Valdus Adamkus, the current president of Lithuania, was born in his native country but was a citizen of Illinois most of his life. He lived in Chicago and suburbs for 49 years from 1949 to 1998. His life story so far has been an amazing testament to his personal courage, integrity, and leadership.
Adamkus was born on November 3, 1926 to a Roman Catholic family in Kaunus, the second largest city in Lithuania. They escaped from Soviet-occupied Lithuania during World War II. Adamkus attended the University of Munich in Germany before emigrating to Chicago in 1949. He worked as an automobile draftsman and graduated with a degree in civil engineer from the Illinois Institute of Technology with the class of 1960.
Adamkus was for many years the Midwest Regional Director for the Envioronmental Protection Agency under both parties and won praise from both President Reagan who appointed him and from President Clinton in the early 1990s. Adamkus left Chicago and returned to Lithuania in 1998. He had maintained political contacts there and was popular with other exiles returning from America. He was elected president of Lithuania in the fall of 1998 for a five year term that ended in 2003. His successor was removed from office by the high court of Lithuania on corruption charges and Adamkas ran again for president in 2004. He is now serving his second non-consecutive five-year term as president. His current term will expire in 2009. He is fairly popular in his country, a respected European leader, and a friend of the U.S.