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The Vision of Democracy and Liberty
GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE
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The Vision of Democracy and Liberty
GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE
The celebration of the 188th anniversary of Greek independence on March 25th included the traditional bands and marches throughout Greece as well as the appropriate to the times messages by political leaders to the Greek people, including the Greek diaspora.
In his message, President Karolos Papoulias referred to the “dangerous times” the world is facing and called on all Greeks to once “again declare our devotion to the values and ideals . . . which serve as our invaluable inheritance.”
Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, observing that “Greece and all of Europe are faced with one of the most crucial turning points since World War II,” said that a united Greece can “transform the global crisis into a national opportunity for the day after . . . on the basis of the certainty that we can pull our country out of the global storm.”
White House Proclamation
Here in Washington the anniversary was marked by the President’s formal proclamation of “A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy,” but also by a White House ceremony in the East Room, where His Eminence Archbishop of America Demetrios was received and commended in speeches by both President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden. The event was attended by Greek Minister of Justice Nikos Dendias representing the Greek government, Ambassador of Greece Alexandros Mallias, and Ambassador of Cyprus Andreas Kakouris.
In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Biden spoke of being “an honorary Greek every day,” and of the “common values, common goals, and common philosophical tradition going back to the great scholars of ancient Greece.” It was said, he added, that “nothing moves in this world that is not Greek in origin. And I, for one, am very proud to move in this world with those origins as part of our country’s tradition.” Greeting the Archbishop as a man who knows “that, at a very deep level, our countries come from the same DNA,” the Vice-President praised the Archbishop’s commitment to “truly great work.”
In his response, Demetrios congratulated President Obama on his “historic ascendance to the presidency,” declaring his prayers and support for the “awesome task of leading our nation in accomplishing its great mission in our troubled world.” Expressing his thanks for “this truly presidential celebration of Greek and American democracy,” he spoke of the “miracle of March 25th 1821” and, noting the “tremendous power, both personal and institutional” of the president, urged his assistance on three issues: the freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in his “purely religious” leadership of the world’s quarter of a billion Orthodox Christians; the Cyprus problem; and the issue of the name for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He then called on the president to cut the Gordian Knot of these unresolved issues.
In his response, President Obama spoke of the “many proud Greeks” in his administration, adding: “It is no coincidence that the leaders of the American Revolution—Jefferson and Madison, Adams, Hamilton—were students of Greek history and Greek philosophy.” Calling it “the cruelest of ironies that a people who first tested a free and democratic form of government were doomed to live so long without it,” Mr. Obama said: “It is also one of history’s great triumphs that, even in the darkest periods, the light of those ideals was never extinguished.” Speaking of “the character of a people that never lost hope in the values that Greece has always represented,” the President concluded: “Today, Greece stands as a testament of that unflinching character, as does the steadfast allegiance between our two nations.”
Recognition of Greek Independence Day was also acknowledged with resolutions issued by both houses of Congress and a statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Greek Ambassador’s Tribute to Philhellenes
Ambassador Mallias, in his message on the occasion of Greek Independence Day, paid tribute to the American Philhellenes who supported the Greek Struggle for Independence in the 19th century or even lost their lives fighting for it, like James Williams, an African American slave from Baltimore. He also took the opportunity, approaching the end of his tenure as Greece’s ambassador to the US, to express his gratitude to the Greek American community (omogeneia), its institutions and organizations, for their contribution “to the promotion of our interests.” At a reception held at the Greek Embassy, Ambassador Mallias also took the opportunity to award the Certificate of Attainment in Greek (Ellinomathia) to 43 students who succeeded in their exams.
BRIEFLY . . .
• The signing of the Olympic Airlines Company’s transfer agreement to the Marfin Investment Group (MIG) was completed on March 23, in a special ceremony at Zappeion Hall in Athens by ministers of Finance, Development and Transport and MIG Vice President Andreas Vgenopoulos. Commenting on the landmark agreement, Prime Minister Greece Kostas Karamanlis remarked that Greece is entering a new period in air transport, thanks to healthy competition offering multiple options to passengers and services to all destinations in Greece. Olympic will be operating under the full control of MIG as of October 2009.
• The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has invited Turkey to reopen the Greek Orthodox Theological School on the island of Halki, which the Turkish authorities shut down in 1971. The Committee has also called on Turkey to return confiscated properties and to promptly implement all related judgments by the European Court of Human Rights. Furthermore, the Committee noted its concern over the particularly serious situation of the Greek minority and calls urgently upon Turkey to redress such discrimination as well as respect human rights. The Halki seminary, established in 1844, was a prestigious center of culture and civilization. During its years of operation the school counted many internationally renowned scholars.
• The “ESTIA” (“home” in Greek) project, which aspires to provide smooth integration of around 550,000 legal immigrants currently residing in Greece, was presented by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos at an event on March 3. The “Integrated Action Plan for the unimpeded integration of third country nationals legally residing throughout the Greek territory—ESTIA” is financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals 2007-2013.
• A panel discussion on “The Beneficial Effects of the Mediterranean Diet and Olive Oil on Health” was hosted on February 25 at the Greek Press and Communication Office in New York, co-organized with the New York Greek Trade Office and the Hellenic Medical Society of New York. Main speakers included Athens University Medical School Professor, Dr. Antonia Trichopoulou, MD, an academic distinguished by her work on the benefits of adhering to a Mediterranean diet.
• On March 29, the Society for the Preservation of Greek Heritage and the Hellenic Library hosted a “Night of Celebration of Greek Language and Literature" in Bellflower, CA. Professor Apostolos Athanassakis of the University of California in Santa Barbara contributed to the selection of items performed, including poetry readings, theatrical performance, religious hymns and music.
• The cultural heritage of Greek Sephardic Jews, their music and aspects of daily life in Thessaloniki prior to the Holocaust, was the subject of an event hosted by the Greek Press and Communication Office of the Embassy of Greece in Tel Aviv on March 24, in an evening of “Songs & Remembrance.” The majority of Jews in Greece were Sephardic Jews whose ancestors had left Portugal and Spain. Most of them settled in Thessaloniki, which came to be called “Mother of Israel,” and the community’s language was Ladino.
• The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) celebrated the 34th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards at a dinner in Washington on March 14, honoring individuals for their achievements as well as for their contributions to the Greek American community and the community at large. The evening’s Master of Ceremonies was George Stephanopoulos, ABC’s News Chief Washington correspondent and anchor of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” The honorees were US Congressman Gus Bilirakis; chef, philanthropist and author Cat Cora; novelist George Pelecanos; entrepreneur and philanthropist John G. Ranges, Sr.; and Dr. George Tsetsekos, Dean at LeBow College of Business, Drexel University.
On the morning of March 14, AHI hosted a breakfast and presentation at the Capital Hilton with CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras, who spoke about her life as a broadcast journalist, her Greek heritage, and the challenges faced when reporting on Greek issues. The presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session with the audience.
The celebratory events were kicked off the previous evening with an elegant dinner at the Greek Embassy, hosted by Ambassador Alexandros Mallias and Mrs. Mallias in honor of AHI for its significant contributions to strengthening ties between Greece and the US.
• A tribute to opera diva Maria Callas was held on February 28 at the Maliotis Cultural Center in Massachusetts, co-organized by the Hellenic Parliament Foundation for Parliamentarism and Democracy, and the Press and Communication Office of the Consulate General of Greece. The event included the opening of a photographic exhibition and a concert with Greek-American Soprano Stella Markou, accompanied by pianist-composer and professor of music at the University of Massachusetts, Panos Liaropoulos. The “Tribute to Maria Callas” exhibition remained at the Maliotis Cultural Center through March, 2009, before moving to the Houston Grand Opera in Houston, Texas.
• Synetic Theater’s production of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata at Georgetown University’s Gonda Theatre (to April 4), directed by the University’s theater head Derek Goldman, is described by Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks (“Lysistrata: Men’s Achilles’, Um, Heel”, March 30) as a “freewheeling, timebending production, which retains Synetic’s minimalist design aesthetic” and as “an entertainingly winking guide to sex and the frustrated modern male.” The original score is by Synetic’s composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze, and the dancing by Irina Tsikurishvili, which “pulsates with sensuousness and vitality.” The set created by Robbie Hayes is “a jungle gym of sorts for Tsikurishvili’s supercharged choreography and a seemingly inexhaustible cast of 16.” Drawing a comparison with the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s concurrent production of a modernized version of Euripides’ Ion, the reviewer notes that in both plays “the wall comes down between the mores of antiquity and the present day.”
• There were uniformly enthusiastic reviews of the presentation at Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre of the Euripides play Ion —billed as “a Greek Tragedy with a Happy Ending”— which opened on March 10. The performance, directed by Ethan McSweeny, in an adaptation by London’s Young Vic artistic director David Lan, was described in a Washington Post review of March 18th (“With a Nod To the Gods, Ion Delivers A Wry Charge”) as “a breezy satire that’s for the most part jauntily conceived and easy on the eyes” with an “appealing postmodern varnish.” The Washington Times of March 20th (“Ion Belongs to Today”) notes that “this modern staging of a 2,500-year-old play, more sunny than sorrowful, provides a Parthenon of pleasures in a mere 90 minutes.”
The performances were made possible in part through the support of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation.
• “Light from Darkness: An Encounter with Ion” is an exhibition of works by Greek artist Apostolos Koustas exhibited at Sidney Harman Hall throughout the run of Ion (until April 12). The exhibition consists of 25 portable murals, utilizing the symbols and the art of mapping out linear forms and images from ancient Greek culture.
• As part of the 2009 Francophone Film Festival, an award-winning documentary from Greece was screened on April 1st at the Ripley Center in Washington. Qadir: An Afghani Ulysses is the story of an immigrant from Afghanistan, Qadir, who, after eight years in Greece manages to get his “green card” and decides to temporarily return to his homeland to search for his parents. Director Anneta Papathanassiou follows Qadir on his journey, focusing on the personal benefits and professional skills he gained during his stay in Greece and on how he transmits them to his fellow citizens in his country. Qadir’s personal development through his Greek experience eventually leads to voluntary repatriation, while Greece is seen through the eyes of the immigrant as a host country adapting to the needs brought on by recent immigration movements.
Filmed in Greece and Afghanistan and co-financed by Hellenic Aid and Public Broadcaster ERT, the film won the Best Documentary Award at the International Roma Fiction Festival last July (2008). Over the last five years, Greece has given more than !60 million to Afghanistan’s reconstruction, financing initiatives such as emergency aid, health, education, peace and culture.
• The Hermes Expo Trade Show is taking place April 2 – 6, at the Tropicana Hotel and Resort in Atlantic City, NJ, the show’s home base since 1992. Hermes promotes cultural, trade and communication ties by providing a networking forum for Greek American, American and Southeastern European businesses, introducing Greek and other SE European businesses to the US market, and advancing the networking of business people through business seminars and investment symposiums, international trade fairs, exhibitions and conferences.
Over 120 exhibitors from various industries including travel & tourism; banking & finance; arts & crafts; new technology; jewelry; telecommunications; advertising-promotions-media; food industries; beverages, wines and spirits; construction, marble and granite; professional associations and services; real estate; book fairs and more. Hermes was instrumental in formalizing the Thessaloniki-Philadelphia trade pact in April, 2004 and the Thessaloniki-Philadelphia Port Authorities pact in April, 2006. It also played an important role in the ties that now link Greece, the Balkans and the US market through HELEXPO in Thessaloniki.
• Celebration of the March 25th anniversary of Greece’s independence was an opportunity to recall a most heartfelt published recognition of the contribution by many Americans to that cause. Portraits of Historic American Philhellenes, a lavishly-illustrated book by artist Frederiki D. Pappas, is an anthology of Greek heroes and American philhellenes who took part in the Greek War of Independence of 1821. It was published following an exhibition of paintings by Ms. Pappas at the US Congress in 1996, in celebration of the 175 year anniversary of Greek Independence.
Pappas calls her book “an expression of homage to the American contribution for the emancipation of the Greek nation,” recounting such stories as Colonel G. Jarvis being asked by Greek fighters to train the army they had formed under the command of Greek war hero Kitsos Tzavellas.
• Two short books on the lives of Greek-Americans in two states of the Midwest, Michigan and Illinois, were reviewed as part of a scholarly feature-length article in the National Herald of March 7, by Alexandros K. Kyrou, Associate Professor of History at Salem State College in Massachusetts.
The books discussed were Greeks in Michigan, by Stavros K. Frangos, a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Indiana University, published in 2004 by the Michigan State University Press; and Greek-American Pioneer Women of Illinois, published by Arcadia in 2000, contributed to and edited by Elaine Thomopoulos, who administers numerous Greek-American community services in Chicago and holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
After describing the homesickness of emigrant Greeks, expressed in the word xenitia, Professor Kyrou writes of the “interwoven experiences of uprootedness and transplantation” which, as in many other part of the world, have been “seminal parts of the history of Greek America.” Both books, he says, give poignant insights into these two dimensions of the Greek American experience.
We note with deep regret the death on March 22 of Christine Sarbanes, educator, wife of former Senator Paul Sarbanes and mother of Congressman John P. Sarbanes, at the age of 73. Born in London, she met Paul in the late 1950s at Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and she was earning a bachelor’s degree in Literae Humaniores at St. Hugh’s College (1958), to be joined in 1974 by an Oxford University master’s degree.
After graduation, she taught Latin at Dana Hall School for Girls in Wellesley, Mass, and after marrying in 1960, Mrs. Sarbanes became a lecturer in classics at Goucher College. In 1974, she left Goucher and after a four-year break, she returned to teaching in 1978, joining the Gilman School faculty, where she continued teaching Latin, Greek and French until retiring in 2000. In addition to having a full-time job as a teacher, raising her three children, and assisting her husband in his political life, Mrs. Sarbanes found time to be active in community affairs. As a child she developed a lifelong love of books, libraries and librarians. According to Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, Mrs. Sarbanes’ dedication to the community were instrumental to the recent opening of the first two new libraries in Baltimore in over 30 years, while Dr. Carla D. Hayden, executive director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, attributes many of the community outreach programs to her commitment and work.
Condolences were sent by President of the Hellenic Republic Papoulias, Prime Minister Karamanlis, Foreign Minister Bakoyannis, Foreign Undersecretary Valinakis, Ambassador Mallias, and other officials.
Source: Press Office of the Embassy of Greece