May 1, 2010— Volume 37, Number 241
AHI Honors Five Distinguished Greek Americans at Awards Gala
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) honored a distinguished group of Greek Americans at its 35th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage and National Public Service Awards Dinner, held March 13, 2010, at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC.
United by their important career achievements and by their contributions to the Greek American community and the community at-large, this year's honorees were:
These individuals' many accomplishments were celebrated throughout the evening and highlighted in congratulatory letters submitted by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Vassilis Kaskarelis, Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States Andreas S. Kakouris, World Council of Hellenes Abroad USA Region President Ted G. Spyropoulos, and International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus President Philip Christopher.
The master of ceremonies for the evening was Thalia Assuras, former CBS News anchor, who currently is a communications consultant. American Hellenic Institute Secretary of the Board of Directors Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq. introduced her.
Opening the evening's program was AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis.
AHI Founder and President, American Hellenic Institute Foundation, Gene Rossides then welcomed the evening's guests. He also introduced AHI President Aleco Haralambides.
The Evening's Honorees
The first award recipient of the evening was John Aniston. Unfortunately the popular actor was unable to attend due to a severe accident sustained by his wife; however, he was broadcasted through a live telephone feed to the event. Aniston was awarded the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his unparalleled achievements and excellence in his field. In his remarks he spoke about his pride in his Greek heritage.
"I am very honored to receive this recognition," he said. "My Greek heritage is something I've always been proud of."
Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) received the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his commitment to public service and his support in strengthening United States relations with Greece and Cyprus.
"I believe that our Hellenic heritage, Hellenic ideals, a commitment to hard work, family, education, and the pursuit of excellence has manifest itself in three powerful ways. First, it has been the engine behind the personal success of so many individuals in our community, in every field of endeavor and that is reflected this evening. Greek Americans have reached the top levels and we can be very proud of that. Second, our heritage has called upon us to protect and preserve those institutions within our own community that keep us strong. The Orthodox Church, the principle example of this, but other important organizations such as the American Hellenic Institute that serve as a source of identity and commitment for Greek-Americans. But the most powerful manifestation of our Hellenic heritage is something that goes beyond individual success or even the preservation of our own particular community; it is the desire to give back to the broader society. This participation in civic affairs, rooted in the principles of our Hellenic heritage, is what I call Hellenism in the public service."
The congressman also told the story of his family's first trip to Greece in August that occurred almost exactly 100 years from the date his grandfather made his maiden voyage to America.
Emanuel L. "Manny" Rouvelas received the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his dedication to promoting the ideals of Hellenism through a steadfast commitment to public service and support of educational endeavors for the Greek American community. He spoke about the influence that his parents' belief in Hellenism had in creating positive results in his life.
"Although they had little formal education, and their concepts of it were abstract, they believed powerfully in education, they believed powerfully in America, they believed powerfully in our Hellenic heritage and the opportunities of this country and that the combination of the two, of all the things in the Hellenic heritage combined with the opportunities and democracy of America, could make a magic combination for them and for their communities."
Niki Leondakis received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for her outstanding career achievements, innovative leadership and widely-recognized influence in the travel industry. During her speech she recalled a pivotal time in her life where she became acutely aware of her Greek heritage and the values of community and hard work that it enshrined.
"Some time in the early 80s…I saw Anthony Quinn live in the play 'Zorba the Greek' and at that point I said I have to become him because somebody needs to be the female Zorba. So I decided that I would take that on as my life's mission. I am not sure when it happened but one day I woke up and realized I am so proud to be Greek and so proud to be a Greek-American.
Peter Karmanos, Jr. received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his outstanding business achievements, and for his dedicated philanthropy and generous support of the Greek American community.
"I was very fortunate to be of Greek descent, I was very fortunate to have that tradition, the power that it gave me and allowed me to raise a fine family. We all have similar stories that struck me as every person came up, the same stories of my parents ran a restaurant…I went to work in that restaurant when I was very young, learned a lot of valuable lessons like everybody else did and its amazing how it all works out and I am very proud of everyone here."
"I also want to extend my gratitude to the American Hellenic Institute for this high honor. As much as we honor individual achievements within the Greek American community tonight, we also must highlight the determination of the membership, leadership and staff of AHI and the work they do in preserving the very heritage and qualities we pay tribute to this evening."
Special guests attending the event included: Ambassador of Greece to the United States Vassilis Kaskarelis; Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States Andreas Kakouris; former U.S. Ambassador to Greece Tom Miller and Bonnie Miller; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs & former U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission from the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Tom Countryman.
Greek Embassy Dinner in Honor of AHI
The weekend's events kicked off with an elegant dinner at the Greek Embassy on Friday, March 12, 2010, hosted by Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis and Mrs. Kaskarelis. The event was held in honor of AHI for its significant contributions to strengthening ties between Greece and the U.S.
Greece, Cyprus Officials Offer Breakfast Presentations
On the morning of March 13, 2010, AHI hosted a breakfast presentation featuring guest speakers Ambassador Kaskarelis and Ambassador Kakouris. Ambassador Kakouris spoke about the history, current status and prospects for a Cyprus solution. Ambassador Kaskarelis spoke on a variety of issues ranging from U.S.-Greece relations, the Greek financial crisis, and Greek foreign policy regarding Turkey and FYROM. A Q&A session followed their presentations.
AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence
The 189th anniversary of Greek Independence Day was celebrated on Capitol Hill as the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted its annual "Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" on March 24, 2010. The common democratic ideals held by Greece and the United States were reaffirmed by several members of Congress at the event which was held in cooperation with the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues' co-chairs, U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
Special guest speakers were His Excellency Vassilis Kakarelis, ambassador of Greece to the United States, His Excellency Marcos Kyprianou, foreign minister, Republic of Cyprus; and Nick Karacostas, AHEPA supreme president. Members of Congress who addressed the audience included (in order of appearance): U.S. Reps. Zack Space (D-OH), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who is the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mike McMahon (D-NY), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Dina Titus (D-NV), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-LA). The members' statements can be found at <www.ahiworld.org>.
The speakers emphasized their admiration for Hellenic culture and for the valiant and inspirational struggle for Greek Independence achieved nearly 200 years ago. They also expressed their wish for a proper settlement of the Cyprus issue, and stressed their support for Greece over the name issue with FYROM. Also, during the evening, there was a presentation of traditional Greek dances performed by the Return to Origins Greek Folk Dance Troupe under the direction of Rena and Elena Papapostolou.
AHI Hosts U.S. Envoy to Cyprus
American Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus Frank C. Urbancic, Jr. discussed the goals and challenges of the American mission in Cyprus at a luncheon hosted by the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) on Jan. 5, 2010, at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC.
"We were pleased to have the opportunity to facilitate this event during Ambassador Urbancic's brief visit to the United States," said Executive Director Nick Larigakis. "We believe it helped the ambassador engage in dialogue with community leaders on a variety of issues as they pertain to the U.S., Cyprus relationship. We obviously aspire to strengthen this important relationship."
Ambassador Urbancic touched on topics ranging from the ongoing Cyprus negotiations to encouraging more Cypriot citizens to consider the United States as a venue to pursue business or educational opportunities. The importance of increased American investment in Cyprus, including tourism to Cyprus, was also discussed.
AHI Celebrates Greek Independence Day at White House
AHI celebrated Greek Independence Day at the White House on March 9, 2010. AHI President Aleco Haralambides Secretary Nicholas Karambelas and Executive Director Nick Larigakis attended the ceremony at which President Barack Obama, Prime Minister George Papandreou, and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios provided remarks. "We thank President Obama for demonstrating 'philotimo' toward the Greek American community by hosting this event to honor Greek Independence," Haralambides said.
Congressional leader Celebrates Greek Independence with AHI
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, released a video of her remarks at the American Hellenic Institute's "Salute to Greek Independence" Celebration held Wednesday, March 24, 2010. "We appreciated the ranking member for stopping by to address AHI and our audience on such an important occasion for Greek Americans," Executive Director Nick Larigakis said. To view her remarks, please visit <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPjZEMklTVQ>.
AHI Submits Testimony to House Appropriations Subcommittee
AHI submitted testimony to the House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies on the Obama Administration's foreign aid proposals for FY2011 on Friday, March 26, 2010.
In the best interests of the United States, AHI's testimony opposed: 1) any military assistance the administration will request for Turkey until Turkey removes its troops and illegal Turkish settlers in Cyprus; 2) aid the administration will request for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM); and 3) any reduction that might be introduced in the aid levels for the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus.
In addition, the testimony supported the continuation of Economic Support Fund (ESF) funding for Cyprus as long as it is tied exclusively to bi-communal projects of the island as mandated by U.S. law. The law states U.S. funds are to support only "measures aimed at reunification."
"Although the Subcommittee did not hold a public witness hearing this year, it is vital to ensure the Greek American community's positions on American foreign aid to this region are submitted for the record via the Subcommittee's acceptance of written testimony," said Executive Director Nick Larigakis, who submitted the testimony.
The Subcommittee is chaired by U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey. Visit <www.ahiworld.org> to read AHI's testimony.
U.S. Rep. Space Commends AHI with Resolution
U.S. Rep. Zack Space (D-OH) on April 13, 2010 entered into the Congressional Record "A Proclamation Honoring the American Hellenic Institute" for "its principled commitment to the causes important to Hellenic people across the world." The proclamation enumerates several contributions of AHI including its work to strengthen U.S.-Greece relations, to reunify Cyprus, and to advance religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in addition to AHI's work on educational initiatives and cultural awareness and preservation. To download a copy of the Congressional Record entry, please visit <www.ahi world.org>.
Washington Times columnist James Morrison made the American Hellenic Institute's call to recall the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey the lead of his prominent "Embassy Row" column in the Tues., Feb. 23 edition of the paper on page A10.
Morrison wrote in his lead paragraph: "A powerful Greek-American lobby [AHI] is demanding that President Obama recall the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, accusing the envoy of making 'unacceptable, disappointing and damaging' remarks that 'undermine the administration's position on Cyprus.'"
Morrison added that AHI found Ambassador Jeffrey's remarks "alarming and bring into question the Obama administration's policy as it specifically relates to Cyprus." He also reported AHI's criticism of the ambassador's logic that Turkey is closer to Europe than Cyprus, an EU nation, as justification for Turkey's EU prospects. Morrison quoted AHI's statement, "…[the] ambassador uses flawed logic if he contends geography takes precedence above all other criteria to join the EU."
Letters to the Editor
In a follow-up, the Washington Times published Executive Director Larigakis' March 5, 2010 letter to the editor in response to Morrison's Feb. 23 column featuring AHI's call for President Obama to recall Ambassador Jeffrey. Larigakis expressed appreciation for Morrison's coverage of AHI's statement on Ambassador Jeffrey's unacceptable remarks. However, he also pointed out misstatements of fact Morrison presented in his column about Cyprus. "The Turkish military action against the Republic of Cyprus on July 20, 1974 was not an 'incursion,' but rather an illegal cross-border invasion of another sovereign nation accomplished with the illegal use of U.S.-supplied arms," wrote Larigakis.
Also, Larigakis submitted a letter to the editor of The Washington Post on the topic of the sale of U.S. weaponry to Turkey on Feb. 16, 2010. His letter was in response to a Post editorial titled "France's Valentine to Russia." The editorial scrutinized France for its sale of a naval vessel to Russia because the latter nation occupied another sovereign nation. Larigakis contended that a "striking parallel" exists with the United States' "steady flow of its weaponry to Turkey" which does not receive the same scrutiny by the mainstream media. He argued that U.S. weaponry to Turkey "enabled Turkey to illegally invade and occupy the Republic of Cyprus for 36 years." Larigakis also highlighted President Obama's request for congressional approval of a $7.8 billion sale of PAC-3 missiles to Turkey in September 2009.
In sum, six op-eds, three written by Gene Rossides and three by Nick Larigakis were published in a number of Greek American publications.
"The Importance of Increased U.S. Investment in Greece and Cyprus"
By Nick Larigakis, December 15, 2009. Appearing in The National Herald (12/17/09), Greek News (12/21/09), and The Hellenic Voice (12/23/09).
"Obama, the Rule of Law and the State Department"
By Gene Rossides, December 28, 2009. Appearing in The National Herald (12/31/09), Greek News (1/4/10), The Hellenic Voice (1/6/10), The Greek Star (1/7/10), andneoskosmos.com (12/28/09).
"Making Your Political Contribution Count"
By Nick Larigakis, January 11, 2010. Appearing in The National Herald (1/15/10), Greek News (1/18/10), and The Hellenic Voice (1/20/10).
"The European Union and Cyprus"
By Gene Rossides, January 26, 2010. Appearing in The National Herald (1/30/10), Greek News (2/1/10), and The Hellenic Voice (2/3/10).
"One Year After Obama: What Has Changed on Our Issues?"
By Nick Larigakis, February 9, 2010. Appearing in The National Herald (2/13/10), Greek News (2/21/10), The Hellenic Voice (2/17/10), The Greek Star (2/25/10), andHellenic News of America (2/9/10).
"A National Disgrace: Turkey's U.S. Paid Foreign Agents"
By Gene Rossides, March 29, 2010. Appearing in The National Herald (4/3/10), Greek News (4/5/10), The Hellenic Voice (4/7/10), and The Greek Star (4/8/10).
For complete versions of the referenced items in "AHI In the News," please visit AHI's web site at <www.ahiworld.org/press_releases/>.
Panelists Confirm Turkey's Destruction of Cyprus' Cultural, Religious Heritage
The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) examined the facts and the law surrounding the destruction of Cyprus' religious and cultural heritage by hosting a seminar that featured a panel of experts on Jan. 20, 2010 at the National Press Club, Washington, DC.
The panelists for "The Destruction of the Cultural and Religious Heritage of Cyprus: The Facts and the Law" included:Ron McNamara, policy advisor, Helsinki Commission; Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq., partner, Sfikas & Karambelas LLP; and Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou, vice chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and assistant professor, Department of International Relations, Boston University. Theresa Papademetriou, senior law specialist, Law Library of Congress, moderated the panel. In 2009, Papademetriou published the Law Library of Congress report, "Destruction of Cultural Property in Northern Part of Cyprus and Violations of International Law."
Each of the three panelists brought their unique, personal perspective to the issue. McNamara offered a slide presentation of a recent visitation to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus that provided somber visual evidence of the destruction of religious and cultural ruins in the occupied area. He stated Cyprus' cultural heritage "lays in ruins" and described the desecration of a cemetery as "disturbing." Karambelas provided a legal perspective on what has transpired on Cyprus with respect to the destruction of artifacts and the taking and looting of artifacts. He described Cyprus' case as a "unique" one because the destruction has come as a result of an invading army occupying the sovereign territory of another state. Dr. Prodromou, making her presentation as an academic, examined why religious freedom is often overlooked by the international community. She also explored how religious freedom is relevant to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem.
A video of the seminar is available for view at <www.ahiworld.org/movies/cyprus_seminar.html>.
Panelists Examine U.S.-Turkey Relations, Expose Myth of Turkey as Reliable Ally
AHI examined United States relations with Turkey and scrutinized all of its angles, including the effect on Greece and Cyprus, by hosting a policy forum that featured a panel of experts on April 14, 2010 at the Capital Hilton, Washington, DC.
The panelists for "U.S. Relations with Turkey and Its Impact on Greece and Cyprus" included:
Ambassador Patrick Theros, former American ambassador to Qatar and president, U.S.-Qatar Business Council, moderated the panel.
Each of the panelists presented on a specific topic based upon their expertise. Dr. Carpenter's presentation "Loose Cannon: Washington's Turkish 'Ally' in the 21st Century" offered an overview of U.S.-Turkey relations through the lens of the United States. Dr. Coufoudakis presented on the topic "The U.S. and Turkey Relationship: The Continuity of Past Policies" and he concluded that nothing has changed in the relationship despite Turkey's disputes with Israel and pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian stances."The Greek-Turkish Dispute in the Aegean Sea and the Role of the U.S." was the theme of Dr. Kariotis' presentation. He offered that the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which is provided by the Law of the Sea, provides Greece with a strong legal position in its dispute with Turkey in the Aegean Sea. Mr. Copley examined the growing Turkish-Russian axis and its effect on the United States with his presentation titled "How Turkey's New Alliance with Russia Affects U.S. Interests in the Southeastern Mediterranean." Russia is taking the key initiatives in this region while the West, namely the United States, is not, said Copley. The forum concluded with AHI Founder and AHIF President Eugene Rossides presenting on the topic "How Should the U.S. Deal with an Ally Like Turkey?" Rossides stated, "Turkey is not a vital ally and is not a reliable ally. Turkey's values and policies differ sharply from the United States." He asserted that the U.S. must stop applying a double-standard in Turkey's favor with respect to the rule of law. "The U.S. must apply a policy based on realism and the facts."
Book Presentation Chronicles General's Effort to Restore Democracy in Greece
AHI hosted a book presentation on "Confronting the Greek Dictatorship in the U.S.—Years of Exile: A Personal Diary 1968-1975" written by former Brigadier General Orestis E. Vidalis on Feb. 10, 2010, in Washington, DC. Twenty persons attended the presentation by the author's son, Efthimios O. Vidalis, despite record-breaking blizzard conditions, including AHI Founder Gene Rossides and Professor Theodore Couloumbis, both of who participated via conference call. The book was lauded for chronicling Orestis Vidalis's actions as he advocated for the restoration of democracy in Greece in the U.S.
Greece's Alternate Foreign Minister Visits Hellenic House
Greece's Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas visited Hellenic House on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 as part of his fast-paced, one-day trip to Washington, DC, to discuss issues of mutual interest affecting U.S.-Greece relations. "We appreciated Alternate Foreign Minister Droutsas taking time out of his intense schedule to visit Hellenic House and meet with us," said Executive Director Nick Larigakis. "We welcome the value he placed on AHI's work and our role in the Greek American community." Droutsas commended AHI for its efforts to promote and advance Greek American policy issues in Washington. He placed special emphasis on the success of AHI's inaugural Foreign Policy Study Abroad Program for college students at which he provided a briefing last summer.
AHI Publishes 2010 Policy Statements on Greek American Issues
In May, the American Hellenic Institute released its 2010 Policy Statements, which presents issues affecting the Greek American community as they pertain to United States relations with Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey. The policy statements are approved by several membership-based organizations including:
The policy statements serve as a guide when communicating positions to U.S. policy makers and the media. The positions are based on the best interests of the United States. AHI strongly urges everyone to utilize these statements to their full potential. Visit <www.ahiworld.org> to download a copy.
AHI Commends U.S. Commission's Report that Keeps Turkey on Its "Watch List"
On May 4, AHI commended the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on the release of its 2010 Annual Report which placed Turkey on the Commission's "Watch List" for the second consecutive year. The Annual Report specifically cited that the legality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not recognized, the right for it to maintain and own property is denied, and that it is unable to train clergy.
In its statement, AHI questioned if U.S. policymakers will enforce the provisions of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Under the Act, the president of the United States is obligated to oppose violations of religious freedom in any country whose government "engages in or tolerates violations of religious freedom and promote the right to religious freedom in that country." The Act further obligates the president to take one or more of 15 enumerated actions with respect to any such country.
Larigakis also commended the report for highlighting the Ergenekon plot that included the alleged plans to include assassination attempts upon Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Armenian Orthodox patriarch all as part of an alleged overthrow of the Turkish government.
Finally, Larigakis expressed disappointment that Imam Dr. Talal Y. Eid, a commissioner, abstained from the Watch List recommendation for Turkey. Dr. Eid cited that the situation in Turkey is not as serious as it is in Greece, according to the report. "Obviously, Dr. Eid is absolutely flat-out wrong," Larigakis said. Please visit AHI's press release section to download the USCIRF Annual Report.
AHI: Greece's VWP Designation Strengthens U.S.-Greece Relations
Greece's designation as a member of the United States' Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by the Obama Administration on March 9, 2010 strengthens U.S.-Greece relations and will benefit citizens of both countries, announced the American Hellenic Institute.
"We applaud the announcement by the Obama Administration," said Executive Director Nick Larigakis. "We commend the United States and Greece for working together diligently over the past several years to complete this important process that will strengthen security, increase commerce and tourism, and make it easier for our families to visit from Greece. We also thank Congress, and in particular the Hellenic Caucus and the Greek American congressional delegation, for working to ensure past and current administrations knew the importance of the issue to the Greek American community."
Greece's visa waiver designation means that Greek citizens are permitted to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa for tourism or business purposes only. The designation officially took effect April 5, 2010.
Larigakis also thanked the efforts of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) for being at the forefront of this issue and for keeping the Greek American community engaged.
AHI Congratulates House Committee on Passage of Armenian Genocide Resolution
AHI applauded the passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res.252, by the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee by a narrow vote of 23 to 22 on March 4, 2010.
AHI also congratulated the Armenian American community and commended the Committee's action which calls on the president "to accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide."
The committee passed the motion despite last-minute efforts by the Obama Administration which urged the Committee to defeat the resolution. For a complete list of who voted in favor and against the resolution, please visit AHI's press release section, <http://www.ahiworld.org/press2010.html>.
AHI Congratulates Pair of Greek Americans for Primary Victories
AHI congratulated two Greek Americans, Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos, for victories in their respective Illinois Primary races held Tuesday, February 2, 2010. Giannoulias won the Democratic Party's nomination for U.S. Senate and Spyropoulos, an incumbent, won the nine-person race for the Democratic Party's nomination for commissioner. Spyropoulos is also an AHI member.
April 27, 2010
AHI sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressing the Institute's discontent with State Magazine's April 2010 cover story "Skopje, Ancient Macedonia builds modern democracy," by Stephanie Rowlands. AHI's letter identified five points of contention with Rowlands' article in the areas of: 1) Geography, 2) "Macedonian" Identity, 3) FYROM as a "Tolerant" Player in the Region, 4) FYROM's "Peaceful Development," and 5) the U.S.-FYROM "Strategic Partnership." AHI stated that the article will contribute to FYROM's continued intransigence to solve the name issue, which is of vital importance to the United States' best interests in the region. AHI President Aleco Haralambides and Executive Director Nick Larigakis authored the letter to Secretary Clinton.
March 1, 2010
AHI sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressing the Institute's "very serious concerns" with the public record remarks made by U.S. Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey that brought into question the Obama Administration's policy as it relates to Cyprus. The remarks were published in a three-part interview the ambassador had with Sabah, a Turkish daily newspaper, on February 3-5. AHI believes the ambassador's comments were so damaging and irresponsible that the administration should recall him. AHI also raised concerns that Ambassador Jeffrey's remarks were endorsed by State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley during a daily briefing on February 23, 2010. AHI President Aleco Haralambides and Executive Director Nick Larigakis authored the letter.
MEMBERS IN THE NEWS
DR. ANTHONY J. LIMBERAKIS, national commander of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, and AHI member, was the 24th recipient of the Athenagoras Human Rights Award. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Demetrios presented the award in honor of Dr. Limberakis' leadership role to the Order and for his untiring devotion, love, and support to the Mother Church of Constantinople. The award was presented Oct. 31, 2009 during the grand banquet of the Order's annual three-day assembly at the New York Waldorf Astoria. The Award is presented annually to a person or organization, which has consistently exemplified by action, purpose and dedication, concern for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people.
DORIE KLISSAS, Emmy Award-winning television producer and AHI member took the position of Media Director of the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City in November of 2009. With a passion for medical news, Dorie is thrilled to be at an academic medical institution known for its multitude of scientific discoveries and a commitment to patient-centered care. Dorie went to NYU Langone from the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, where she was a medical producer for two years. From 1994-2006, she was an award-winning producer at Today on NBC. She also covered numerous sporting events including the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics Games and travelled extensively for Matt Lauer's Where in the World? trips. Dorie is a graduate of Harvard University.
GREGORY C. PAPPAS, publisher of Greek America magazine, founder of the Greek America Foundation, and AHI member, was presented with the Three Hierarchs Award for the Promotion of Hellenism in New York City on January 29, 2010. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and the Very Rev. Eugene Pappas, Protopresbyter, Three Hierarchs Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. presented the award. Annually an individual who has worked toward the promotion of Hellenism receives the honor, which is presented in conjunction with the commemoration of the feast day of the Three Hierarchs. Pappas is the founder of a public relations and media consulting company called The Pappas Group, which handles strategic planning and diverse projects for corporate, government and institutional clients around the world, including Athens, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, and throughout the United States.
PAUL KOTROTSIOS, publisher of Hellenic News of America, successfully organized the 19th Annual Hermes Expo International in Atlantic City, N.J., in April. In addition, Paul, a longtime AHI member, recently was elected President of the Hellenic American National Council.
Greece's Economic State Examined with Chief EU Envoy
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) examined the economic crisis in Greece and its impact on the European Union by hosting a business network forum that featured Ambassador Angelos Pangratis, who is the chargé d'affaires and acting head of the European Union Delegation in Washington on March 16, 2010. The forum, titled "The Economic Crisis in Greece and Its Impact on the EU: Myth and Reality," was held at The Capital Hilton, Washington, DC.
"The state of Greece's economy has received widespread domestic and international media coverage," said Executive Director Nick Larigakis. "Ambassador Pangratis' expertise on economics and his invaluable insight on how the European Union functions provided us with a helpful and enlightening perspective on a complex topic."
In his presentation, Ambassador Pangratis offered two reasons why Greece's economic case is important and has garnered global attention.
"Fiscal sustainability is an issue for developed countries around the globe," Pangratis said, citing Greece as an example of what can happen to countries that are on a much larger scale than Greece. Greece comprises only two percent of GDP of the European Union. The acting head of EU's delegation also offered that because Greece is part of the Eurozone that questions are raised about the stability of the Eurozone and the currency itself.
EU Reacts to Crises with Concepts of Responsibility, Solidarity
Ambassador Pangratis presented the European Union's basic philosophy to address economic crises such as the case with Greece. First the European Union stresses responsibility to its member states by encouraging them to take appropriate measures such as adopting mechanisms that include monitoring and peer reviews. Secondly, if an EU member state encounters difficulty after demonstrating responsibility, then the necessary solidarity within the EU will become present.
"Greece has to find its path out of the crisis and others will help," said Pangratis, who stated Greece is being helped by the mechanisms that are encouraged by the EU.
Ambassador Pangratis concluded his presentation by articulating a few positive aspects of the economic crisis, including the notion that there is a heightened awareness of the EU mechanisms in place to help and that the effectiveness of those mechanisms have been reinforced.
"I would argue that today the EU is in a much better position in its ability to deal with the challenge of financial sustainability," said Pangratis in comparison to non-EU countries.
A thorough Q&A session followed the ambassador's presentation. A video is available at <www.ahiworld.org>.
Mariyana Spyropoulos Tackles The Environment
By Chrysoula Economopoulos
Mariyana Spyropoulos is carving her way to prominence in Chicago's political scene as one of nine commissioners for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). The MWRD's mission is to protect the quality of the Lake Michigan water supply source, improve the quality of water in watercourses in its 883-square mile service area, protect businesses and homes from flood damage, and manage water as a vital resource.
Appointed to the MWRD's board by Illinois State Governor Pat Quinn in August 2009, Spyropoulos was elected as a commissioner in February 2010, receiving the most votes among nine total candidates. Endorsements during this campaign also speak volumes, with The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Herald, Sierra Club, Governor Quinn, Secretary of State Jesse White and Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias giving her their votes of approval.
The top two issues that Spyropoulos is tackling in the MWRD's agenda are the environment and good government. "We are at a crossroads, where the decisions we make today will affect our resources for future generations. I can do my part and talk to citizens in my county, support legislation and make decisions that will take this long-term view into account," said Spyropoulos.
What most inspired Spyropoulos to run for office was preserving and protecting the environment. "My involvement in environmental groups as well as my political involvement encouraged me to believe that I could effectively work for the greater good," recalled Spyropoulos.
"Also, I witnessed my parents' own involvement in the community and the satisfaction which helping others can provide," she underscored. Her father, Ted Spyropoulos, currently serves as U.S. Regional Coordinator for the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) and on the AHI Advisory Board, to name a few.
Asked what her biggest election challenge is, Spyropoulos pointed to voter apathy. To combat this, her campaign appealed to as many different constituencies as possible.
"Being endorsed by all of the major newspapers in the area and major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, was a great vote of confidence and helped get the message out to voters," she added.
Spyropoulos emphasized the important role her Hellenic heritage has played in her professional and personal life: "The culture's emphasis on education and family was paramount and formed the basis of my values. I find myself echoing my parents' messages of continuing to learn and having family as a core value system."
She stays abreast of a wide range of Hellenic issues, ranging from Cyprus to the minority Greek population in Northern Epirus to the relationship between Greece and Turkey.
"Of course, my long-standing membership with AHI helps me stay up-to-date on these issues," she pointed out.
Spyropoulos is a career attorney, concurrently running her own practice in the Law Offices of Mariyana Spyropoulos & Associates while serving as commissioner. She previously worked as an Assistant Cook County State's Attorney and then as a hearing officer for the State of Illinois. Spyropoulos received a J.D. from John Marshall Law School, an MBA from Loyola University in Chicago, and completed graduate work in American government at Georgetown University.
Jason Levesque Pursues Congressional Aspirations
By Chrysoula Economopoulos
Family man, veteran, entrepreneur and small business owner. To this list, Greek American Jason Levesque aspires to add the title "Congressman from the state of Maine" following November's mid-term elections. His background and experience may be just the breath of fresh air that Mainers from the second congressional district are looking for.
In 2003, Leveque founded Argo Marketing Group and grew it into a nationally recognized marketing logistics firm. He currently serves as president of the company, which draws its name from Greek mythology's Jason and the Argonauts. Add to this eight years of service in the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of Infantry Team Leader, a long-time and active interest in politics, and a demonstrated record of civic leadership.
Running against Democratic incumbent Mike Michaud, Levesque describes himself as everything Michaud is not. "People just want something fresh, something different, and I think people are willing where they weren't willing before to take a risk on an unproven commodity, especially someone who's not tied in with special interest groups and votes so party line…. I'm more in line with [my district's] values and their belief system than the other guy," Levesque underscores.
Indicative of this positive momentum, his campaign has outraised the previous two Republican candidates running for this district combined.
Levesque's last name is indicative of his deep French Canadian roots from his mother's side - with that side of the family living in North America for about 350 years, residing in Maine since the Great Depression. Levesque's Greek immigrant roots are much more recent yet also strongly felt. His father, grandmother, three uncles and two aunts settled in Baltimore from Athens in 1953, though ultimately only his father and uncles stayed on.
"It was great growing up half Greek, half French. I spent my summers in Greek Town in Baltimore… so I was surrounded by 40 thousand Greeks and our shared culture," Levesque reminisces. To this day, he still takes his family there as often as possible and is also active in Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Lewiston, Maine.
Incidentally, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is not only a fellow member at Holy Trinity, but is also one of Levesque's sources of inspiration in for his current run for Congress. Another important source of inspiration is Michael Dukakis.
"Now I am a Republican, but when I was in the eighth grade and I saw Michael Dukakis - a very prominent Greek American from Massachusetts, a fellow New Englander - running for president and he was governor, it inspired me," says Levesque.
Asked which Greek American issues he feels strongest about, Levesque replies without hesitation, "Cyprus. Turkish aggression in Cyprus. Turkish aggression into Greek air space. If we want to help Greece economically, we'll force Turkey to stop intruding into Greek air space. Every time that happens, the Greek Air Force has to send out air assets to defend their own air space. That costs money."
He also adds that, "Obviously we need to address the problems in the Greek economy and one of the best ways we can do that is by shoring up the American economy." According to Levesque, this task can be done by fostering an environment that produces jobs through lowering taxes and incentivizing entrepreneurs and innovators here in the U.S.
"I'm really looking forward to representing Maine in Washington and working with the Hellenic community on issues that are near and dear to Greek Americans and all people of America. This is a great country. It's a land of opportunities and it was built on the backs of immigrants such as Greeks, Italians, Poles, etcetera, and we need to make sure we keep that edge," concludes Levesque.
If Levesque wins the election, accompanied by a win by Greek American Dean Scontras in Maine's first congressional district, and Senator Snowe who is currently serving her term, Maine could also have the largest number of Greek American representatives from any one state. Levesque hopes to be a part of this team, making a meaningful impact on the citizens of Maine and a bit of history at the same time.