Weekend’s Events Include Salute to Cyprus in Cooperation with Smithsonian; Book Presentations
WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted its 36th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner on March 12, 2011 at The Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C.
AHI honored a distinguished set of awardees based upon their important career or institutional achievements and contributions to the Greek American community or community at-large. This year’s honorees were:
Jane Monzures, host, WGN’s “Living Healthy Chicago” was evening’s emcee and brought a lively presence to the banquet program that included her sending a picture of the audience to her Twitter followers. American Hellenic Institute Secretary of the Board of Directors Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq. introduced Monzures.
The Marines of Headquarters Battalion presented the colors and the American and Greek national anthems were performed by Maria Pearce of the Apollonia Band. Father Steven Zorzos, Saint Sophia Cathedral, offered the invocation. Apollonia provided the musical entertainment.
Opening the evening’s program were AHI President Nick Larigakis and AHI Foundation President Dr. Spiro Spireas, both of who offered greetings. In addition, they reviewed the initiatives and programs that AHI and AHIF provide the community.
Honorees Humbled, Moved by Accolades
The American College of Greece received the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for its pioneering role in cultivating a fertile intellectual and cultural collaboration between Greece and the United States through education.
In acceptance of the award, American College of Greece President David Horner stated, “As an American and a Greek institution we feel a special bond and obligation to the Greek-American community. We understand the aspiration of this community to preserve its unique inheritance. And we are determined to deploy our unique resources, as the oldest and largest American college or university in Europe to support this goal. So we thank AHI for this singular recognition that affirms not only the mission and the history but also the promise of the American College of Greece.”
Larry Michael received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his unparalleled achievements and excellence in the field of sports journalism.
“Thank you for bestowing this honor on me,” said Michael. “I am humbled by it.”
Michael credited his parents for instilling in him a “Greek work ethic” for any success he has achieved and lauded the work of AHI has done over the years for important causes. He cited three attributes one must have to succeed: talent, work ethic, and passion.
He remarked, “But I was trying to think about what was the common denominator that maybe we all here tonight have. The Greek-Americans, or you know some of our visitors here as well, I think everybody that is here is respecting what AHI has done over the years and it is such and important, important cause… What is the common denominator that we have here?...I think we all share that those three things: talent, work ethic, and passion.”
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) received the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for her commitment to public service and her support in strengthening United States relations with Greece and Cyprus, which she reaffirmed strongly in her acceptance speech.
“I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I know when I see an illegal occupation, and there’s an illegal occupation going on in the nation of Cyprus and it needs to end now. I don’t know much about naming countries, but the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should not have the name Macedonia, it belongs to someone else. And shame on the Turks for treating with such disrespect the Ecumenical Patriarch, it is time that they recognize the Ecumenical Patriarch and gave back the land that they stole,” she remarked.
Congresswoman Berkley also commented on the emerging relationship between Israel and Greece and Cyprus, “I am very happy that there’s been a thawing of relations between Greece and the state of Israel. I am hoping that it will continue, because they are two democracies in a very, very dangerous part of the world. The Cypriots, the Greeks, and the Jews have a long history and it’s time that we put our differences behind us and work together for the goals and the values that we all share.”
In addition, the Congresswoman recounted a touching story about how her younger sister, who was battling cancer soon after September 11, turned the corner in her treatment following a viewing of the comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” featuring fellow honoree Michael Constantine.
She concluded by expressing her appreciation for being made to feel as if she is part of a family, “I may not have any Greek blood in my veins, but I have a Greek head, and a Greek heart and I cannot tell you how honored I am each and every day to know that I have been so accepted by the community, and that you consider me one of your own.”
Actor Michael Constantine received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his unparalleled achievements and excellence in the performing arts, which was presented by 2010 Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award honoree John Aniston.
Constantine wove comedic tales and anecdotes of his childhood day ranging from his Greek school adventures and poem recitals to his service as an alter boy to his enjoyment of Greek culture—the food, music, dancing and when Greek families came together for fun. He recounted that growing up he did not have grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins because his relatives were in Greece and the cost to visit them was just too much. Constantine added that acting provided him with his first opportunity to visit Greece where they shot a movie titled “Island of Love.”
“So now finally, anyhow, I’m in a whole room full of Greeks, and I am delighted to be here,” he concluded. “I thank you all for this wonderful, wonderful honor. I guarantee you that I will treasure it.”
Dr. Takey Crist, obstetrician and gynecologist, received the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his dedicated community activism in reunifying Cyprus and preserving its culture, and for his advocacy for women’s health.
”I would like to take the opportunity to thank the American Hellenic Institute. We must never forget the dedication of Eugene Rossides and what he started 37 years ago,” Dr. Crist said. “I am here tonight because of my Cypriot parents, who instilled in me the ideals of our heritage.”
Dr. Crist also credited his teachers that he had growing up as a youth in North Carolina, and he acknowledged the unwavering support of his friends who believed in him and understood his passion for causes.
He also recounted his heartbreaking experiences as an obstetrician and gynecologist, serving the wives of Marines who are stationed at Camp Lejeune and bearing witness to devastating condition our wounded servicemen return from battle, which he described as “maimed” and “mentally destroyed.”
Dr. Crist remarked, “You’re in Afghanistan to be a killer and in 37 hours you’re back here trying to adjust to civilization…I’m just trying to explain to you something is happening in our society. I love my government, I fight for my government. There’s not enough resources to take care of these boys…So we have a community problem.”
The honorees’ many accomplishments were celebrated throughout the evening, and highlighted in congratulatory letters submitted to AHI by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Vassilis Kaskarelis, Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States Pavlos Anastasiades, World Council of Hellenes Abroad USA Region President Ted G. Spyropoulos, and International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus President Philip Christopher.
Special guests attending the event included: Ambassador Kaskarelis, Chairman of the Hellenic Parliament’s National Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantinos Vrettos, Ambassador Anastasiades, U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), former U.S. Ambassador to Greece Tom Miller and Bonnie Miller; and former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Tom Korologos.
Other notable guests attending the dinner were: Jess Baily, director, Southern European Affairs, U.S. Department of State; former Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece Petros Doukas, former Member of Hellenic Parliament Vivian Bouzali, Ted Spyropoulos, president, World Council of Hellenes Abroad-USA; Panicos Papanicolaou, president, Cyprus Federation of America; AHEPA Supreme Vice President Col. Nick Vamvakias (ret.); John Sitilides, chairman, Woodrow Wilson Center Southeast Europe Project; Paul Glastris, former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and editor-in-chief ofThe Washington Monthly; Basil Mossaidis, executive director, Order of AHEPA; Timothy Maniatis, executive director, National Hellenic Society; Demetrios Kontolios, President, Chios Societies of America and Canada; Mariyanna Spyropoulos, president, AHI-Chicago and commissioner, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for Chicago; Dr. George Moutsatos, president, AHI-Delaware; and Paul Sogotis, president, AHI-California.
Notable members of the Press attending the dinner were: Christine Brennan, USA Today Sports Columnist; Art Dimopoulos, Publisher, Odyssey Magazine; Paul Kotrotsios, Publisher, the Hellenic News of America, in Philadelphia; Constantine Sirigos, The National Herald;and George Bistis, director, Greek Desk, Voice of America.
Former AHI honorees at the dinner included: Dr. George Tsetsekos, Dean, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University; Emanuel Rouvelas, partner, K&L Gates; Dr. Christine Warnke; Reverend John Tavlarides, Dean Emeritus, Saint Sophia Cathedral, Washington, DC; Kathryn Porter, Tremendous Human Rights Activist; Author Nicholas Gage, and former Senator Paul Sarbanes.
AHI Teams with Smithsonian to Commemorate Cyprus; Hosts Book Presentations
As part of the weekend’s festivities AHI hosted a dinner, in cooperation with the National Museum of Natural History, commemorating the Republic of Cyprus at the National Museum of Natural History on March 11, 2011. As part of the evening’s program, the exhibition “Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilization” was showcased.
The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.
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AHI Hosts 36th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner