Congresswoman Dina Titus Reflects on the Season
by Dina Titus
The new year provides us all with reason to spend some time looking back and some time looking ahead. On the eve of this new year and decade, I’ve found myself reflecting on my family and my heritage. I try to do my best each day to honor their legacy through action.
In 1911, my grandfather came to this country through Ellis Island from Greece. Arthur Costandinos, for whom I am named, worked in the restaurant business in Georgia his entire adult life. Like so many who came before us, he believed in the promise of America, but never forgot his Greek roots.
The small town I grew up in had no Greek church or school and we would take 100-mile road trips to Jacksonville, Florida, just to get olives and Feta cheese. Yet, even at our young age, my grandfather made sure that my sister and I knew that being Greek is about more than what you eat. He instilled in us the importance of helping others, giving back to the community, and getting the most out of life. As the Christmas spirit spreads this time of year, these ideals seem to come to life.
Yet, I have never believed that these values should be seasonal – and I try to follow these principles not only in my private life, but also in my public service. This year in my Congressional district in Las Vegas, St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church celebrated its 60th anniversary. It’s a pillar of our Greek Orthodox community in Southern Nevada and as home to the local Greek Food Festival. So, when the Church approached my office for immigration assistance in 2017 after facing difficulties bringing Greek iconographers to finish its artwork, I was eager to help.
At the time, the iconographers were turned away at their port of entry for having the wrong type of visa, needed a site visit to verify their legitimacy, and did not have the appropriate IRS designations ready in order to apply for their visas. My office worked tirelessly with Father John Stratos Hondros to help the them obtain the correct visas and file the necessary paperwork with the IRS. After two years, the Greek iconographers made it to Nevada and finished the beautiful artwork in time to celebrate the Church’s 60th anniversary. Next time you’re in Las Vegas, I encourage you to stop by the Church and see the inspirational new iconography that took a village to complete. I think you’ll agree that it was worth the time and effort.
In Washington D.C., the year always ends in a flurry as Members of Congress work to finalize must-pass legislation while making sure that our staff get home in time for the holidays. Before the year ended, I’m pleased that we were able to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus, prohibit the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey, establish a new U.S.-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate cooperation between the U.S. and Greece, and finally recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Looking ahead, I’m eager to continue working on issues important to the Greek American community. As the only Greek American Congresswoman, I’m proud to serve in the Hellenic Caucus. I know we must build upon the progress we’ve made in strengthening the relationship among the U.S., Greece, and Cyprus; monitoring Turkey’s aggression; and bolstering security in the Eastern Mediterranean. Now more than ever, the United States must be a steadfast ally to our longtime partners who share our democratic values.
I’ll continue to use my voice and my vote to strengthen the bonds between the U.S. and Greece – and I’ll do so with my grandfather and you all in mind.
As we cut open our vasilopita and hope to receive some good luck, I wish you all a wonderful year of health, happiness, and quality time with loved ones. Let us all spread the Christmas spirit in our communities even as December comes to an end. Please consider me part of the family and call on me any time.
Kala Christougenna kai Kali Chronia! Καλά Χριστούγεννα και Καλή Χρονιά!