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AHI Hosts 38th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Georgea Polizos
March 23, 2013—No. 21 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts 38th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner

Weekend Events Include Briefing with Greek, Cypriot Envoys; An Evening with Former 2004 Athens Organizing Committee President

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted its 38th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner, March 9, 2013, 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. They were:

  • U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, Eleventh Congressional District of New York;
  • Philip Christopher, president, International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) and president, Pancyprian Association of America;
  • Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; and
  • Gianna Angelopoulos, ambassador of the Hellenic Republic.

Alexis Christoforous, news correspondent, CBS News, was the evening’s emcee. American Hellenic Institute Secretary of the Board of Directors Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq. introduced Christoforous.

The Marines of Headquarters Battalion presented the colors and the American and Greek national anthems were performed by Elena Stavrakas. Rev. Konstantinos A. Pavlakos, Saint Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church, offered the invocation. Apollonia Band 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

U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm, a champion of the Greek American community,accepted the AHI Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his commitment to public service and his unwavering support in strengthening United States relations with Greece and Cyprus. In acceptance, the congressman affirmed that being an advocate for Hellenic issues is akin to advocating for the best interest of the United States.

He stated, “It really is just me being a good American to so strongly advocate and support the Hellenic issues and ideals. I want to thank the institute for recognizing me, and I want to thank my friend Nick Larigakis, who from day one as I came to this new job as a brand new freshman in congress was there for me and helped me.”

In acceptance of the AHI Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Award, Philip Christopher, president, International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) and president, Pancyprian Association of America, acknowledged the sacrifice of AHI Founder Eugene Rossides following the invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

“I want to congratulate the American Hellenic Institute, its founder, Eugene Rossides, who from 1974 not only taught us how to lobby and how to work out here in this capital, Washington DC, but who himself sacrificed his own brilliant legal career to carry the torch for Cyprus. I want to thank Nick Larigakis, the AHI board of directors, and Dr. Spireas for this honor.”

He also touched upon the Cyprus issue and the hard work of individuals to the cause of Cyprus. “39 years ago—almost 39 years ago—we all embarked together on a journey. That journey was a journey for freedom. We saw an injustice that took place. We saw a tragedy that took place, and we as Americans embarked on that journey for freedom for Cyprus.

“Each and every one of you in this room has contributed in many ways. Some of you have donated for fund raisers, some of you participated in demonstrations, and some of you attended events like this. But make no doubt about it each and every one of you has made a difference by supporting the American Hellenic Institute. What is important and what counts is that every day we have the courage to get up and continue this fight until Cyprus is free. We as Americans have an obligation. We come from the birthplace of democracy and we live in the greatest democracy in the world and we have an obligation to continue [our work].”

Accepting the AHI Religious Freedom Award on behalf of The Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was the Order’s National Commander, Dr. Anthony Limberakis.

In acceptance, Dr. Limberakis stated, “The Order of St. Andrew is the only organization in the United States whose exclusive mission is to defend the Mother Church of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. We consistently and systematically bring the issue of religious freedom of the Mother Church and other religious minorities in Turkey to the European Union and its rotating presidency nations, to the largest human rights meetings in Europe in Warsaw, Poland, the OSCE human dimension meetings, European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, andto the White HouseWe travel to Ankara, and together with our ambassador of the United States, meet with the government leaders with the simple message: reopen Halki, return our properties, stop interfering in the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch, respect the title of “Ecumenical,” and recognize the world center of Orthodoxy for what it is—the center of spiritual salvation and a corporate entity with legal personality. In the eyes of the Turkish government the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not exist and that must end.”

Dr. Limberakis added, “I am compelled to pay tribute to the American Hellenic Institute for its herculean efforts to promote religious freedom of the Mother Church under the leadership of its founder, Archon Eugene Rossides, and its president, Archon Nick Larigakis, and together with Archon Dr. Spiros Spireas. AHI has been impactful and consequential…AHI has been front and center in leading the charge for religious freedom by working to pass the historic H.Res.50, a resolution on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate [eventually passed as law in Section 2804 of the FY1998 Omnibus Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act]. AHI has been relentless in its pursuit for law and justice for Cyprus and seeking relief for the Hellenic Republic.”

He concluded by noting that although as individuals we may have different agendas but “we are all united by one Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and one spiritual father, His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

Gianna Angelopoulos, ambassador of the Hellenic Republic and former head of the 2004 Athens Organizing Committee, accepted the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award. In her opening remarks, she acknowledged leadership of AHI, including Founder Eugene Rossides, who she called “a legend” and the work of AHI.

She said, “I know there is something special hidden in this award, something to be treasured. It is one bond; one very powerful bond that ties all of us here together. It’s a bond that one little girl became aware of when she was just five years old in a tiny village of Crete in Greece.”

Ambassador Angelopoulos recalled a conversation she had with her grandfather when she was five years old, “Grandpa, tell me again about the story why your hands are like this, why your hands are so smooth and hairless?” Her grandfather spoke of the opportunities America provided him as a young man, working in a steel mill in Indiana and how the heat from the furnaces of the mill made his skin smooth. But that opportunity afforded him to support his poor family, a wife and three children, back in his Cretan village. She spoke of her admiration for the Greek American community, its values of hard work and commitment to community.

“You should all take pride in the fact that the strength of the Greek heritage is a truly global resource,” she said. “So I accept this award in the hopes that the shared wisdom and commitment in this room can help lead to a season of rebirth for Greece as well.”

Excerpts from Congratulatory Letters

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 Christos Panagopoulos, Chargé d'affaires, Embassy of Cyprus to the United States, Olympia Neocleous, U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ted G. Spyropoulos, Theodore & Erika Spyropoulos Foundation; International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus Alternate President Tassos Zambas, Hellenic American National Council President Paul Kotrotsios, and Cyprus Federation of America President Panicos Papanicolaou.

Archbishop Demetrios wrote: “The American Hellenic Institute has appropriately chosen to recognize individuals who are active witnesses and living testimony to our ecumenical Orthodox and Hellenic heritage.”

Ambassador Panagopoulos wrote: “The American Hellenic Institute, throughout its 38 year long history, has played a crucial and unique role in strengthening the bonds between the United States and Greece. The annual visits by university students and the AHI leadership to Greece, in addition to the other many multifaceted events that AHI organizes every year, not only in the United States, but also in Greece, contribute greatly to a better understanding between the people of Greece and the people of the United States…It is commonly known that AHI (and its founder Gene Rossides) played a crucial role in the initiative led by all Greek-American Organizations for the passage of Congressional legislation that enacted the U.S. arms embargo on Turkey.

Chargé d'affaires Neocleous wrote: “Following its establishment just after the brutal Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the American Hellenic Institute has worked tirelessly and persistently for the protection and promotion of freedom, the rule of law, democracy and human rights for the people of Cyprus. It has been at the vanguard of efforts to end the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and has vigorously advocated for Cyprus’ just cause of achieving a viable and functional solution of the Cyprus problem.”

Congressman Van Hollen wrote: “For almost four decades, AHI has been an invaluable resource to the Greek-American community through its business networking opportunities, educational exchanges and civic engagement. AHI’s long list of achievements as a public policy watchdog guarantees that it will continue to be at the forefront of shaping U.S. foreign relations with Greece and her neighbors. I look forward to working with the organization to find solutions to the political and economic challenges that face our world today.”

HANC President Kotrotsios wrote: “We do consider the American Hellenic Institute the premier organization of the Greek American community, dedicated to the advancement of the ideals of democracy and the Hellenic spirit. AHI is a force not only for the representation of the Greek American community but for the plurality found in American politics through their advocacy of the rule of law and human rights.”

PSEKA Alternate President Zambas wrote: “AHI plays a major role in the struggle of the Cypriot people for freedom and justice. AHI was founded on August 1, 1974, following Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus with the illegal use of American-supplied arms in violation of U.S. laws and agreements. AHI initiated the rule of law issue in the Congress in the interests of the U.S., thus changing the face of American politics.”

Cyprus Federation of America President Papanicolaou wrote: “On behalf of the Cyprus Federation of America, I am delighted to extend my heartfelt greetings and warmest congratulations to AHI and to tonight’s honorees on the occasion of the American Hellenic Institute’s 38th Anniversary of the Hellenic Heritage Achievement & Public Service Awards.”

Theodore & Erika Spyropoulos Foundation President Ted Spyropoulos wrote: “We acknowledge AHI and its affiliate organizations for their continuous and pioneering efforts toward the solution and promotion of issues affecting U.S. relations in Southeastern Europe, a critically important region to American national interests. We congratulate the founder of AHI Hon. Gene Rossides, the President and Chief Operating Officer, Nick Larigakis, and all the Board Members on their achievements and tireless efforts to strengthen and improve relationships between the United States, Greece and Cyprus as in the best interests of the U.S.”

Special guests attending the event included:Ambassador of Greece to the United States Christos Panagopoulos, Ambassador of Cyprus to the United Nations Nicholas Emiliou, Chargé d'affaires, Embassy of Cyprus to the United States, Olympia Neocleous; Counsel General of Cyprus in New York Koula Sophianou, former U.S. Ambassador to Greece Tom Miller, former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Partick Theros, former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes, and New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.

Other notable guests attending the dinner were:Kaliope Parthemos, Deputy Mayor of Baltimore; Basil Mossaidis, AHEPA executive director; Panicos Papanicolaou, president, Cyprus Federation of America; Art Dimopoulos, executive director, National Hellenic Society; Paul Kotrotsios, president, Hellenic American National Council; Andy Manatos, president, Coordinated Effort of Hellenes; Aris Melissaratos, former Secretary of Business & Economic Development for the state of Maryland; Dr. George Moutsatos, president, AHI-Delaware; Katerina Papathanassiou, board member, AHI-Athens chapter, and AHI members George Mermelas and Yiannis Costopoulos; and AHI members Constantine and Sophia Galanis from Mexico City, Mexico.

Former AHI honorees at the dinner included: Ambassador Miller, Dr. Christine Warnke; Reverend John Tavlarides, Dean, Saint Sophia Cathedral, Washington, DC; former CBS News Anchor Thalia Assuras, former Senator Sarbanes, Larry Michael, Voice of the Redskins; Dora Hancock.

Notable members of the Press attending the dinner were: Paul Glastris, Editor in Chief, Washington Monthly; Thomas P. McDevitt, President, The Washington Times; Art Dimopoulos, Publisher, Odyssey Magazine; and Paul Kotrotsios, Publisher, the Hellenic News of America, in Philadelphia.

Briefing with Top Greek, Cypriot Diplomats Comprise Weekend’s Events

As part of the weekend’s festivities AHI hosted a breakfast briefing with Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos Panagopoulos and Chargé d'affaires for the Embassy of Cyprus Olympia Neocleous on March 9. The relevant topics affecting both countries were discussed by the two top diplomats. AHI President Nick Larigakis moderated the discussion. A lively Q&A session followed.

Moreover, AHI hosted a dinner reception featuring Gianna Angelopoulos as the guest speaker at the Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) Continental Hall, March 8. She provided the scoop on her latest book, “My Greek Drama,” which has received rave reviews, including President Bill Clinton. The book sheds light on Angelopoulos’ life and provides her thoughts for moving Greece forward in the wake of its economic crisis.

“The book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Greece, and most importantly, those who wish to see Greece return once again as the proud cradle of the Hellenic Spirit,” said Larigakis.

“I come to you today bringing the spirit of Greece, which still exists despite what you’ve been reading,” said Angelopoulos. “I’m honored to be speaking to a room full of leaders. We share Greek values – pride in our heritage, belief in our ability to succeed, recognition that our heritage and belief in our abilities cannot be separated.”

She stated she wrote the book for three reasons: 1) for individuals to understand the Greek mind, people, and the Greek state; 2) so people can see the power of a can-do attitude, and 3) she wanted to see if the lessons of our 2004 Olympic triumph can be put into action.

Angelopoulos transitioned her remarks to share her experiences as the former head of the 2004 Athens Organizing Committee and relived some memorable moments from the Games, including a “high-five” she shared with President Larigakis (who was an Athens 2004 volunteer) when Greek Gymnast Dimosthenis Tabakos won gold. In a 2004 op-ed, Larigakis doubted Angelopoulos would ever admit to it in public, but she did on this evening and even read from the 2004 op-ed.

She added she will be sending 12 Greek university students to the Clinton Global University next month so they can share their ideas on how to help Greece in the future.

Attendees were also treated to a private tour of the historic venue.

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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For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.