian Association in the USA, along with Johns Hopkins SAIS Eurasia Club, hosted a discussion with Ambassador of Georgia to the United States David Bakradze and President of the America-Georgia Business Council Dr. Mamuka Tsereteli. The event took place in Kenney Herter Auditorium of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and focused on the security, political, and economic pillars of U.S.-Georgia partnership.

Ambassador Bakradze began his remarks by examining the persistent threat facing Georgia’s security and stability from the Russian Federation. He reminded the audience of Moscow’s aggression in 2008 and underlined the continued presence of Russian troops and military bases in the occupied regions. Shifting to Georgia’s future, the ambassador then spoke of the country’s Euroatlantic aspirations. Explaining that Georgians share conviction in the values and principles of democracy and human rights, he declared joining the transatlantic community to be the country’s “civilizational choice.” Thus, he continued, “every government serves this choice of Georgian people to become part of the European Union and NATO.” He also touched on Georgia’s bilateral security relationship with the United States, stressing the country’s contribution in the resolute support mission in Afghanistan.

Dr. Tsereteli continued the discussion by focusing on Georgia’s bilateral economic relationship with the United States, which he noted started to develop in early 1990s and evolved into a serious business and economic partnership. Though the level of political engagement is larger than business and economic ties, he explained that there are always quality U.S. investments in Georgia. This has set up high standards for future Foreign Direct Investments and over the years contributed in how businesses operate in the country. He noted that Georgia is consistently ranked among the top countries to do business in by the World Bank.

The opening remarks were followed by a Q&A segment moderated by Ms. Darina Markozashvili, who serves on the Board of Director of the Georgian Association. After the formal dialogue, the speakers and guests moved to the reception where the they continued the conversation over Georgian food and wine.

The full event can be viewed with the link bellow:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=SShVEzLwHV0&fbclid=IwAR3cU2CBg0NWCIam7_R93IGmIi8PZ6Ixu5Jzi8_ChYeKJWBJ-3qpDa58ROc

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Young Georgian Entrepreneurs Take On Silicon Valley

Members of the Georgian Association recently met in California with a dozen young Georgian entrepreneurs representing Georgian startups focused on areas such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, health care and transportation. The young entrepreneurs are part of Startup Grind Tbilisi and attended the global Startup Grind conference in Redwood City, California.  With financial support from Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency, the Georgians are part of the community of startups, partners, investors, thought leaders, and worldwide directors who came together over several days of invaluable education, connection, and inspiration provided by a roster of world-class speakers.

Startup Grind-Tbilisi, (www.startup grind.com) co-founded by Colin Donohue and Giorgi Tukhashvili, is the Georgian charter of Startup Grind which is the largest independent startup community in the world connecting more than 1,500,000 entrepreneurs in over 500 chapters. Like it’s parent, Startup Grind-Tbilisi nurtures Georgian startups through events, media, and partnerships with organizations like Google for Startups.

Among the young Georgians participating in this year’s Startup Grind global conference are Nikoloz Gogochuri of Vrex Immersive (http://vr-ex.com; Zaal Gachechiladze of Pulsar AI (http://www.pulsar.ai); Giorgi Bezhitashvili of Health-Hub LLC (https://health-hub.com), Revaz Mazanishvili of Pawn LLC (http://pawwwn.com) and Lasha Kvantaliani of Treespond (https://treespond.com). These younf entrepreneurs and other members of Startup Grind Tbilisi will host the next international Startup Grind event in Tbilisi in late 2019.  The goal of this particular event will be to actively promote Georgia to the international technology and startup investment communities.

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Statement of Georgian Association in the USA on the latest Russian aggression against Ukraine

The Georgian Association in the USA strongly condemns the latest Russian aggression against Ukraine.  The attack and seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels and crew members, some of whom were injured, is the latest incident in Russia’s incursion on its neighbors and a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.  While Russia’s motives in this latest action and next steps may be unclear, Russia continues to ignore international norms of behavior as it attempts to unlawfully increase its presence in the eastern European region by whatever means it deems necessary.  Their aggressiveness is a threat to all freedom loving people.  The Georgian Association stands with the citizens of Ukraine in reaffirming support of its independence.