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AHI Hosts Weekend Activities to Celebrate 33rd Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinners
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Nick Larigakis
April 4, 2008—No. 23 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts Weekend Activities to Celebrate 33rd Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner

WASHINGTON, DC—On March 15, 2007, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) honored a distinguished set of Greek Americans at its 33rd Anniversary Hellenic Heritage and National Public Service Awards Dinner, held at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. Linked by their important career achievements and by their contributions to the Greek American community and the community at-large, this year’s honorees were:

  • Anna Lea, president of The Society for the Preservation of the Greek Heritage (SPGH)
  • U.S. Representative Zack Space, 18th Congressional District of Ohio (D)
  • Anthony S. Papadimitriou, president of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation
  • Melina Kanakaredes, critically acclaimed award-winning actress 
  • His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, receiving the first ever AHI Religious Freedom Award

These individuals’ many accomplishments were celebrated throughout the evening, and also highlighted in congratulatory letters submitted to AHI by Archbishop Demetrios, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandros P. Mallias, 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 (letter excerpts follow this press release).

Opening the evening’s program was AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis. The Marines of Headquarters Battalion presented the colors and the American and Greek national anthems were performed by soprano Eleni S. Peyser. Father John T. Tavlarides, dean of Saint Sophia Cathedral in Washington, DC, offered the invocation, joined also by Archbishop Demetrios. Music was provided by the band Apollonia.

American Hellenic Institute Advisory Committee member Nicholas Chimicles, Esq. introduced the master of ceremonies for the evening, John Metaxas, Attorney at Law for Allegaert Berger & Vogel and Anchor/Reporter at WCBS and WCBS-TV.

AHI President and Founder Gene Rossides then welcomed the evening’s guests, dedicating the dinner to the late George Paraskevaides, one of AHI’s leading benefactors, with a moment of silence. Mr. Rossides also recognized Congressman John Brademas, who was responsible for successfully leading the rule of law arms embargo legislation against Turkey 33 years ago in the U.S. House of Representatives.

THE EVENING’S HONOREES

The first award recipient of the evening was Anna Lea, who was presented with the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for her dedicated support of Hellenism and Hellenic culture and education. In her acceptance remarks, Mrs. Lea outlined the goals of the SPGH:

“Our motto comes from Socrates, who said, ‘A man can be called a Greek who has read the classics, not only a man who is merely born in Greece.’ Our goal, therefore, is to reach out to all the modern Zorba the Greeks who possess not only a passion for life, but also an understanding of how the works of classical Greeks have made us who we are today…. The theme we hope to spread through our programs is that the thought and achievements of the classical Greeks is continued relevant through life in the 21st century…. Our doors are always open to more Zorbas who can bring the passion and intellect to our organization.”

Anthony S. Papadimitriou received the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his dedicated support of Hellenism and Hellenic culture, education, and the Greek American community. Upon receiving his award, Mr. Papadimitriou outlined the range of activities conducted by the Onassis Foundation, recognizing key leaders both past and current.

“This all would not have been made possible despite my 20 years of service in the foundation, without the work, the hard work that had been given by the previous generation in the foundation…. What the foundation is now is that we have spent in public benefit projects about twice the total amount that Onassis bequeathed to the foundation. And while it’s doing that, we still have at this moment in total assets with practically zero debt about ten times the original bequest…. So this is all to say that I am truly and deeply honored on behalf not of myself, but on behalf of my board of directors to accept this award from the American Hellenic Institute.”

The next honoree, Congressman Zack Space, also received the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his commitment to public service and his support in strengthening U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus. AHI member Tom Lagos delivered the following message from Congressman Space, who was unable to be present, due to unforeseen circumstances:

“It is with great regret that I offer my apologies for my absence this evening. I am sincerely sorry that I cannot be in attendance with you. I have had the tremendous honor and privilege of working with the American Hellenic Institute extensively since taking office last January 2007. In fact, it is in large part because of AHI and Gene Rossides specifically that I am where I am today…. In Congress, members of the Hellenic Caucus and I continue to fight for issues of importance to the Hellenic community…. I am proud to be a part of those efforts.”

Melina Kanakaredes received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for her unparalleled artistic achievements and excellence in her field. As part of the tribute to this award-winning actress, a short film containing personal interviews from numerous colleagues and people involved in Ms. Kanakaredes’ life was broadcast for the audience.

Upon receiving her award, Ms. Kanakaredes recognized each fellow honoree for their achievements, at the same time highlighting the Hellenic ideals that each of their careers represent. She detailed and underscored the tremendous influence that her Hellenic heritage and Orthodox faith have played throughout her life, and applauded the work of AHI:

“[I]n 1974, these founding members of the American Hellenic Institute – they used their power as American citizens, assimilating amazing American citizens that we all are, and they guided our government into trying to right a wrong. And although it wasn’t completely turned around, it was a movement that made a difference, a tiny step forward. This feat alone is remarkable to me, and 34 years later, to continue to make monumental efforts, not only to support our Hellenic heritage, but to maintain our voice in our country’s capital is – I mean, what’s not to love?”

As special tribute to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, who last fall celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his ordination as a bishop, a short video was played which highlighted his ministry throughout the years.

Archbishop Demetrios received the First AHI Religious Freedom Award for his lifelong commitment to promoting religious freedom and for his outstanding leadership of the Greek Orthodox faithful for over half a century. Upon receiving the award, His Eminence said, “Achievement and pride. And this is the spirit tonight, because after what we heard, how can we not feel the elation, the thrill of what achievement is, and what it is really to be proud in the Lord for what he has given.”

The Archbishop highlighted the achievements of each of his fellow honorees, and underscored a number of ancient Hellenic values that apply to contemporary life. Thanking AHI for its work, he concluded that, “The American Hellenic Institute has offered us a gift as a banquet, in terms of food, as a banquet in terms of our words… and as a wonderful opportunity tonight to enjoy not only the people who receive the awards, but the amazing people who did the introductions, and that was a really more than beautiful addition to a night of dignity, joy and true expression of Hellenism and Orthodoxy.”

The evening’s honorees were introduced by friends and associates with distinguished records in their own professional fields: friend, SPGH board member and supporterEleanor Moulakis (for Anna Lea); prominent attorney and AHI Chairman James Marketos (for Anthony Papadimitriou); Tom Lagos, long-time AHI supporter and prominent attorney from Ohio (for Zack Space); publisher of Greek America Magazine and President of Cosmos Communication Group Gregory Pappas (for Melina Kanakaredes); and Gene Rossides (for Archbishop Demetrios).

In their remarks, the introducers praised the honorees for their outstanding personal and professional accomplishments, and for their service to their communities and to the cause of Hellenism.

Special guests attending the event included Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandros Mallias and Mrs. Mallias, Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States Andreas Kakouris and Mrs. Kakouris, Ambassador of Liechtenstein to the United States Claudia Fritsche, former U.S. Ambassador to Greece and currently the Vice President for the Onassis Foundation (USA) Michael Sotirhos and Mrs. Sotirhos, and former Ambassador of Greece to the United States and currently the Executive Director of the Onassis Foundation (USA) Loucas Tsilas and Mrs. Tsilas.

Other notable guests attending the dinner were Basil Mossaides, Executive Director, Order of AHEPA; Ted G. Spyropoulos, regional coordinator for USA (SAE) World Council for Greeks Abroad; Maria Stamoulas, president of the Hellenic American Women’s Council; Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis; John Sitilides, chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Center’ Southeast Europe Project; Athena Katsoulos, deputy director for European and Eurasian Public Affairs at the Department of State; Paul Malik, senior Turkey desk officer at the Department of State; George P. Tsetsekos, Dean of the Lebow College of Business at Drexel University; Art Dimopoulos, publisher of Odyssey Magazine; Paul Kotrotsios, publisher of the Hellenic News of America; Christine Brennan, USA Today sports journalist; Larry Michael, former M.C. of this event and Voice of the Washington Redskins; Vicki Liviakis, last year’s M.C. and anchor/reporter for KRON-TV in San Francisco; Frosene Phillips, managing editor ofThe Hellenic Journal; George Bistis, director of the Voice of America’s Greek Service; Dr. George Moutsatsos, President, AHI-Delaware Chapter; and Odysseas Papadimitriou, senior marketing director of Capital One Bank.

From U.S. Congress: Alan Makovsky, Sr. Prof. Staff Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Alex Silbey, Sr. Policy Advisor, Office of House Majority Whip, Cong. James Clyburn; and Stewart Chapman, Chief of Staff for Congressman Space.

Former AHI honorees at the dinner included: Dr. John Brademas, Marylin Rouvelas; Theodora Hancock, co-founder of the Hellenic American Women’s Council; Dr. Christine Warnke, super delegate to the Democratic Convention this year; and Reverend John Tavlarides, Dean, Saint Sophia Cathedral, Washington, DC.

Greek Americans running for Congress in the audience included Jane Mitakides (D-OH), Dean Scontras (R-ME), and Jim Trakas (R-OH).

Greek Embassy Dinner in Honor of AHI

The weekend’s events were kicked off with an elegant dinner at the Greek Embassy on Friday, March 14, 2007, hosted by Ambassador Alexandros Mallias and Mrs. Mallias in honor of AHI for its significant contributions to strengthening ties between Greece and the U.S. This event was a tremendous success, attended by the maximum possible guests, 100 persons.

Breakfast Briefing by Ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus

On the morning of March 15, 2007, AHI hosted a breakfast briefing at the Capital Hilton featuring Ambassador of Greece Alexandros Mallias and Ambassador of Cyprus Andreas Kakouris. The discussion was moderated by AHI's executive director Mr. Nick Larigakis. Both ambassadors provided the audience with an update on the most recent events related to and status on U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus.

Ambassador Kakouris thanked AHI for its support in promoting the Cypriot issues and stressed the unwavering support of AHI in lobbying for Cypriot issues on the Hill and ensuring that Cyprus remains on the radar screen. Amb. Kakouris noted that Greek Americans should press members of Congress to promote the issues of Cyprus. While the reunification of Cyprus is the top-priority of the Cypriot government, the solution has to be carefully prepared and cannot be based on the Annan plan. The ambassador also underscored that there have been joint efforts to reopen Ledra Street in the only divided capital of the European state, Nicosia (The Ledra Street crossing was officially opened on April 3, 2004.)

Ambassador Mallias agreed with what was mentioned by Amb. Kakouris but noted that momentum has to be understood in the right manner. The outcome of the talks has to be agreed by the Cypriot President and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. Amb. Mallias also noted that Greece shapes the agenda of its neighbors, most of whom see Greece as their role model. Greece is also engaging Turkey within the Euro-Atlantic process. Regarding the name issue with the FYROM, like all countries FYROM has to play by the book. The name issue is an indication that it does not want to play by the rules.  Accession to NATO is not possible so long as FYROM does not respect NATO principles and its obligations towards Greece.

Their presentations were followed by a lively question and answer session, during which time audience members had the opportunity to interact with both Ambassador Mallias and Ambassador Kakouris.

AHI ANNUAL DINNER CONGRATULATORY LETTER EXCERPTS:

“The American Hellenic Institute has appropriately chosen to recognize individuals who have served as active witnesses and living testimony to our ecumenical Orthodox and Hellenic heritage…. The honor of being bestowed the American Hellenic Institute Religious Freedom Award touches me deeply and brings on renewed sentiments of paramount concern for our Holy Mother Church, the Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the restrictions placed on her ability to exercise religious freedom as she carries out her sacred mission. I thank you for the recognition given to this most pressing issue and the commitment your worthy organization has demonstrated in mobilizing the Omogeneia around this matter of highest relevance to our faith community.”

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America

“This year’s outstanding honorees are testament to the broad and diverse presence of Greeks and Greek Americans in the United States, and their involvement not only in the further development of our two countries’ friendship, but also to the betterment of the world in general. All these excelling individuals honored tonight are, each in their own right, an integral part of our spiritual, political and cultural life here in America. We thank them, honor them and pray that they continue their good works.

I am a staunch believer in the work of the American Hellenic Institute, and I have always said that if it didn’t exist, we should have invented it.”

Alexandros P. Mallias
Ambassador of Greece to the United States

“Since its establishment, AHI has distinguished itself as one of the foremost and pre-eminent organizations of the Greek diaspora in North America…. AHI has also consistently been a forceful voice for the just cause of Cyprus in the US and at the forefront of the efforts to end the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and achieve a comprehensive solution based on the rule of law and respect for human rights. Allow me, on this occasion, to reiterate the gratitude and appreciation of the Government and people of Cyprus to AHI…. This year’s recipients are a striking example of dedication to the values of hard work, service to civil society, philanthropy and deep pride in their Hellenic roots.”

Andreas S. Kakouris
Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States

 

“AHI’s activities, lectures, seminars and events inform and educate the broader American Community on issues related to the Hellenic History, Education and Culture. We look forward to AHI’s continuing leadership in public affairs. S.A.E. U.S.A. embraces, supports and collaborates with all the Greek American Organizations which defend the historical truth and promote the Hellenic ideas and values, which are universal and continually contemporary and could very well constitute the foundations of the new globalized society.”

Ted G. Spyropoulos
President, World Council of Hellenes Abroad USA Region

 

“It is through the hard work of organizations such as AHI, it is through the excellence and integrity of individuals such as this year’s honorees, it is through the commitment and dedication of thousands of Hellenes and philhellenes throughout the United States, that our community and our children have retained a pursuit of excellence, education and dedication to public service. AHI plays a major role in the struggle of the Cypriot people for freedom and justice.  The AHI initiated the rule of law issue in the Congress in the interests of the U.S., thus changing the face of American politics.  Our battle to see justice in Cyprus has been ongoing for 34 years and we will continue our fight for human rights and justice until Cyprus is once again, united!”

Philip Christopher
President, International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus

 

Downloadable photographs from the weekend’s activities are available on AHI’s Web site at http://ahiworld.org/press_releases/images/2008_dinner/

or info@ahiworld.org. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at