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AHIF 4th Annual Conference on the Future of Hellenism in America
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
December 19, 2005—No. 103 (202) 785-8430

AHIF 4th Annual Conference on the Future of Hellenism in America

Washington, DC—On November 18-19, 2005 the American Hellenic Institute Foundation held its 4th Annual Conference on “The Future of Hellenism in America” at Columbia University in New York City. The conference featured prominent speakers from the fields of education, law, and the private sector, who identified key challenges facing the Greek American community today.

The sponsors of this event include the Program in Hellenic Studies at Columbia University, the Foundation for Hellenic Studies, the Hellenic American National Council and the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York.

In attendance were His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, as well as Greek Parliamentarian Anastasios I. Spiliopoulos, Consul General of Greece Catherine Boura and Consul General of Cyprus Martha Mavromati.

On Friday, November 18, 2005, the events commenced with a guided tour of the Ancient Greek and Byzantine art galleries, and the Onassis Library of Greek and Roman Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was followed by cocktails at the Atrium Café of the Olympic Tower sponsored by Ambassador Loucas Tsilas and the Onassis Foundation.

Opening the conference on Saturday, November 19, 2005 was Professor Vangelis Calotychos, Acting Director of the Program in Hellenic Studies in the Department of Classics at Columbia University who also helped to organize this event. This was followed by a greeting and introduction of the keynote speaker by Col. Antonios Neroulias, AHI- New York Chapter President. The keynote speaker was ProfessorCharles Moskos, Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University.

The moderator for the morning session panel A was Professor John O. Iatrides, Professor Emeritus of International Politics at Connecticut State University and former Executive Director of the Modern Greek Studies Association. The panel A speakers included: Charles Capetanakis, Chairman of the Hellenic Classical Charter School, Christos P. Ioannides, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College, CUNY, Professor S. Victor Papacosma, Executive Director of the Modern Greek Studies Association and Director of the Lemnitzer Center for NATO and European Union Studies at Kent State University in Ohio and Nick Karambelas, Esq., Sfikas and Karambelas, LLP.

Following the luncheon, the moderator for the afternoon session panel B was Professor Van Coufoudakis, Rector of Intercollege, Cyprus. The panel B speakers included: Dr. Helen C. Evans, Curator for Early Christian and Byzantine Art, The Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, Executive Director of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation and Eleni Gage, author.

The moderator for the afternoon session panel C was Stylianos S. Zavvos, Chairman of Continental American Capital. The panel C speakers included: John Metaxas, Anchor and Reporter for WCBS News Radio, Rev. Eugene N. Pappas, Three Hierarchs Church in New York andGene Rossides, Esq., President of the American Hellenic Institute.

Mr. Vangelis Calotychos began the conference by welcoming the participants and giving an introduction to the conference discussion on the future of Hellenism in America. He also spoke of the progress in establishing Greek studies programs in Universities throughout the country and the importance of this to Hellenism.

Mr. Charles Moskos spoke on “The Changing Face of Greek Americans.” In this discussion, Mr. Moskos described the three waves of Greek immigration to the U.S. as well as the changing demographics of the Greek population in America and the impact of these on the shrinking of this community. As a solution to this problem, Mr. Moskos said that the Orthodox Church should accept non-Greeks into the community to ensure a continuation of the Greek population. He also spoke about opening the broader Greek American community to become more inclusive of “the best of both worlds.”

Mr. Charles Capetanakis gave a presentation on “Establishing Greek Charter Schools.” He offered his own experiences of establishing the Hellenic Classical Charter School in Brooklyn, NY, which opened this past September and mandates the Greek language and Classics in the educational instruction of the school. He spoke on the importance of establishing Greek charter schools to the spread of Hellenism as well as the challenges that come into play with such endeavors. Mr. Capetanakis said in reference to the future of Hellenism and the importance of Greek charter schools, “I am convinced that one day some child in that school who is a non-Greek will do something pro-Hellenistic simply because he or she went to that school and knows Greek.”

Dr. Christos Ioannides spoke on “The Development & Status of Modern Greek Studies Programs in the U.S.” Dr. Ioannides discussed the history of establishing modern Greek studies programs in the U.S. as well as the special characteristics of these programs. He then touched on the forthcoming challenges in developing these types of programs towards a new generation of Greek Americans within the changing dynamics of this community. He concluded by stating, “Modern Greek studies should and can advance within the spirit of an enlightened Hellenism; a Hellenism that is inclusive and tolerant, a Hellenism that cherishes diversity and gives and receives from other peoples and cultures without losing its core values.”

Professor S. Victor Papacosmas presented his remarks on “The Importance of Increasing Modern Greek Studies Programs and Expanding the Curriculum.” Mr. Papacosmas said in his discussion, “Today, a shallower Greek identity prevails, which is often characterized by what I choose to call the ‘moussaka, bouzouki, syrtaki syndrome’…The former greater homogeneity of those earlier generations has yielded to a situation that is more heterogeneous in its identities and linkages with things Greek—constituting a relative mosaic.” He continued, “Essentially, modern Greek studies have to be increased quantitatively and qualitatively to maintain appreciation and awareness of modern Greece and Cyprus and Greeks everywhere—and to promote their interests and confront the challenges to them.”

Mr. Nick Karambelas, in his remarks on “Education and Political Activism,” spoke on “the nuts and bolts of campaigning and becoming a candidate.” He suggested the creation of a program, the purpose of which would be to train Greek Americans on fundraising and the elements of candidacy and campaigning, as well as knowledge on U.S. policy issues regarding Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

Following lunch, Panel B commenced with Dr. Helen C. Evans speaking on “The Importance of Artistic Exchange in Encouraging Cultural Understanding.” In this discussion, Dr. Evans emphasized a need to engage with an artistic object such as that of Byzantium in order to encourage and move the cultural understanding of people. As an example, she spoke of the “Glory of Byzantium” exhibit and how it changed the views of Byzantium.

Following, Ambassador Loucas Tsilas spoke on “The Power of Culture: The Case of Hellenic Heritage.” He spoke about how culture leads to understanding beyond borders and how it is an important aspect of national power because it also comprises a record of history, of which countries attach significance. Ambassador Tsilas said, “Do not forget that when we speak about our heritage, we speak of something that is timeless, universal and part of the life of everybody who lives on the earth. As such let us feel a certain responsibility in propagating and maintaining it as something that will help humanity preserve a very important part.”

The last speaker on panel B was Ms. Eleni Gage on “Connecting with our Past: A Personal Experience.” Ms. Gage spoke of her personal experiences in retracing her own roots and rebuilding her grandparent’s home in Lia. In this journey, Ms. Gage said that she discovered her roots and developed her own relationship to her village. She also spoke of the challenges of a Greek American being caught between two countries.

Mr. John Metaxas was the first speaker on panel C and his presentation was on “The Importance of Engaging the American Media.” In this discussion, Mr. Metaxas spoke on the struggles of reporting on Greek American issues due to the lack of interest by the American public and therefore the difficulties of getting these issues reported on regular media including print, television and radio. However, he also stated that things are changing in the last decade in these regards and through the advancement of technology and the use of the internet. He said that it is now possible to find news items on any subject, including Greek American issues, with the click of a button.

Reverend Eugene N. Pappas spoke on “Orthodoxy & Hellenism” and who we are and where we are going as Hellenes of America. Reverend Pappas stated that the influence of Hellenism in the U.S. is in decline due to lower Greek immigration into the U.S. and evident in Greek schools and parishes, as well as the demise of Greek language media. He made the point that the present day main Greek identity is through family name and family events as remnants of traditions. He also said that the new cycle of Greeks in America can still adhere to the church even if they do not speak Greek.

Mr. Gene Rossides gave a presentation on “The Role of the Greek American Community.” In this discussion, he spoke about the role of the Greek American community and the challenge to become an integral part of the foreign policy process by (1) increasing our effectiveness with the Congress, (2) becoming effective with the Executive Branch, (3) the media, (4) the academic community and think tanks and (5) to develop an effective grass roots lobbying effort. Mr. Rossides said, “When people’s power is being felt around the world, let us show what we the people can do in the interests of the United States in support of the rule of law and fundamental American values which are based on our Hellenic heritage.”

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios attended the entire afternoon conference. He addressed the speakers and audience and gave his insights into the discussion. He offered relevant comments on each of the speakers along with some with interesting stories. He also spoke about the essence of the Greek culture, civilization and its achievements.

The conference organizer Nick Larigakis stated, “We are very pleased to have sponsored this conference in cooperation with the Program in Hellenic Studies at Columbia University and Professor Calotychos. This is the first time, since we initiated this conference four years ago, that it has taken place at a venue outside of Washington, D.C. We are pleased with the outcome and hope to take this conference to different cities throughout the U.S. annually so that the message on the future of Hellenism in America can continue to educate our communities.”

Benefactors who helped make the AHIF’s conference possible include: Nicholas J. Bouras, Summit, New Jersey; Nicholas E. Chimicles, Haverford, Pennsylvania; KYMA Management Inc., Miami, Florida; James and Nike Lagos, Springfield, Ohio; Mathew Mirones, New York, New York; James and Ted Pedas, Washington, DC; Gene Rossides, Washington, DC; Ted G. Spyropoulos, Chicago, Illinois; Theodore Vakrinos, Alexandria, Virginia; Dr. Anthony Vasilas, Manhasset, New York and Stylianos S. Zavvos, New York, New York.

Digital photographs from the 4th Annual AHIF’s conference on The Future of Hellenism in America are available at the following link:http://ahiworld.org/photos/New_York_Conference/

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