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AHI Hosts 38th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner
The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted recently its 38th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage Achievement and Public Service Awards Dinner 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: 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 at large of the Hellenic Republic.
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. 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. “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,” he said.
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 of the 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. “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 National Commander, Dr. Anthony Limberakis who stated that “the Order 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.”
Gianna Angelopoulos, ambassador of the Hellenic Republic and former head of the 2004 Athens Organizing Committee, accepted the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award acknowledging the leadership of AHI, including Founder Eugene Rossides, who she called “a legend”. “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.” She also 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,” she concluded.
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.
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.
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.