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September 2007
Online Activism in Hellenic American Community Surges

By Eleni Hioureas

Everyday, somewhere in a state like Oregon, Missouri, or Hawaii, Hellenes and Philhellenes join with an extensive network of online activists across the country, in sending messages via email to their elected officials communicating their concerns about issues such as ending the occupation of Cyprus, calling for religious rights for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and ceasing FYROM’s propagandist use of ‘Macedonia’.

This recent surge in online activism in the Greek community has been made possible through the Online Action Alert campaigns of the American Hellenic Council (AHC), a Los Angeles-based non-partisan political advocacy organization whose aim is to promote Hellenic issues by educating and informing elected officials, the press, and public. Via the AHC’s website (www.americanhellenic.org), any user may log on, choose from a robust list of Hellenic issues currently before Congress and, with only a few clicks of the mouse, contact their representatives using prewritten or self-composed messages, all in under two minutes and without any cost to the user.

George Harriet, a dedicated AHC online activist from New York, says “the AHC’s Online Action makes it much simpler for me to let my elected representatives know how I feel about certain issues. It is easy and efficient and increases my involvement on Hellenic issues.”

The AHC’s Online Action Alert tool was first launched in the summer of 2006. A huge leap forward for advancing Hellenic issues, it was the first nationwide online action system for Greek Americans to voice their opinions to the Congress via the web. Within the first few hours of launching the system, activists from California, Florida, and Illinois had already used the system to urge their representatives to support House Resolution 603 which called on Turkey to remove its occupation troops from Cyprus.

Now one year later, the AHC’s Online Action network has expanded from 3 states to 30, with activists from across the nation using the service to stay in contact with hundreds of policymakers who wield influence over issues that affect the Hellenic community worldwide.

Ken Kassakhian, Executive Director of the AHC, expresses the critical role that online action plays in lobbying for Hellenic issues today: “From working on Capitol Hill for a member of Congress, I learned that consistently communicating with your Congressional office through email is absolutely critical and can make all the difference when it comes time for an issue to be brought to vote on the House floor. We are excited to have this tool that makes it possible for citizens from all states to voice their concerns in support of winning religious rights for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, bringing a just resolution to the ongoing occupation and division of Cyprus, and urging FYROM to stop using ‘Macedonia’ for political ends.”

The Congressional Management Foundation, a non-profit that measures the effectiveness of lobbying efforts in the U.S. Congress, recently issued a report highlighting the critical importance of online action campaigns in effectively communicating with and influencing members of Congress. The report states:

“The Internet is having a hugely positive effect on the discourse between citizens and Congress. A large majority of congressional staff surveyed, 79%, believe the Internet has made it easier for citizens to become involved in public policy. People who engage in political activities online or who write to their elected officials, are very likely to be active members of their communities.”

Some experts who analyze political efforts in Washington, D.C. even predict that using online political action will become an indispensable campaign strategy of all effective organizations working to influence policy.

Michael Cornfield, professor at The Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) of The George Washington University, says, “I think the distinction between online and off-line campaigning will vanish. Which is to say, there will be an online dimension to every aspect of campaigning. That's where we're heading, online campaigning will become the new normal.”

Aris Anagnos, Vice President of Political Action for the AHC, agrees adding, “an excellent example of effective online action is the overwhelming majority support that the resolution to properly acknowledge the facts of the Armenian Genocide (House Resolution 106) has gathered in the House of Representatives through the Armenian National Committee of America’s Click For Justice campaign. We are proud that as Greek Americans we supported and participated in this effort. Of course, online action should supplement other activities such as face to face meetings with policy makers and fundraising for candidates who support our issues. But there is tremendous potential by using new technologies. The great thing about online activism is that it provides a vehicle through which an incredible amount of momentum can be generated quickly. There is so much potential. So much more is possible. I hope everyone with a computer and concern for our issues logs on and takes action for our future.”

For more information regarding the AHC’s Online Action Alerts, the offices’ phone number is (323) 651-3507.

People can also email to director@americanhellenic.org.

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