NATO dignitaries begin outreach to Chicago

March 28, 2012 4:24:16 PM PDT
The Chicago NATO summit is now less than a month away. The summit itself will be off-limits to the public. But some NATO dignitaries are making sure Chicagoans know who they are and why they are here.

NATO dignitaries have begun their outreach to Chicago. On Wednesday, the Assistant Secretary General met with students at the Harris School at University of Chicago. Kolinda Grabar was the Ambassador of Croatia to the US prior to her assignment at NATO and is familiar with Chicago, particularity the Croatia-American community.

"When I heard that a decision had been taken to have the summit in Chicago, I have to tell you I was thrilled," said Grabar.

Work is being done behind closed doors to prepare for the summit this week. Detailed and confidential logistics planning is happening at McCormick Place with White House and State Department staffers.

In Brussels, at NATO Headquarters, strategic documents are being drawn up to solidify issues and options for NATO members, most notably how to transition out of Afghanistan.

Ambassador Grabar's focus is to organize events to engage Chicagoans.

"We are here working on public diplomacy events together with the host committee, looking at venues and taking care of details of the events that will be geared at general public - and that will attract the interest of the general public," said Grabar.

Ambassador Grabar is also considering way to dialogue with protesters.

"What I would personally hope for is of course those who are marching and those who have something to say that they are heard and we will be listening to they; I hope they will listen to us," said Grabar.

An exchange of ideas has already begun with some public policy, with graduate students in Hyde Park.

"It's wonderful to be here at this time and feel that energy and participate in discussion like this," said Matt Gee, U. of C. Harris School student.

"Having someone from NATO actually come and speak to us and share their stories and talk about what they do on a day to day basis is very critical and important," said Holly Guzman, U. of C. Harris School student.

Some of the public events leading up to the summit include: -a kite festival to highlight the kite flying tradition in Afghanistan at Montrose Harbor. -A music exchange between Chicago children and Afghan children. -An exhibition of NATO history at the Pritzker Military Library.

There will be more announcements of events open to the public in the coming weeks.