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“A great tree has fallen”…
That was the phrase South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa used from his native language upon announcing the news that George Bizos, a Greek immigrant and champion for human rights who was also Nelson Mandela’s lawyer and friend, had died. The same exact phrase came to my mind when I was informed about Senator Paul (Panayotis) S. Sarbanes’ passing. “A great tree has fallen”, one that like the centuries- old olive trees in Laconia, from where the Sarbanes family hails from, produced fruits galore and sheltered many, especially from Maryland’s poorer areas, under its imposing shadow.
Paul Sarbanes was a modern giant, for the Greek American community and the country. He lived a full life, not only in terms of length but also of the accomplishments and the efforts he undertook the many years that he served as a legislator in both houses of Congress. His name is already synonymous with the American Statesman, as it should be, a measure of integrity, ethics, hard work and hope that things can always become better.
He was also a champion of Greece’s and Cyprus’ causes in Congress, leading the way even when not many were eager to follow. His work on that front, starting with the brutal Turkish invasion in Cyprus, was monumental.
I had the honor to meet and talk to Senator Sarbanes numerous times over the years and he always imparted his wisdom generously. He also attended one of NEO’s earliest events in Manhattan and, since, each time I would see him, he would ask me “how the magazine is doing”. And each time I thanked him for his interest in the project, as I’m doing once more now.
“A great tree has fallen” this December, but its memory, contribution and impact will always remain erect, becoming a beacon that lights up the night and helps straying boats to avoid hitting the rocks…
Our cover this time is George Petrocheilos, a young entrepreneur, who at 28, has already accomplished what would take others the better part of their lives. I met George at Johns Hopkins when I went to a Greek student event. I was immediately impressed by his qualities, his wit, his character, his ability to connect with people and the fact that, like me, he doesn’t mince his words. We kept in touch and today I’m proudly happy to share his story and accomplishments with you. And I’m sure that we will see much more in the future from this uneasy and brilliant fellow…
And since it’s the season to be jolly, Merry Christmas to all! Thanks in abundance to our supporters, past and new ones, who despite the gloom and uncertainty of our Covid times, showed up and made this issue possible. Enjoy with your families and people you love and Have a beautiful, Covid free New Year!