Lukaj Family welcomes the VP to their home
By Anjeza Bojku
Greenwich, CT – Renowned Albanian-American financier and philanthropist, Richard Lukaj, welcomed United States Vice President, Joseph Robinette (“Joe”) Biden, Jr., to his Connecticut home on August 20th, for a private reception in support of the Democratic Governors Association and Connecticut Governor, Dannel (“Dan”) Malloy.
In addition to Vice President Biden and Governor Malloy, their senior staff and impressive security detail, also present were Senator Richard Blumenthal, other dignitaries, numerous leaders of industry and Miss USA, Nia Sanchez.
Lukaj commenced the event by thanking their guests for attending and contributing, particularly highlighting those who’d made the day possible, like the team from Valbella Restaurant, whom he referred to as the finest Italian cuisine in Fairfield County. His light yet serious opening remarks (provided separately) added to the comfortable atmosphere of the occasion which started in mid-afternoon after the distinguished guests had the opportunity to meet all the attendees and donors.
“It is truly a distinct honor for me to be standing here before such a distinguished group of friends and neighbors, introducing our long-time friend Governor Dan Malloy and our honorable Vice President Joe Biden, both individuals who make me proud to be an American. ” said Lukaj in his opening remarks.
Before proceeding to introduce Governor Malloy and Vice President Biden, Lukaj also spoke a little about his humble beginnings as an immigrant, son of hard-working parents who had fled former Yugoslavia due to ethnic and economic oppression, and who instilled in him the values of hard-work, the love of America and encouraged him to believe in and pursue the American-Dream, a concept that remains very significant and concrete in Lukaj’s life.
Vice President Biden touched upon several issues, including challenges to and within the United States. He also addressed the partisan grid-lock in the Nation’s Capital, describing it as a “God awful division,” however, ending on a positive note by stating that “It’s all about being one [whether it’s in Connecticut or throughout the nation]. Continuing with a constructive and positive tone, many a time he alluded to the fact that individuals like the Lukaj family are what set the US apart from the rest of the world.
“It was an honor to participate in a high profile event involving the Vice President of the United States and our Governor, while showcasing one of our own as an example of the one of the great American success stories,” remarked Nick Zherka, general manager of Valbella Restaurant. “During his remarks on immigration, VP Biden touched upon the United States being a country built by immigrants,” continued Zherka, adding that “I am truly grateful to know the Lukajs and hope that other young Albanian Americans will one day be able to follow in Richard’s footsteps and take us even further in generations to come.”
When the Vice President was asked the most common question, namely if he has plans to run for President, he answered “Yes!,” jokingly adding that he would seriously consider running in Kosova because there he has a significant chance of winning. He emotionally described the warmth and support he received during his visit to the country and how the reception there had made him feel like a hero. Biden reaffirmed and expressed his respect, affinity and support for the Albanian community on several instances during his visit.
According to musician Ilir Dangëllia, who played the piano in the musical ensemble for the occasion, Biden demonstrated a tremendous knowledge of many important issues, especially international politics and immigration.
“He referenced the Albanian people numerous times during his remarks, and acknowledged his appreciation and admiration for its work ethic and contribution to American society,” added Dangëllia.
Order of “Grand Master” Albanian violinist Frederik Banda, who played a beautiful rendition of “Lule Bore” (“Snow Flower”) was very impressed by the vice-president’s warm demeanor when greeting each guest. “The Vice President felt so much at home that during his remarks on the Lukaj lawn he decided to break protocol and step away from the microphones so he could be closer to the attendees while addressing them.” said Banda. “That was unmistakably a sign of comfort on the Vice President’s part and the Lukajs ought to be commended for creating and maintaining such a marvelous atmosphere,” added the honored violinist.
Refreshments and Hors d’oeuvres were served to light musical accompaniment produced by violinist Banda, composer Ilir Dangëllia and cellist Gjilberta Lucaj-Gelaj , delightfully capping off the late summer.
Chairman of The National Albanian-American Council (NAAC), Martin Shkreli, was very impressed by the reception, stating “I have attended many events as a long-term community activist, but I can state with complete confidence that this was one of the most beautiful events that individuals from our community have organized and participated in.”
This was Lukaj’s second event this summer in his Connecticut residence in support of his public servant friends and representatives. On June 29th, he organized a social function for friends in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Invited were Senator Murphy of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Committee Chair of Europe, Senator Blumenthal of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Congressman Himes of the House Intelligence and Finance Committees.
Lukaj has been active and civically-minded for most of his life, contributing to numerous causes, particularly oriented to assisting those less fortunate in the Albanian territories of Southeastern Europe. He has assisted in the establishment of organizations, institutions and foundations that have set standards and made the difference during crucial periods in the region for Albanians. Lukaj was honored for his work by the Republic of Albania by being selected as one of the Honorary Consul to the United States and later confirmed by the U.S. Department of State.
He was a founder and is currently the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American University in Kosova (AUK), which has partnered with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and works with other prominent educational institutions to deliver the highest quality accredited private education in Southeastern Europe.
More recently, Mr. Lukaj joined in founding the Action for Healthy Mothers and Children in Kosova, in honor of his late daughter Adelina, which delivers essential medical equipment and supplies to Kosova. Lukaj was also a founder of the Hope Fellowship program, a joint initiative between the National Albanian American Council (which he chaired at the time) and USAID, which provides leadership training for women of the Balkans and arranges for executive exchange programs with the largest corporations and governmental and non-governmental agencies of the United States.
Last, but not least, Mr. Lukaj has been an ardent promoter of investment and enhanced economic ties between the Balkans and the United States. He has led numerous business/investor delegations and has contributed to the development of investor conferences in the US and Europe on the subject. Lukaj also led or participated in delegation visits by various congressional groups, OSCE observation teams, international election monitors, various ambassadors and the visits of President William J. Clinton and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other such dignitaries to the region.
Asked by this Albanian reporter about his plans for continuing involvement in the region, Lukaj replied, “The work is hardly done. We have significant need to resolve frozen conflicts throughout the region with a unifying strategy to ultimately provide a lasting peace and stability, which can further breed prosperity. We have a need for continuing progress towards better governance, devoid of corrupt clientele style influences, and rewarding those figures that are accountable and deliver for the public. Finally, we need to instill hope, national pride and a positive outlook into the youth and afford them the formal educational opportunities and help them appreciate the values of their traditions, which will pave the way for them to be better citizens and for all Albanians to enjoy their greatest century since the heights of the Illyrian civilization.”