Eternal gratitude for Congressman Eliot Engel, our greatest friend in US Congress
By Harry Bajraktari
After 32 years in the US Congress, Eliot Engel, the outgoing Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has retired.
He has served with dignity and honor, with love for America and a passion for freedom and democracy around the world.
In the last three decades, he has been our best friend in Washington DC. In his farewell speech in the House of Representatives, he mentioned our first meeting in his office in 1989. It was there that I first spoke to him about Kosova and the plight of the Albanian people.
Congressman Engel advocated for the rights of Kosovars and visited Kosova despite the martial-law of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. In 1996, when the Serbian military prevented him from entering Kosova, he said, “Milosevic was not letting me enter today, but the day will come soon when Milosevic will be ousted from Kosova and then we will be the one preventing him from getting in.”
His statement was prophetic. A year later Kosova was free and in 2008, it became independent.
Congressman Engel played a role in both events. He advised closely President Clinton during the war in Kosova and lobbied President George W Bush in favor of Kosova’s independence.
Congressman Engel has worked hard for peace and progress throughout the Balkans. He helped Albania become a member of NATO and stood by the Albanian minorities as they fought for human and political rights in their respective countries in the region.
For all this contribution Albanians will remain forever grateful to him.
Congressman Engel was a great representative of his district in The Bronx and Westchester. He was first and foremost a great American patriot, who earned the respect of all his colleagues despite of party affiliation. He will be deeply missed in the Capitol Hill.
Eliot Engel left the Congress this week, but his work and contribution will continue.
On a personal note, nothing will change in our friendship. As I have written before, he became more than a friend to me over the years. He is my older brother.
Today, I join my fellow Albanians and Americans in thanking him for his service and wish him the best in the next chapter of his life. This was a great journey of 32 years and he deserves to be proud.
Thank you, Chairman Engel. God bless you and God bless America!
Harry Bajraktari is founder and publisher of Illyria newspaper (1991-1998), an Albanian-American community leader, philanthropist and recipient of many awards, including the Honor of the Nation Order by the President of Albania, Kosova’s Presidential Medal for Merits & the White House Presidential Call to Service Award.