The new generation of Leaders

Michael Bapis

Michael Bapis is the Chairman of Leadership 100 Partners Program, the national organization for young professionals that replaced the previous program under the name of Associate Membership. Inaugurated under his chairmanship, the program focuses on strategic planning, recruitment events and other means of reactivating or reaching out to young professionals.

Your evaluation of this convention.

I think it was great, we had a record turnout. In a year like this, we exceeded our goals for membership! Our goal was to get 18 partners in the Youth Program and we ended up getting 21! We have a total of 74 in two years.

Not the best of times now, and yet you did very well.

It’s been more difficult, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, but in the end people believe in the organization, they believe in their faith and heritage and they want to do something good for it and also for the community in general.

What was the part you liked the most at this conference?

First of all, it’s my sixth convention and what I liked the most, hmm, I think it was exciting to be at the 25th Anniversary and see the founders of this organization to be so overwhelmed by the fact that they have succeeded as much as they have. Archbishop Iakovos, when they came to him, he said if you can find 10 Greeks who could give 100,000 dollars that would be great, and we ended up with 813 members! It’s also nice to see how many young people we had at this convention. There is a lot of enthusiasm.

If you were to organize this, what would you have done differently?

Tough question! I would have tried to attract even more young people (he laughs). I think we are moving to the right direction and as we get more young people we’ll be able to do more. Right now, though, the most important thing is to get the young portion of the organization off the ground. We’ve already started to add functions for them, so probably in two years from now there will be even more things. Last night for example, we had a special reception where four people from the Executive Board, Michael Jaharis, Steve Yeonas, George Behrakis and Gus Karras, came and gave their thoughts and mingled with the people from the Partners Program. So the fact that they showed up and took the time to actually do this says a lot.

Any thoughts of holding a future convention in Greece or Cyprus?

Absolutely, ultimately that’s where we want to do it! I don’t have as much say to it as other people, but we talk about it.

Give me some good reasons why young, successful professionals like you should join the Leadership?

Our group is as progressive as any organization in the Greek community. You have to support your local churches, your local AHEPA etc, I do all that. But this is a national organization where everybody joins forces to do good things on a different level.

Drake Behrakis

Drake Behrakis and his wife Maria have been members of L100 for seven years. This past year Drake was asked to join the L100 Partners Program Membership Committee as co-chair for the Metropolis of Boston. His responsibilities include hosting local events for young Greek-American professionals to introduce them to the mission of L100 which is to promote Orthodoxy and Hellenism.

Your thoughts on the 25th Anniversary Conference.

This is my fifth convention. I think (the 25th Anniversary Convention) was important for members to rally and come down here, although it’s difficult economic times, to celebrate something positive: the work that’s been done in those 25 years and the promise to continue to do more in the future.

Has the economic downturn affected recruiting efforts seriously?

This year’s recruiting effort commenced last fall, when the financial markets began to collapse. So, I think, considering what happened, we had a very decent year. This (2009) is going to be a challenging year as we have ahead of us six-seven tough months and certainly people are looking at their own pocketbooks and deciding which groups and organizations they want to support in the future. However, we need to keep doing our job, because this is really our turn, as the younger generation, to take this organization over to the next 25 years. Also, for the younger people the payment schedule is much easier.

You were born and raised here, you are successful in what you do, you are a mainstream American. There are other national, certainly not ethnic, entities that you can join, help, associate, be part of. Why L100?

Our ancestors, when they came here as immigrants, did a great job in preserving our culture, our heritage, and they were very strong, family-oriented, close to their Church. But now we are second, fourth, even fifth generation and I think it’s important for us to look back at the legacy our parents and grandparents created. If you look at the history of our Church, it is the first time we have a real national organization to support all the work that’s been done, outside of the Archdiocese.

Your father, George Behrakis, organized this convention. However, if you were to be in charge, what would you do differently?

Leadership went from a small group of people to people inviting their friends and family to join and there was a network that went on by word-of-mouth. I think now with over 800 members and with the assets accumulated you can go to all different metropolis’ across the country and really start a sort of a marketing campaign to educate people about what Leadership is. Because a lot of people may have heard about the Leadership, but they are not sure what the organization is all about. So, I think, what started in the last few years and now has been accelerated this past year, is instead of saying I want to recruit this one person, go beyond it and say, I want these ten people to know about the Leadership and if I can get one or two to join today that’s great if not, at least they know what’s happening. I think we should bring the message to the local level.

Have you considered the possibility of establishing chapters in Greece and Cyprus?

We actually have members from Greece and Cyprus. A few years ago, (then) Minister of Tourism of Greece Dimitris Avramopoulos was here as a guest and he actually invited the Executive Committee of the Leadership to have a meeting in Greece and present the organization to the country’s business and political community. It’s important for the organization to show people in Greece what is really happening in the United States. To show that the Greeks of the United States are really taking their culture and heritage very seriously and they want to have as much feedback from the country of Greece as they can.

What about doing a convention there?

Absolutely! I think it’s been talked about already. The organization has grown up to the point where you can give people the opportunity to try things. Certainly having a convention in Greece will probably be the pinnacle of the organization, because that’s where everything started, our roots, our heritage, our language.


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