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Letter to the Editor by AHI Advisory Board Member Published in The National Herald
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
December 13, 2004—No.79 (202) 785-8430

Letter to the Editor by AHI Advisory Board Member Published in The National Herald

WASHINGTON, DC—The following Letter to the Editor by AHI Advisory Board Member Van Coufoudakis appeared in The National Heraldon December 10, 2004, page 10.

Some Bitter Truths About the Greek American Leadership

By Van Coufoudakis

To the Editor:

Recent commentary in the November 20 issue of National Herald, "Our Representatives Go To Washington," identified some bitter truths about leadership in the Greek American community.

First, our leadership is reactive, not proactive. Protesting the Bush Administration’s cowardly and cynical decision on FYROM’s denomination was necessary; however, even reasoned protests can not undo the damage in American-Greek relations, nor will they reverse this unfortunate decision. If the Administration took the Greek American leadership seriously, we would not be in the situation we are in today. Here’s the bottom line: Look at the leadership and the political clout of the Jewish American community. You will understand why photo ops with government officials and political fundraisers without any expectations are not enough. Setting a clear political agenda, communicating with public officials at all levels between elections, and holding these officials accountable on Election Day, is the only way to avoid the next FYROM fiasco.

Second, certain "leaders" claim that we can not "offend" official Washington by taking "hard-line" positions on issues of concern to our community. Instead, Washington’s apologists argue that "we need to speak Washington’s language" in order to be accepted there. That line of thinking brought us to the toleration of Turkey’s revisionism in the Aegean and in Cyprus, and to the crocodile tears shed by these "leaders" about the "missed historic opportunity" of the Annan Plan in Cyprus.

Third, the FYROM experience should be a wake-up call to our community. The Greek American community is now in its fifth, possibly its sixth, generation in the United States. Without disparaging the important role of the Orthodox Church in our community’s life, its role is not, and should not be, political. The issues of FYROM, Turkey and Cyprus are. We are a community that is mature, educated, wealthy and present in every field of endeavor. This is why there is no place for the ethnarchic role of the Church in the 21st century.

The time has come to focus on the power of political organization, participation and political accountability. That is clearly a secular, lay function. In turn, lay leaders must devote the time and be given the financial and organizational resources required to be effective, and to be heard in Washington. If our community is serious in its concern about the national issues facing us, then it must provide the resources which will make political influence possible. Otherwise, we will remain in the situation we are in today.

The Greek American community is well represented at all levels of government, in business, in the media, in the professions, and in academia. The time has come to pool our resources together and define common goals and strategies for the benefit of Hellenism in America, and for improving relations between our country, Greece and Cyprus.

Respectfully submitted,
Van Coufoudakis, Ph.D.

Dr. Coufoudakis is Dean Emeritus of the College of Arts & Sciences at Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has written extensively on post-World War II U.S. foreign policy, as well as on the politics and foreign and defense policies of Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. His work has appeared in books and professional journals in the U.S., U.K., Belgium, Italy, Greece and Cyprus.

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For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or at georgia@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.