Monthly Archives: May 2009

Tuskegee University President speaks at the Rededication Ceremony of the Lincoln Memorial

Nicole White and Willa Hall Smith

Nicole White, Miss District of Columbia USA 2009, and Willa Hall Smith, associate vice president for federal relations, Tuskegee University

Willa Hall Smith, Marianne Ricci and David Burnett

Willa Hall Smith, Marianne Ricci and David Burnett

THE PRESIDENT of Tuskegee University in Alabama, Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, delivered the principal address at the rededication of the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall Saturday, citing the critical importance of President Lincoln in making America a nation that seeks its higher values of freedom, justice and respect for all people.

DR. PAYTON also noted that despite the courage and eloquence of Abraham Lincoln and despite the progress that has been achieved in the decades since his presidency and since the dedication of his memorial in 1922, race continues to be “a major fault line of this nation.”

WHEN THE Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in 1922, the then president of Tuskegee Robert R. Moton delivered the address to an audience that was segregated black and white, and he received death threats because he dared to speak out about the problem of race in America.

TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY is a historically black university that is famous not only for the Tuskegee Airmen who flew in the European theater during World War II, but also for its graduates, in particular, in the areas of science, technology, research and veterinary science.

DR. PAYTON said that the rededication of the Memorial was an occasion that “provides the opportunity to highlight the continuing vitality and significant role Tuskegee University plays today.”

Tuskegee University celebration

Tuskegee University Celebration at the National Press Club


Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden, presented and discussed future challenges at a seminar in Washington

Ulrika Williamson, Urban T. Ziegler and Karin Markides

Ulrika Williamson, Urban T. Ziegler and Karin Markides, who is President of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden

“CHALMERS – for a Sustainable Future” – was the topic of a seminar on Thursday, May 21, at the House of Sweden where representatives of Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden, and the Embassy of Sweden presented and discussed challenges for the future.

THE SEMINAR presented an opportunity for the famed university to showcase its long-term commitment and responsibility for learning, competence building and innovation. Chalmers officials presented their views on transdisciplinary technology, environmental science and innovation management. Additionally, potential opportunities for research collaborations between Chalmers and the U.S. institutions were explored.

KARIN MARKIDES, who is the President of Chalmers University of Technology, spoke about “Energy for Mobility,” and Art J. Ragauskas, who is the Fulbright Chair Alternative Energy at Chalmers University of Technology and Professor of Chemistry at Georgia Institute of Technology, discussed how to “Securing Biofuels and Bioenergy from the Next Generation of Forest.”

MAGNUS H?VIDEN, Counselor for Science and Technology at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, delivered welcoming remarks. The seminar ended with a discussion and questions, and afterwards a reception.

Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy in Washington

Cecilia J?nsson and Linda Tocchini-Valentini

Cecilia J?nsson and Linda Tocchini-Valentini

Rouzita Vahhabaghai and Karim Chrobog

Rouzita Vahhabaghai and Karim Chrobog

A PECHA KUCHA NIGHT was held on Wednesday night, May 20, at the Finnish Embassy on what is called Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue in Northwest Washington, D.C.

Rouzita Vahhabaghai and the Finnish cultural counselor Pekka Hako

Rouzita Vahhabaghai and the Finnish cultural counselor Pekka Hako

FINNISH CULTURAL counselor Pekka Hako welcomed the audience to the stylish Finnish embassy. The presenters were Peter Nissen, Gotham Studios (producer “GeoRadio,”; Simone Jacobson, Words Beats and Life, Inc. – Arts Administrator, “Transforming Individual Lives & Communities Through Hip-Hop” (; Richard Chartier, Sound/Installation Artist “sound works” (; John Bryant, Architect, “Sound, Space and Awareness: Architecture from an Aural Perspective;” Afsaneh Mirfendereski, Chevy Chase Designs, Architect/Artist, “Sounds of Poetry;” Charles Barnett, Composer, “Music Composition for Film” (; Yuko K & Akemi Maegawa, Electronic Musician & Artist, “Sound/Art Collaboration” ( /; and David Schulman, NPR, Violinist & Audio Producer, “I dreamed of a Website Called Clamor” ( /

Karim Chrobog, Sogand Zamani, Ahmad Hajj and Bert Dudley

Karim Chrobog, Sogand Zamani, Ahmad Hajj and Bert Dudley

This Pecha Kucha event was arranged in collaboration with the Embassy of Finland and the City of Helsinki.

Gigi Mathews

Gigi Mathews

There have been Pecha Kucha events in more than 170 cities all over the world. Pecha Kucha Night, devised by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham in Tokyo, was conceived in 2003 as a place for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. Each presenter is allowed 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds, giving 6 minutes and 40 seconds of fame before the next presenter is up. This keeps presentations concise. Pecha Kucha, which is Japanese for the sound of conversation, has tapped into a demand for a forum in which creative work can be easily and informally shown.

Yuko K

Yuko K

Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy
Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy

Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy

Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy
Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy
Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy
Rouzita Vahhabaghai and Karim Chrobog

Rouzita Vahhabaghai and Karim Chrobog

Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy

Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy

Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy

Pecha Kucha Night at the Finnish Embassy

Swedish diplomat talks about scientific challenges at a SACU luncheon

Magnus H?viden and John W. Hunter

Magnus H?viden, Science Counselor at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, and John W. Hunter

WITH PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA and his administration, there is now a new focus in the U.S. on science, technology and innovation serving as crucial tools for the economic recovery and increased national competitiveness.

THIS WAS THE message of Magnus H?viden, the Science Counselor and Head of the Office of Science at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, D.C., when he came to speak at the Swedish American Cultural Union (SACU) luncheon on Wednesday, May 20.

TITLED “What Challenges Lie Ahead that Science Can and Should Solve: Sweden and U.S. Priorities in the Coming Years,” his remarks also highlighted the efforts of the Obama administration to use science and technology on the global scale to address environment, health and energy issues.

MR. H?VIDEN works primarily with policy intelligence affecting information and communication technologies, space research, globalization and national competitiveness issues, research policies and Swedish-American co-operation in research and economic development related areas.

MR. H?VIDEN TALKED extensively about the challenges that confront Sweden and the United States. For example he said that today in the U.S. the majority of graduate students and researchers in science, technology and engineering are Asians, who may return to their home countries, because of visa problems and immigration rules in the U.S. and because of increased opportunity in their home nations. He said that Sweden also has problems attracting and retaining research talent because “In Sweden we have a gloomy climate and high taxes.”

MR. H?VIDEN mentioned that Sweden (and Israel) in relative figures invest close to 4% of GDP in research and development (R & D), which is the highest percentage rate of investment in R&D of any country.

HE ALSO NOTED the importance of the Nobel Prize augmenting Sweden’s ability to attract research dollars and talent. “We try to profit from that.”

‘Sustainable Urban Planning and Green Buildings’ the topic of a seminar at the House of Sweden

Reception after the seminar

Reception after the seminar “Living Green – Sustainable Urban Planning and Green Buildings” at the House of Sweden

ON TUESDAY, May 5, a seminar about approaches to sustainable urban planning, including the concept of SymbioCity – Sustainability by Sweden, was held at the House of Sweden in Washington, D.C., under the title “Living Green – Sustainable Urban Planning and Green Buildings.”

AMONG THE Swedish and American experts who discussed this timely topic were Kristina Hill, associate professor and director of the Graduate Program in Landscape Architecture at University of Virginia School of Architecture; Erik Freudenthal, head of communications, GlashusEtt; Michelle Moore, senior vice president for policy and public affairs, U.S. Green Building Council; Elizabeth Heider, Senior vice president for preconstruction, Skanska; Thomas Almesj?, CEO, ChromoGenics; Gustav Hybbinette, CEO, Swedish Renewable Holdings; Claes Rickeby, CEO, Parans Solar Lighting; and Deputy Mayor of Stockholm Joakim Larsson and the City Manager of the City of Stockholm Irene Svenonius.

AMONG THE TOPICS that were covered were “The Creation of Sustainable Cities,” “SymbioCity: Sustainability by Sweden, the Stockholm Example,” “A Green Building Strategy that Creates Jobs and Saves Energy and Money,” “Cutting Edge Sweden – Stockholm Seaport,” and “LEED Certification and Development of Green Buildings by Skanska.”

CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS also learned about Hammarby Sj?stad, a new city district with emphasis on water and ecology, in Stockholm, and Stockholm Royal Seaport, an area located in the eastern part of the city, neighboring the Royal National City Park and the open waters of the Baltic Sea. This is the area where the new green city district, integrating 10,000 energy efficient dwellings for 25,000 people, will grow over the coming years.

Stockholm - the capital of Scandinavia?

Stockholm – the capital of Scandinavia?

THE SECOND PART of the seminar in the field “Green Building and Swedish Technologies” covered “Chromogenics, Energy efficient windows;” “Swedish Renewable Holdings, Alternative energy supply;” and “Parans, Alternative lighting technology.”
The Stockholm representatives – Mr. Larsson and Ms. Svenonius — were particularly proud that Stockholm’s environmental work has been acknowledged by the European Commission, which has named the city the European Green Capital in 2010. A lively discussion and a reception followed the seminar.
Partners of the event were The Swedish Trade Council, the U.S. Green Building Council, the City of Stockholm and Embassy of Sweden in Washington.

Conference on urban planning and green buildings at the House of Sweden in Washington, D.C.

Conference on urban planning and green buildings at the House of Sweden in Washington, D.C.

Stockholm named the European Green Capital in 2010

Stockholm’s environmental work was acknowledged by the European Commission, which has named Stockholm the European Green Capital in 2010.

Virgin Atlantic’s Sir Richard Branson visits Washington – and denounces plans for merger of British Airways and American Airlines

Sir Richard Branson along with flight attendants from the airline

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group and founder of Virgin Atlantic airlines, along with flight attendants from the airline

SIR RICHARD BRANSON, the chairman of the Virgin Group and the founder of Virgin Atlantic airlines, denounced plans for a British Airways/American Airlines merger during a breakfast speech at the National Press Club on Thursday, May 14.

BRANSON WAS in Washington, D.C. to make his case against the proposed merger between British Airways and American Airlines – the two largest airlines in the world, and said that a merger would stifle competition on transatlantic routes and that “the competition will be squeezed.” The British industrialist started Virgin Atlantic 25 years ago, in June 1984, with one Boeing 747. Today the airline serves 30 destinations from Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London.

BRANSON emphasized that Virgin Atlantic continues to get the best ratings from passengers. “We are listening to the customers, and we have an impeccable safety record.”

“BRITISH AIRWAYS and American Airlines would have the majority of the slots at a hub at Heathrow – Europe’s most important airport. These slots have been given to BA by the British government,” Branson added. He warned against tendencies towards monopolies, and that his airline could be in trouble if the merger would be approved by authorities. He couldn’t guarantee Virgin Atlantic’s survival.
“Imagine if Coke and Pepsi would merge. That would be horrendous. Alliances don’t benefit the travelers, and we have to persuade the regulators. It doesn’t make sense to encourage less competition.”

A MERGER between BA and AA was discussed earlier, in 1996 and 2001, but BA refused then to give up flight slots to fulfill U.S. regulators’ demands.

Sir Richard Branson

Richard Branson, speaking at a breakfast at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., warned against a British Airways and American Airlines merger.

BRANSON SAID that oil prices today are around $60 per barrel, and said oil should be around $25-$30 per barrel. He also mentioned that he invests in trains, through his company Virgin Trains, in the U.K. He stated that he is hoping to work on President Obama’s plan to upgrade the American railroad network. “It is a delightful way of traveling,” he said.

Embassies’ Open House for visitors during Europe Day Successful

Pernilla Scott

Pernilla Scott at the House of Sweden

ON SATURDAY, May 9 – Europe Day — the Washington embassies of EU countries and the Delegation of the European Commission were open for visitors during the day. This was the third annual Europe Day, and more than 70,000 members of the Washington community came out to tour the embassies.

THE VISITORS got a rare behind-the-scenes look and also had a unique opportunity to experience the countries’ cuisine, their music and their diverse cultures.

OFFICIALS ESTIMATED that about 3,000 people visited the House of Sweden, where the Swedish Embassy is located, during the six hours the embassy was open. Europe Day commemorates the occasion in 1950 when French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman first proposed the concept that evolved into today’s European Union.

SWEDEN WILL hold the European Union Presidency from July 1 to December 31 this year, and during that six month period, Sweden will focus on six priority areas – Climate Change, Environment and Energy; Employment, Growth and Competitiveness; A Safer and more Open Europe; A Baltic Sea Strategy; EU as a Global Partner; and Continuation of the Enlargement of the European Union. Sweden will also during its presidency organize and chair all EU meetings at the government level and is expected to chair an additional 3,000 meetings, seminars and conferences. Most of these events will be held in Brussels and Luxembourg. Additionally the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, D.C., will initiate and coordinate EU-related meetings with the other EU Embassies in the American capital.

Emila welcomes visitors to the House of Sweden

Ann-Marie Brisbois and G?ran Gillinger

Ann-Marie Brisbois and G?ran Gillinger

Europe Day

Europe Day

Europe Day

Europe Day

Swedish tennis star Mikael Pernfors continues to be involved in tennis and promotes his tennis events company Adout

Swedish tennis star Mikael Pernfors

Swedish tennis star Mikael Pernfors

“I TRY TO PLAY and be involved in tennis as much as possible in the Champions and Legends tours, especially the Outback Champions Series” said Swedish former tennis star Mikael Pernfors, when I met him at River Bend Country Club in Great Falls Va., on a recent Saturday afternoon.

“UNFORTUNATELY, I have had some injuries the last few years,” he added.

THE OUTBACK CHAMPION SERIES consists of 11 competitions of which seven are played in the United States, and the remaining in Brazil, Mexico, Cayman Islands and Dubai. In Europe it is the ATP Champions Tour that attracts the former tennis stars and champions, and is dominant. Among other Swedish tennis stars who play in these tournaments are Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Bj?rn Borg and Anders J?ryd.

MIKAEL PERNFORS and his Swedish wife Kristina, who previously worked in advertising and publicity in New York, and their two children, 4-year-old Figge, and 4-weeks-old Bella, live at the tennis resort The Boulevard in Vero Beach, Fla.

“I LOVE TO LIVE in Florida. It is very laid back, there are the beach, tennis and golf, and not much else where we live” says Pernfors. He will spend one more month in the U.S. before leaving for Europe, where he is going to play in the veteran championship in the French Open, another event in England, and then two events in Sweden this summer, one in Lysekil and the other one in B?tad.

“IF IT IS AN active year, I travel about 22-25 weeks per year.” He adds: “I love playing tennis, it is fantastically fun to play on the tour, and it’s great to meet and keep in touch with old competitors. And I also like to teach tennis, and play golf,” he adds. He says he sees Mats Wilander, Anders J?ryd and Jocke Nystr?m fairly regularly.

How is your game nowadays?
“GIVEN THE circumstances, fine. It always depends on the daily form.”

MIKAEL PERNFORS, who was born in Malm?, Sweden, doesn’t spend much time in his native country anymore, but says he particularly enjoys the Swedish summer and playing tennis in B?tad and Lysekil.

MIKAEL PERNFORS latest venture is Adout, a company that wants to bring a group of former Swedish champion players together to arrange tennis events for companies, organizations and other tennis interested people and groups. Mr. Pernfors also plans to bring more Swedes to Vero Beach for tennis training and other activities.

BUT MR. PERNFORS has been involved in business before. In 1994 he was a part of the founding of the company Global Caps, which markets caps designed with different countries’ flags, along with other promotional products, company clothing and company uniforms.

Jack Porter and Mikael Pernfors

Swedish tennis star Mikael Pernfors (to the right) and friend Jack Porter at River Bend Country Club in Great Falls, Va.

MR. PERNFORS LIVED for many years in Atlanta, and played tennis for the University of Georgia, and won back-to-back NCAA singles titles in 1984 and 1985. “I basically lived there during my entire active career, it was a perfect place during those years.”

“I WAS NEVER really good as a junior, because I didn’t take it that seriously then, but eventually became a decent player and was quite good for about 7-8 years,” he says. “My best characteristics were my speed, and that my opponents often would say that ‘I have never played that bad.’ With a varied play, I destroyed or distracted the others’ playing routines.”

HE CONSIDERS WINNING the title at the Canadian Open 1993, where he defeated Todd Martin in the final as his greatest success, and he is also very proud of reaching the Davis Cup final for Sweden in 1986. Sweden lost in the final to Australia. He also reached the final in the French Open in 1986, after defeating Boris Becker and Henri Leconte. Ivan Lendl proved to be too strong in the final. Mr. Pernfors was the recipient of the ATP Tour’s Most Improved Player award in 1986, and its Comeback Player of the Year award in 1993. His highest ranking was No. 10 in 1986.

Swedish tennis player Mikael Pernfors

Swedish tennis player Mikael Pernfors

Swedish Actor G?ran Gillinger’s performance in ‘A Swedish Tiger’ gets excellent reviews in The Washington Post

Daniel C. Edwards and Goran Gillinger

Actors Daniel C. Edwards and G?ran Gillinger

“A SWEDISH TIGER” – the powerful story of Swedish collaboration with the Nazis during World War II – performed by Swedish actor G?ran Gillinger, and Daniel C. Edwards, at the Synetic Theater in Arlington, Va. – gets excellent reviews by The Washington Post critic Nelson Pressley in the Post’s Monday, May 4th edition.

THE POST CRITIC writes that “here is what you can get in an hour’s worth of European avant-garde these days: a wry artistic manifesto, a spectacular one-man re-creation of a Hollywood action movie and an excavation of a nation’s unexpectedly dark soul.”

MR. PRESSLEY continues that “A Swedish Tiger” meets the Synetic’s house standard for physical performance, and he is particularly impressed with G?ran Gillinger’s action sequence.

THE BYSTANDER, in a tiger suit, is played by Daniel C. Edwards, and as the play goes along, it becomes more and more obvious that the good-natured and docile tiger is the real object of Gillinger’s wrath. Pressley adds that “Gillinger uses his tools well, getting comic mileage out of an overhead projector and creating stark effects with plain words.”

G?AN GILLINGER, a born and raised Swede who plays the lead role, and directs and co-wrote “A Swedish Tiger,” a play that exposes the deep dark side of the Swedish “neutrality” and accommodation with the Nazis in World War II. During the war, the Swedish government designed a logo portraying a tiger in the colors of the Swedish flag and instituted the motto “A Swede is always quiet.” The word “tiger” in Swedish not only means the wild animal, but it also means “to be quiet.”

G?AN GILLINGER WAS classically trained at the Royal Academy of Acting in Stockholm and at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatres in Los Angeles. He has played lead roles in drama and comedy productions on Swedish National Television, Sweden’s TV4 and in several major motion pictures, as well as Sweden’s largest stages in productions of Moli?e, Shakespeare, Sam Shepard and many more. In 2008, Mr. Gillinger was part of the ensemble cast of Hamlet at the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington, D.C.

“A SWEDISH TIGER” plays Thursdays through Sundays at 8 p.m., through May 24, at the Synetic Theater, 4041 Campbell Street in the Shirlington District of Arlington, Va. Tickets are $20 for everyone except students and people under 25 years of age who pay $10. To reserve tickets, call (703) 824-8061.

Chris Matthews discussed his new book ‘The Hardball Handbook,’ which focuses on friendship, rivalry, reputation and success

MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews

MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews

CHRIS MATTHEWS, the anchor of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on the American TV-network MSNBC, has learned from the pros what it takes to be a success after 40 years of observing people and politicians. At the National Press Club on Monday night he shared that insight when he discussed his new book, “The Hardball Handbook.”

COPIES OF THE BOOK were for sale before and after Mr. Matthews’ presentation, and Mr. Matthews also signed his book for many fans who stood in line. A portion of the sales proceeds were contributed to support the National Press Club’s Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library.

“THE HARDBALL HANDBOOK” focuses on four areas – friendship, rivalry, reputation and success – and shows how we can use the best traits of others and use them ourselves. It is one of several books written by the Hardball anchor.

MR. MATTHEWS, himself famous for his racy and sometimes confrontational style on his show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” spoke about his experiences in the political world. It was in 1997 that Hardball started, with Mr. Matthews as its anchor. In his earlier years he worked for the Peace Corps in Swaziland, and also spent time in Israel, Egypt and United Kingdom. He early political career included being the top staffer or Administrative Assistant for the powerful Speaker of the House in the 1980′s Tip O’Neill.

“GET A JOB inside. Get in that door. Even if it is only to be the mail-man,” was his advice for anybody who wanted to get that a political job, or for that matter any other job.

MR. MATTHEWS TALKED extensively about the new American administration, and said three things contributed to the success of the Obama tenure. He said that he had “never seen a busier president, and that he keeps the action level going.” But Mr. Matthews also warned about the enormous expenditures for the U.S. government for getting the country on track, printing a lot of money, which could lead to inflation.

THE THREE THINGS that contribute to the Obama success are first, according to Matthews, to bring in Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. “It was stunning, and very effective. It is a real coalition government now.” He pointed out that the Clintons can be very helpful, when it comes to resolve problematic Middle East issues.

SECONDLY, President Obama follows the Reagan model of “you don’t wait” with your program for the second year. His platform has to be dealt with now – the economy, healthcare and education, primarily. It is like “a blitz.”

THE THIRD ISSUE is the Chicago connection. The president has brought in a lot of very accomplished connections from his hometown Chicago – where the rule is “act if there is only one game in town, and no other party.” The Obama people love to talk about Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, and ignore the Republican leadership in Congress. That is the message, according to Matthews. “It is fantastic to watch them do it.” He also said that he thought that one reason that many people – in such a heterogeneous society as America, including many foreign born — connect to President Obama and his international background.

Christ Matthews signs books after the event.

Christ Matthews signs books after the event.