Mark Kosmo: I'm Albanian in my Heart, but I live and think like an American

Mark Kosmo: I'm Albanian in my Heart, but I live and think like an American
Mark Kosmo
  Mark Kosmo is an "Albanian" born and raised in the US by Albanian parents who emigrated in US 100 years ago from Albania. A prominent intellectual, a fiery activist of the national affair, patriot and honorable personality. For years, the Global Albanians Foundation has been hoping to become a tool for tens of thousands of Albanians in Diaspora to donate millions of dollars to support the nonprofit organizations and the problems and causes they address," he says. At the same time it is working to create a network of professions.

The profession is the one that accompanies us all our lives. Was this a decision to pursue this profession or did this emerged naturaly, as a voice calling inwardly?

I have studied economics, and I would say that the choice was more of an internal call. I was always interested in real-world affairs and politics, and I believed in the idea of ​​economic justice, even though I was just a child, just like most children who have this instinctively.

I was in college, 19, in the second year at Massachusetts's Amherst University, to be graduated in Mathematics. I remember how one day, walking on campus, I said to myself, "Mathematics is very abstract and theoretical," so I changed my degree in economics, as I was more interested in economic policy and how to use the quantitative analysis approach to address the real world issues, so the economy seemed the best way to combine them.

What were the key moments that have left traces on your professional and personal journey?

The main moments in life are always the earliest, as they determine the person's way.

At the professional level, the first major moment was an internship in Washington DC, at the time I was studying at college, and this increased my interest in policies of economic analysis.

This enabled me to become a Research Assistant at the Brookings Institution in Washington, UCON University of Economics, and later at a Dartmouth College, the World Resources Institute and the World Bank as an economist for energy and the environment. Then I abandoned all I had before in order to engage in Albanian affairs over the last 20 years, but I think it was a good preparation for my life as a "reborn Albanian".

At the personal level, the first time I was leaving alone was when I traveled with any vehicle for 10,000 miles around the United States at the age of 21. This combined with a journey around the world at the age of 28, strengthened to me the sense of adventure, my desire to work around the world, and my basic instincts to believe that the strangers usually help you, and the best way is to be open to people, rather than being attracted and careful. I did went on a plane at the age of 15 and since I grew up in middle-class families in Breinters, Massachusetts (ten miles South of Boston), I thought it was time to travel more!

It is often said that there is no unified key to open every door, have you had one to open your door to success?

It may sound like a cliché, but I think my key was my parents and brothers. In the past, nothing was special. My parents were not able to go to college, but they pushed my older brothers and me together with my twin brother to study a lot and go out to school. I was very afraid of my Albanian-American mother, if I would not get good results in school!

Regarding professional events, nothing was again special - I did not have remarkable mentors, I did not receive awards, no bright moment, nothing special.

My professional life has been more or less like a series of small and ongoing events that are related to each other, but without any specific plan. It's almost like in a basketball game - you does not notice all the passes that could allow a big shot, but they are just as important as the shot at the end.

We do not grow up when we have no efforts and have the things ready, but when we face challenges. What have been some of the most difficult challenges you can define in your life?

I remember when I had a feeling of great anxiety about the age of 35. Taking medicines for several months, questioned the health of my mind and was unable to work for about a week. Several times my doubts as to whether I could find a good job, questioned my self-confidence. During the postgraduate school, at first I encountered some obstacles on the street where I wondered: "Could I do a doctorate or not?" - I think this was the first time in my life where I was a student below the average compared with my peers, so sometimes the distrust in my self was increasing.

But, I have never experienced any tragedy and hardship like some people. But still it is good to try to fail as this makes you stronger and tougher. If I were a boxer I do not think I would be the guy who could shoot hard with knockouts, but I think I could withstand many punches and resist more than others.

We often get to look back and ask ourselves how our lives would be if we had another choice. How have worked the decisions you have taken so far?

So far it has gone quite well. I saw a Madonna interview once and when asked about the mistakes she had made earlier in her life, she replied: "I do not believe in mistakes ... everything you do in life tells you who you are, where are you and where you are going." I have the same definitive perspective for life. I have no regrets or repentance from the past, as Shakespeare said, "The past is prologue."

If the greatest achievement of man is to continually improve oneself, which of your achievements would you qualify as the most triumphant?

I do not think so. The fact that I did not attended the graduation ceremony in high school, college or postgraduate school, shows this. The only diploma I have in my possession is that of high school, and I lost my doctoral thesis, maybe 30 years ago. What I want to say is that I can not isolate anything I have done as a great achievement and certainly not nurture myself with the sense of triumph for nothing. I just live my life doing things and trying to make the best. Everything is part of a process. As one of my greatest brothers once said to me: "You would not want to be someone (lawyer, doctor, etc.) but you would like to do something (help people, promote justice ... etc). ". I never wanted to become an economist or an active member of the Albanian community, it just happened in the course of my life. Life is like a ball game, sometimes throws and sometimes just follows, but most of the time passes by moving around without a ball. In those cases where the ball comes to you, then you do the best you can, but to be effective you should not remind of the achievements or failures of the past.

What memories of the past and experiences create the sound of the word "Fatherland"?

I was born and raised in Boston, United States of America. My family has come to America 100 years ago from Korça. From Monday to Saturday we were Americans, and on Sunday Albanians. I could not learn the Albanian language. I consider myself a "reborn Albanian" so I feel a close relationship with the motherland in that sense.

I know that being Albanian is a big part of my identity and values, but I did not understand it until I was thirty and went to Albania for the purposes of the World Bank in May 1992.

To eat pie on Sunday's at your grandmother was not enough, I had to travel and go to the villages of my ancestors and live for some time to appreciate the influence of the Albanian culture because I grew up in a period when Albania was hermetically isolated.

For me, since I was a kid and an adult, Albania seemed to me like the Moon, too far away, mysterious, and unable to go. I spent a long time in Albania from 1992-1999, but I have only visited it around 5 times over the past 20 years. My lively memories I think might be what I had to go to in Albania in March 1997, climbing the mountains to my grandparents' village, Trebicka, and the joy and happiness of acquaintance with many cousins ​​whom I save the contacts today.

What quality do you think you have inherited from your homeland, which has helped you to get integrated and to be successful?

I think the best quality I have inherited is my delightful Albanian personality. Whether you are an immigrant coming or born in America, little things make it possible for people to like you, smile and enjoy your company. I'm not just talking about the part to eat and drink and the only fun thing is the party - entertainment is not what you do, but it's a mental state that you have or not. Most Albanians have this, combined with this and with some other good qualities. My father and my uncles have always been fun and lively jokes and singing all the time (only when they do not get angry), and this joy for life has become part of me and I try to use it well.

Based on your personal experience what does the word "emigrant" mean, and have you suffered any consequence of this status?

I am not an emigrant and can not comment on it, but I know many immigrants (not just Albanians) and I am involved in some immigrant organizations, so I appreciate the labor migrants who pass but could never understand it in depth can a real emigrant. It's like looking at someone who is hit in the nose and thinks of how painful might be, but until the you ahve not been hit, you never realizes it.

How do you think to improve the cooperation between Albanians?

I can write infinitely on this issue. The most important thing I think is the creation of institutions at the national and global level that promotes more cooperation between Albanian global communities. For the most part, Diaspora organizations are only effective at the local level. At the national levels they are weak and not existing and there is nothing at the global level. Combined with the weak government institutions in terms of diaspora involvement, we haqve problems in improving cooperation among Albanians. That is why I am happy to be engaged as chairman of Germin, the Global Alliance of Albanians and the Albanian-American Association in Masacusets.

What should be different in the motherland?

I was born and raised in America and not in Albania as were my grandparents. It is not fair that I judge for Albania as a whole, since I have not spent much time there in the last 20 years, but I think the Albanians in Albania have some very unhealthy and antiproductive qualities. Albanians plunge into pessimism, cynicism, unstable gossip, ethnic stereotypes, and beliefs in conspiracy theories - as do many other people in the Balkans, including Kosovo (however, I think Kosovo Albanians have less negative views than those of Albania) .

I have grown up in America and, in my opinion, all that negativity is a bunch of old cramps and waste of time and energy that keeps Albanians back wherever they are. Americans think much about the future without dealing with the past, while Albanians think much about the past and not about the future.

Do you think the involvement of the Albanian government in Diaspora is appropriate? What would you specifically seek from the Albanian government?

They have done a very poor job with regard to Diaspora. They need to build more formal structures for cooperation with Diaspora, and also need to develop these structures together with the Diaspora and not just dictate to them through laws, summits and advisers approved by the government as they have done so far. I have been an open critic of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Diaspora in recent months as they have disappointed me as well as many Albanians of the broad diaspora for many reasons and is to long to be explained here. You can not work effectively with a large Albanian diaspora already accustomed to Western standards, with top-down government initiatives.

Hundreds of people attending the first summit in November 2016 did not attend the second summit in February 2019 after feeling that the government was not honest in its efforts to cooperate with the global Albanian community. They should be more cooperative, but the culture of cooperation is low on the government side.

If they do not answer even a simple email, and just advertise on social networks and not even participate in discussions, then it is very difficult to believe in their ability to move forward in a positive and honest way.

The concept of a diaspora minister for me makes no sense, because diaspora is not a sector such as agriculture, energy or transport.

Diaspora includes some disciplines that need to work together. The most important thing is that it should be a joint agency for the two countries, otherwise the institutional framework will never be able to reflect the fact that we are an Albanian diaspora, not some. Institutions will never be effective unless they present the reality.

As you are making plans, the change remains constant and unstoppable. What are your plans for the future?

I do not plan for more than a few months for the future. I like to walk with time and I like the change. My main plan is to continue to chair the Germin and the Global Albanian Foundation with the vision of a future to better promote the engagement of the great global community of Albanians. I'm not very sure of how this will happen and how effective I am, but I like the initiative and do not bother about the final destination. Ultimately this is what it means to be open minded and adventurous. Certainly, we have concrete plans on how to promote the charity of the Albanian diaspora and the database or the "Global Network of Professional Professionals and Entrepreneurs", and the finalization of the details will be a flexible and continuously upgraded process.

"The Albanian" now has over 1 million online followers. What encouraging message would you have for them?

Do not be cynical, do not be pessimistic. Enjoy what you do every day and the details will be customized. When I was 30, I asked the boss, who was 50 years old, if he have been ever cynical, and he gave me a stunning answer: "No Mark, the cynicism is for young people ... the older you become, the more you begin to accept change comes slowly and you leave every day."
Mark Kosmo: I'm Albanian in my Heart, but I live and think like an American Mark Kosmo: I'm Albanian in my Heart, but I live and think like an American Saturday, June 08, 2019 Rating: 5
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