RIGA - Latvian Presdient Andris Berzins is visiting the U.S. this week in a bid to build stronger ties with the country. Following his visit to Canada on Sunday, Sept. 22, Berzins arrived in Seattle, Washington, to meet with fellow Latvians at the local Latvian center and the city’s Baltic language studies program that is offered there. He also visited the high-tech company Microsoft to discuss its involvement in the development of Latvia’s library and education systems.
More than 100 people from various generations attended the meeting.
Speaking about Latvia’s primary challenges, the president addressed the issue of education. He said: “Youth unemployment is the direct result of a poor education. For that reason, our mission is to ensure an educational system which allows us to be competitive in the broadest sense of the word.”
At the University of Washington, President Berzins toured the Baltic language studies program, looking at the educational materials that are available in large quantities at the university’s library - some 12,000 books, as well as films and periodicals. The library works closely with the Latvian National Library, and it is significant that the University of Washington has the greatest wealth of such materials in the United States, moving far ahead of all other universities in this regard.
While visiting Microsoft, President Berzins discussed existing and future projects between Latvia and the company. He asked Microsoft to continue to work with the Latvian National Library to implement a pilot project at the national level. This might apply to libraries as workshops which offer activities related to the creation of practical objects; to libraries as arts centers where audio-visual materials can be created and published by visitors; or libraries as social learning centers where knowledge and practical skills are transferred with the help of the public and of social partners.
“This is of decisive importance for Latvia, because we cannot be in first place in the world in terms of manufacturing capacities,” said Berzins.
“We have an opportunity to be among the top countries in the world in terms of education, and that is something which we must achieve in the nearest future.”