May 2, 2013/
VATRA’s Future and Its Officers/
VATRA has a long-standing reputation for being devoted to transparency and inclusivity. VATRA’s current mission is to appeal to a broader range of Albanian-Americans through open and democratic processes. In order to achieve this goal and continue to move forward, our future officers and board members must possess certain key qualities and be equally as dedicated to VATRA as our ancestors were.
In the past, VATRA has been criticized for taking part in cronyism which may be interpreted as corruption. However, VATRA’s perceived cronyism was actually protectionism and was carried out for a brief period of time and for an honorable purpose—to safeguard the oldest Albanian-American organization from hostile takeovers from outlawed entities. In 1991, communists almost succeeded in gaining control of the most influential Albanian-American body in the US. Since then, crisis-tested patriotic Vatrans have guarded VATRA with feverish intensity in order to thwart any subsequent attempts at defiling and misusing the century-old institution. To attract more patriots like those that saved VATRA from a communist takeover, they elected a Southerner as President, a Northerner as VP and a Kosovar as 2nd VP. This was a good formula and successful for the aging Federation. Unfortunately, when VATRA opened its doors to aspiring members in the new millennium, there was no one standing outside waiting to join.
This stage of decline in membership is attributable to a number of factors: the fall of communism led to many members pivoting their focus to the homeland to support their newly liberated yet economically impoverished brethren, the most significant mission of VATRA was accomplished in destroying the iron curtain, Kosova achieved independence, and the influx of new Albanian immigrants helped sprout countless regional organizations which were already plentiful. Undeniably, there may have been one other important factor in the lack of interest—the unintentional perception that VATRA is strictly for old men, not for women or the youth. Now, the newly elected administration has the opportunity to reaffirm that VATRA belongs to all Albanian-American patriots that are dedicated to VATRA, the Albanian cause, and to a volunteering spirit of hard-work.
Since Dr. Bucaj’s first term as President, VATRA membership has more than doubled, eight branches have been established or reestablished, and VATRA’s image now shines brighter than is has in decades. Upon assuming the duties of the venerable position of President, Dr. Bucaj made it clear that he intended to hold a VATRA convention in order to facilitate the gradual modernization of the Federation in order to welcome more youth, women and members of other Albanian-American organizations and to solidify his presidency by revitalizing the democratic process of being elected by a democratically-chosen body of delegates, representative of VATRA as a whole. VATRA has been steadily growing and modernizing especially since last year’s successful centennial events and activities. This process should continue at a measured and responsible pace avoiding confusion in accepting new members and budding branches.
Genuinely patriotic and dedicated Vatrans do not seek monetary gain or reward for their efforts in serving the Albanian cause through VATRA’s principles. On the contrary, they seek only to occupy positions within the organization that will afford them the opportunity to sacrifice more deeply, to dedicate more free time, and roll up their sleeves higher in servitude at their own expense to support the cause.
VATRA should appoint officers and board members with the above mentioned qualities. Candidates should be vetted as individuals that have a desire to serve not to profiteer. Vatrans, that have stayed the course for years/decades by self-sacrificing and serving in typical Albanian humble fashion, would be grossly offended should a substandard officer be appointed. Worse still, current VATRA members surely would not stand for a less-than honorable leader in the next term.
During VATRA’s downsizing period, a Kosovar VP and Northern Albanian VP were selected under the leadership of a Southern Albanian President. This was the result of a commendable strategy to promote inclusivity of the various Albanian American populations in the US. Akin to the American version of Affirmative Action, this strategy produced concrete results. The organization that was founded by a majority of Orthodox Christian intellectuals from Southern Albania had actually achieved diversity with Albanians from Chameria to Kosova of all faiths. As the concept of Affirmative Action has an end date attached, so too should VATRA’s strategy of appointing members of different groups. After all, nominating someone solely based on his or her regional background is a form of discrimination. Those positions should be offered to the most professionally qualified, morally upright, and respected Vatrans capable of stepping in for the President at a moment’s notice with the full confidence of the board.
Candidates that have less than six month in VATRA need time to grow and develop in VATRA.
Candidates that have many years on post but have not been willing to complete menial tasks or share the burden of larger projects need time to grow and develop in VATRA outside leadership roles.
Candidates that have at least two years in VATRA and have proven themselves to be reliable, active, and hard-working should be considered for positions of greater responsibility.
Recommend that VATRA leadership be represented by individuals with qualities and standards indicated above in order to ensure that the integrity of the oldest Albanian-American Federation be preserved for the next century.