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The Cyprus-US Chamber of Commerce Honors Nikos Mouyiaris
Renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist Nikos Mouyiaris was honored by the members of the Cyprus-US Chamber of Commerce recognizing his important role in promoting business as well as the national issues of Cyprus, Greece and the United States. The chamber’s Chairman Nicolas Nicolaou offered the award to Mr. Mouyiaris in a standing ovation from a crowd that filled the Union League Club of New York to capacity.
During the reception, the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades congratulated the honoree via a pre-taped video message “for continuing to help young Cypriots. Mr. Mouyiaris is contributing to what we all are trying together which is the liberation of the country and the well-being of its citizens.
Speaking on behalf of the Young Professionals of the CY-US Chamber, Mrs. Christina Shailas, pointed out that Mr. Mouyiaris is a very humble person. “He gave hope to a young person like me by showing that the world is not only for personal gain. We need someone like Mr. Mouriaris to remind us to be humble and to offer joy to others.”
Archbishop Demetrios of America offered the prayer, and pointed out that the honoree is a pioneer with a passion for education and a plan that brings tangible results. “I thank you,” he said, addressing Mr. Mouyiaris, “because he is not one of those who just write checks, but one who is involved, has passion and has felt what it takes to participate in community work.”
The introduction of the honoree was a task undertaken by Mr. Philip Christopher, a personal friend and collaborator in the promotion of the national issues of Cyprus and Greece. While congratulating the Cyprus-American Chamber for their choice, Mr. Christopher stressed that he is also an honorary citizen of Athienou, the town where Nikos Mouyiaris was born. He said Mr. Mouyiaris has values and ideas that gave rise to an accomplished entrepreneurial spirit and not the other way around. He also pointed out that the village from which Mr. Nikos Mougiaris came from would not be the same without his support. “There would not be a nursing home, an orphanage, a museum. Every institution in Cyprus has been assisted by Nikos Mouyiaris.” In addition, he has financed an archeological expedition in the area by Davidson College or North Carolina for several years.
He is a supporter of Pancyprian, a benefactor of the PSEKA, a patron of the “Elytis Chair” at Rutgers University, for which he offered six hundred thousand dollars, the St. Demetrios School in Astoria and many other educational institutions. He’s also a benefactor for the “Malaika Foundation” in Congo and the “Paradise4Kids” organization.
He is, as Mr. Christopher concluded, a visionary, who envisioned, among other things, the creation of an organization to promote the National Issues organized in a way similar to the standards of the American Jewish Committee. That’s how the HALC (Hellenic American Leadership Council) started, which was funded by Mr. Mouyiaris, and within a few years managed to do enough to promote national issues with the participation of predominantly young people with knowledge and appetite for the common good.
Nikos Mouyiaris was born in Athienou, Cyprus. He attended elementary and high school in Nicosia, Cyprus. After graduating from high school, he went to England where he resided for a short time, until he was able to acquire a student visa to come to the United States. He attended St. John’s University, where, after the first semester, he received a scholarship. After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, he met his wife Carol and he was awarded another scholarship from Rutgers University where he received his Master of Science degree. Nikos started a cosmetic manufacturing company in New York City with $6,000 that he borrowed from his brother, Apostolos. Today, Mana Products is a very successful enterprise that employees over 600 people. In addition to his cosmetics company, he has interests in real estate, as well as other businesses.
As a member of the Board of Directors and Trustees of the Pancyprian Association of America, Nikos is very much involved in all activities of the community. He helps to ensure that the culture and ethnic customs of Cyprus and Greece are preserved. Nikos is also very actively involved with PSEKA (World Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus) in the struggle for freedom and justice for the Cypriot people, as well as for various Greek causes.
He is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award and a member of the Leadership 100 of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Accepting the award, Nikos Mouyiaris chose not to talk about himself, but about everything we have achieved as a Greek-American community. “I want you,” he said, “to publicly thank Philip Christopher for what he has done and everything he has offered up to this day and I ask you to applaud him!” Then Mr. Mougiaris thanked his parents and his uncles in Athienou, Cyprus and in the United States for all that they have done for him.
Among the dignitaries at the event were Archbishop Demetrios of America, US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the United States Ambassador to Nicosia Kathleen Doherty, the Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the United Nations Ambassador Kornelius Korneliou, the Greek Deputy to the United Nations Dionysios Kalamvrezos, the Consul General of Greece in New York, Dr. Constantinos Koutras, the Consul General of Cyprus Ambassador Vassilios Filippou, the Consul of Greece Manos Koubarakis, entrepreneurs, representatives of local and national organizations, members of AHEPA and HALC, executives of MANA Products businessmen, friends and close associates of Niko Mouyiaris. Mistress of Ceremonies for the event was Fox Bussiness News hostess Nicole Petallides.
During his welcoming speech, the Chairman of the Cyprus-US Chamber of Commerce, Nicolas Nicolaou offered some examples of the service the organization provides to members and the community at large. In cooperation with Capital Link the first investment forum for Cyprus was held in Nicosia and New York. He then mentioned the J-1 Visa Program which has already allowed three new scientists from Cyprus to come to the US while six more are expected.
Nikos Mouyiaris’ Acceptance Speech at the Cyprus-US Chamber Gala Event
I have often said that we are successful not because we are very smart; not because we worked very hard and we were lucky; but because we had the good fortune of being able to stand on the shoulders of others. That’s why I will start by acknowledging those most responsible for me – my parents, my aunt Eleni and uncle George who raised me, my aunt Sunday and uncle George in the States, my teachers, my village of Athienou, my friends and others.
I certainly would not be where I am today, if my soul, my psyche – were not formed by Greece and Cyprus and my Hellenic values, and if not for the US which provided me and all of us with so many opportunities. I would not be where I am today but for the great Mana employees past and present some of who are here tonight. Thank you.
Last and definitely not least my wife Carol and daughter Ariana for their love and for always standing next to me all these years, for their patience and support. Thank you.
I’m especially honored to accept this award before such a great crowd of friends, coworkers, and people of our community. I am one who strongly believes in the power of the Hellenic spirit. I’m one who believes in our Greek values. A plain soldier, a single unit in a desired group which could ultimately become a powerful force in our community and the Greek Diaspora. A force which can truly help our community, Cyprus and Greece, do better.
I have been in the States for 50 years. I saw many of us become very successful in whatever we chose to do. Be it a professional, an academic an entrepreneur, a scientist. Our community rates first in education and second in wealth amongst the ethnic groups in our country. As single units, with some volunteer work and our philotimo (love of honor), we have achieved so much.
We came here as dishwashers and miners, working in the mines of Wyoming and Utah in the 1800s; we came here as laborers and waiters and eventually owned diners and businesses. Today our people are top in academia and science. Our people run some of the biggest corporations; Chase, Dow and many others. We have famous athletes, actors and singers. We offered our country so much in many fields and in public service as well.
A CIA Director, George Tenet; the first Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, a Supreme Commander of NATO and now a university president James Stavridis. Members of the Senate and Congress. Greek Americans who came close to the Presidency on multiple occasions. One day we will make one of ours, president of the United States!
Sadly though, in the last 50 years I noticed a decline in the organized groups of our Omogenia, our community. Our Federations and a lot of our local organizations, our somatia are threatened with extinction. They cannot attract our youth, our amazing young professionals. We have not managed to change our ways.
Our church, the only organized institution we have in our country unfortunately is diminishing. Membership is declining, our Greek schools are shutting down. Without institutions and organized groups a community eventually disappears. We are facing existential threats as a community.
In these 50 years, we have seen the decline of Greece and Cyprus. The amazing people in these two countries unfortunately allowed people to lead them, many of which were not leaders, but opportunists, if not worse.
Because of them and because of Turkey, a chauvinist (xenophobic) aggressive neighbor, Cyprus and Greece are facing existential threats. Why is our Church and other organized groups diminishing and how can we help them reverse this?
Why don’t we have more influence in DC, when the Jewish -American community and others have shown us that it is possible?
Why aren’t we organized to help our youth with internships, scholarships, to send them to Cyprus and Greece by the thousands for their birthright? Why aren’t we capable of helping Greece and Cyprus in more meaningful ways?
Why do we only have 10 Greek Charter schools when the Turks have 150?
Who is trying to help create jobs in Cyprus and Greece in a meaningful and successful way? And it is possible! I can go on and on.
I know deep in my heart that we can do all these things and do them well. We can do all these things if we organize and work together. If we create professional institutions. We can do all of these things if we recognize that our “Achilles Heel” as a people, is our desire to do things as individuals and sometimes collectively but on a voluntary basis. Unfortunately, although we achieved certain things this way, we did not achieve the optimum and what will help us survive and thrive as Hellenes in the Diaspora.
The Jews recognized this many years ago, and decided to hire professionals to lead them in these affairs. They donated and continue to donate a lot of money to organize AJC, AIPAC and many other institutions. Professional institutions with thousands of employees. AJC alone has 2500; 29 offices here and abroad with an $80 million annual budget. These institutions enabled them to become such a powerful community, with influence in Washington and many other world capitals. They enable the Jewish Americans to thrive as a community because they have institutions that enable them to collectively discuss their issues, network and work together for their common good.
Dear friends, it’s very easy to say how much we love Greece and Cyprus and our community. We can sing our love for Greece and Cyprus from the four corners of the world. At some point though, the need for real and helpful actions becomes necessary. Theories and wishful thinking are not enough to correct our non-involvement and past mistakes for the common good.
Five years ago, we founded HALC, The Hellenic American Leadership Council. A professional organization run by paid professionals to address some of our community’s challenges.
In five years with only four people on the staff and some volunteers, with amazing members, Greek professionals, doctors, academics, lawyers, judges, entrepreneurs, with 60,000 followers on Facebook, HALC became one of the most effective Greek organizations in our country. Thank you HALC members!!!!
I’m happy to report that this next generation has accepted the challenge. HALC has achieved much in five years. For the first time our community can send letters to Congress and the President in the tens of thousands. We have a close, continuous relationship with AJC, AIPAC, the Armenians, African American organizations, and with the Kurdish community.
HALC and AJC created the Greek-Israeli Caucus in Washington. Blocked the sale of naval frigates to Turkey. Influenced Congress to take other measures in support of Greece and Cyprus. HALC works with think tanks in DC, Chicago and NY, and with universities on Hellenic issues.
HALC members are trained to hold fundraisers for members of Congress in their own states providing us with more influence. More of our youth will be able to work in DC with members of Congress and perhaps the Federal government.
In two weeks, thanks to our members, friends on Facebook and other social media, we raised $235,000 for SOS Greek Village, an orphanage in Greece. Thank you HALC members, followers and friends.
We created internships in DC, Chicago, NY and elsewhere. We sent young people to Cyprus and Greece. I do not believe that all these achievements could have been made in such a short time, without HALC’s exceptional organization, without the support and dedication of our amazing members – the future leaders of our community and our followers. Thank you Endy Zemenides!
Members of HALC in their thirties and forties have emerged as leaders we can be proud of. HALC is now launching an investment in an even younger generation.
This year HALC began leadership 2030 where young Greek Americans from around the country will experience an intense two-year fellowship. Once every two months, these young people go through an intensive all-day seminar. They travel to DC annually, write articles and engage in social media, have private dinners with academics and leadership experts. They are in continuous contact with their HALC mentors. By the end of 2017, there will be Leadership 2030 Fellows in Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Baltimore and California.
By 2030, hundreds of Hellenes will have gone through this program. They will have a common point of reference. They will have knowledge, experience, connections. Most importantly, they will have each other. And we will have gained a powerful force; hundreds of Hellenes in their 30s and 40s who are ready to lead the Diaspora, help Greece and Cyprus, and train the next generation for decades to come.
We can do it. We are the people who came here with nothing, but our values, our ethos, philotimo, and the desire to work very hard, to get an education and do better in life.
We can do it once we recognize that no matter how high we climb in our profession, or our business, other people have helped us. Our parents, our teachers, our villages, our country, our friends etc.
Knowing that, it is our obligation to help in each and every way we can. SELFLESSLY. We cannot take money with us when we pass. But believe me, the $10, $100, $1000, whatever the amount, helps our community create institutions and professional organizations and is a very worthy cause.
This is the only way it can be done. And we can do it.
We are the people that gave our knowledge in science philosophy, democracy, drama, mathematics, and art to the world. We are the people who kept the Persian invaders out of Europe. We are the only people along with the Russians that fought the Germans on our soil.
Winston Churchill praised us by saying Greeks do not fight like heroes but heroes fight like Greeks.
We are the people who said OXI. (NO to Mussolini)
We are the people that although few in numbers, have many Nobel Laureates.
We are the people that when we unite, we can achieve miracles.
Nothing is impossible. Everything is possible when we believe in it and work hard for it.
“Our Country needs love and sometimes love is not enough to be just wishful thinking. Love needs a lot of work. And it needs patient and you have to bestubborn and work methodical”.
A friend sent me a poem written by Odysseas Elytis:
There is only one swallow
so precious is the spring
to bring back the Sun
takes a lot of work
it takes the dead, at the wheels
in numbers by the thousands
and blood from the living.