Tell us little bit about yourself.
I’m a Kansas City, Missouri native who now lives between Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida. My background is in the performing arts which I still greatly enjoy now. I’m married to Jimmy John Liautaud, the founder of Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches.
What is your affiliation to Lithuania? What triggered your interest in Lithuania?
My husband’s mother, Gražina Gudaitis Liautaud, came to the United States during World War II as a refugee. Lithuania is a huge part of our family’s life because of her. We have stayed active in Lithuania with involvement in politics, medical treatment and business growth. We were involved with Valdas Adamkus’s presidential election in 1998 which, in my opinion, was a huge turning point for Lithuania.
Through Gražina’s organization, Children’s Hope, we were able to modernize health care for children at the Children’s Hospital in Vilnius, and have been involved with entrepreneurship at ISM.
What is the difference between an Honorary Consul and an Embassy Consul?
As an Honorary Consul, my goal is to promote goodwill between the United States and Lithuania and to spotlight Lithuanian culture and interests. Unlike a career consul, it is an unpaid position. In my short year and a half as Honorary Consul, I have had the GREAT pleasure of meeting many Lithuanian diplomats and Ministers in Lithuania as well as many who have travelled to the United States. The positive cooperation between the two nations has been very rewarding to witness.
What is your next big project in the capacity of being an Honorary Consul of Lithuania?
We are currently attempting to integrate Ruta Sepetys’s book, "Between Shades of Gray", into the Wisconsin school district. It’s a very slow moving task but will be a huge tool in educating our youth about the trials faced by Lithuanians during World War II. Education is key for ensuring peace for future generations.
What is the biggest challenge you face when promoting the Lithuania brand in your country? What should we do better?
In my opinion, Lithuania is doing a remarkable job in regards to their country’s growth. I remember visiting Lithuania for the first time in 1998. It was a totally different country than it is now. When I visit now, I see economic growth, thriving businesses, beautiful new architecture and cultural promotion.
How would you describe your country's relationship with Lithuania?
Very positive and I’ve witnessed several times already how both countries are eager to learn from one another in regards to agriculture, medicine and diplomacy.
What are some of your favourite hobbies?
I love the outdoors, reading and writing!
What is your favourite thing about Lithuania?
The people. I have enjoyed the immense warmth, the friendliness and the eagerness of Lithuania’s citizens. And the food is amazing!
If you could describe Lithuania in one word, what would it be?