Global Conversations With: Krista Bard, President of The Consular Corps Association of Philadelphia

Peak Johnson, for GPA -- The Consular Corps Association of Philadelphia (CCAP) is the oldest association of foreign consuls in the United States, encompassing representatives from over 30 countries around the globe. Members of CCAP are responsible for enhancing and coordinating relations between their respective countries and the greater Philadelphia region.

To Krista Bard, CCAP's newly appointed president, that responsibility means much more. To her, international harmony and peace is what the Consular Corps really strives to accomplish, leveraging the city of Philadelphia's special place in the world.

What is your role as the president of the CCAP?

As president of CCAP, my goal is one: to make sure that the other consuls do their jobs as well as they can for their countries, and then two: to better work as a whole in representing Philadelphia and its international character on a global stage.

What prepared you for this role?

I’ve been working and doing projects for Lithuanian since childhood. I went there in 1988, although it was still part of the Soviet Union. I’ve been involved for many years and then I was named consul, four years ago now, and became a member of the Consular Corps in Philadelphia.

I became one of CCAP's officers and then joined the executive committee. From there I was asked to become president. There’s a saying that God moves in mysterious ways. In 1988 I was just following my heart. I really wanted to see Lithuania. Who would have predicted what it would lead to today? You just keep following your heart and God’s mysterious ways do unfold.

Were you afraid while you were in Lithuania because of the presence of the Soviet Union?

I was scared. I do remember getting off the plane there were soldiers. Even then Americans who were on the trip didn’t understand. They were journalists, they were used to freedom of speech and I was telling them that they could not go off of the schedule.

In an ordinary tour you can go off on a side trip, but in those days you couldn’t take a side trip and I would tell them certain things, like how they were not allowed to photograph in certain areas. One of the journalists got taken away by the police for photographing some black market activity. The police took her role of film and confiscated her camera, but we were able to get it back. We were all detained for an hour and I said to the journalists, "you have to listen to me. I’m telling the truth, this is the Soviet Union, this is not America."

Many Americans don’t understand what its like to be in a different regime. We take our freedom for granted sometimes.

What were the international aspects of your early life?

Because I was Lithuanian, I learned a lot about Lithuanian history. I just had a little bit more exposure then to what was happening in Europe. I also remember my parents being able to speak several languages, as many people did because the country was so small. My father’s life was saved because he spoke so many different languages, Lithuanian, Polish, German, Russian. In one way I was annoyed because my parents didn’t teach me these other languages, but they would tell secrets when they didn’t want me to know things. So now I kind of wish they had taught me.

Do you feel that your parents influenced you in your chosen career path?

Absolutely. It was my parents, but also I think it was the community. I was raised in a Lithuanian convent. I really think those sisters, those nuns had an enormous impact on me. My parents did instill a love of Lithuania in me, as did the sisters. And the community, I don’t think any of us are really raised by our parents. You know, there are other people who come in and are around you and are very supportive when you look back at your life.

Do you think Philadelphia is an international city?

I would say without question, yes. We are often referred to as a city of neighborhoods. That’s often been a comment about Philadelphia. I would actually adjust that statement somewhat. We’re a city of international neighborhoods, of ethnic neighborhoods.

We have many different races and nationalities that live in Philadelphia. What do you think the city can do to increase cultural awareness?

There is room for the city's culutral awareness to increase. I think we’re on the right track and there is certainly more that can be done. Until there is peace in the world we have not done our job of increasing cultural awareness. Until there is, not just tolerance, but acceptance and celebration of our differences, we have not done enough to increase our culture awareness.

Photo courtesy of the Honorary Consuls of Lithuania.