Immediate Past Supreme President George G Horiates was awarded the first-ever Defender of Hellenism Award.
On Saturday, November 20, 2021, members of the AHEPA family and their friends came from around the world to historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to honor one of its own, its immediate Past President, George Horiates. The venue was Philadelphia’s famed Franklin Institute, with its iconic dome with the National Memorial of Benjamin Franklin front and center. AHEPANS, Daughters of Penelope, Maids of Athena, and Sons of Pericles came from all over America and the world to participate in the festivities.
Philadelphia was indeed the center of Hellenism on this beautiful evening. They came from Canada, London, Brussels, Greece, and Boston to Atlanta from Denver to New York. The Past President used the opportunity to raise funds for AHEPA’s more wondrous works for its future generations, raising well over $100,000 as chapters and individuals donated to the cause and reveled in the electric atmosphere.
The overpacked crowd was treated to a reception in the heart and electricity areas of the Franklin Institute, using the opportunity to experience the Institute’s world-famed museum areas. After that, the crowd was seated in the unique and decidedly Hellenic Institute rotunda, itself an homage to the philhellenic sentiments of the great Ben Franklin, a founding father of the United States and perhaps Philadelphia’s most extraordinary ambassador. Inside, the crowd was awash in Hellenic blue, which bathed the dome as the centerpiece dramatic 20-foot high marble statue of Benjamin Franklin, the United States Congress’ official memorial to this philhellene, was lit up in white and dimmed in yellow as the program began.
The national anthems of the United States and Greece were performed by Kaliope Karapalides, reverberating off the facility’s marble Greek columns. His Grace Bishop Apostolos not only provided the invocation but spoke of AHEPA as the leading organization for Greeks in the diaspora worldwide, noting it is not by accident that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and AHEPA both will be celebrating their centennials in the following year. The master of ceremonies, Demetrios Rozanitis, noted the significance of the City of Brotherly Love. He paid tribute to the recently and dearly departed Nicholas Karabots, a significant contributor to the Institute with its Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion to his left.
Heartfelt remarks were made by AHEPA Camden Chapter’s president Cosmas Diamantis and the chair of the event, Stathis Karadonis. Karadonis spoke glowingly of AHEPA as the authentic leading voice of Hellenism, noting how others have been taking the leading of AHEPA, particularly under the leadership of George Horiates, and stated we must continue to be ever vigilant in Hellenic causes. Last year’s counterpart to the honoree came from Calgary, Canada. Past Grand President Celia Kachmarski’s address on the issues faced by the family during covid lockdowns was heartfelt as the two hugged like family members often do, with love and admiration for each other. The AHEPA Board of Trustees Chair and himself a past president, Nicholas Karacostas, was next. He also noted the program’s tribute to AHEPA was because “in addition to his church and Icarian society, we are fortunate George has lent his passion and talents to AHEPA.” This year’s Daughters of Penelope Grand President Kathy Bizoukas also provided her remarks, thanking George and AHEPA for their passion. Bizoukas also advocated for Hellenic causes, including understanding that indeed women and the Daughters of Penelope play a crucial role as many world leaders and elected representatives are women.
Consul General of Greece Konstantinos Koutras spoke next. Her Excellency Alexandra Papadopoulos, Ambassador of Greece to the United States, thanked AHEPA under the leadership of the honoree for its efforts and spoke of her time and unique bonds with the local community in Philadelphia. His Excellency Marios Lyssiotis, the Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States, also said of the AHEPA provided under George and continues to provide on our issues. Koutras noted George’s work ethic and how amazing AHEPA and the Philadelphia community have been over the years in support of causes with George at the helm, stopping to take a photo with the honoree, the MC, and the event chair.
US Congressman Donald Norcross played the video message, AHEPA chapter 69, representing the First Congressional District of New Jersey. He noted that AHEPA protects American interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, and he was proud to take an active role in that regard along with AHEPA. Lee Millas presented on behalf of District 5’s past district governor’s, recalling his remarks to the delegates at the Chicago convention of AHEPA over two years ago that with George “to expect the unexpected” and congratulating the honoree for a job well done.
A slew of other A-list presenters came forward. Amongst them were the Honorable Georgia Athanasopulos, Consul General to Panama. A resident of the City and no stranger to AHEPA, she welcomed the attendees to the next day’s festivities for Panama Day, noting Greece and Panama are the only two countries sharing a bicentennial this year. She then turned to George Horiates and Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas at the dais. She pledged her assistance to the reconstituting of the AHEPA chapter of Panama to a rousing ovation. Cathy Pandeladis, Supreme President of the Pan Icarian Brotherhood of America, presented a check for $10,000 from its foundation to AHEPA, earmarked for the Canadair Maintenance vehicles under the wildfire relief program. She noted that all societies should consider supporting AHEPA as “AHEPA ensures the cause of Greece is the cause for all of us.”
A fitting tribute by members of the Sons of Pericles and Maids of Athena Supreme Lodges seemed to overwhelm the honoree. The Sons of Pericles Supreme Lodge, led by Dino Giallourakis, announced Past Supreme President Horiates, a staunch supporter of the Sons, as a lifetime Sons of Pericles member with a unique pin for the occasion. Grand President of the Maids Maria Ana Pantelous noted Mr. Horiates as their role model for years and called him “Meraki Mou.”
The evening program’s crescendo was the remarks of AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas. On behalf of all of the members, the Supreme President bestowed AHEPA’s first-ever “Defender of Hellenism Award” to George in front of a stunned crowd. Arousing ovation ensued as the Supreme President noted AHEPA’s continuing obligation to defend Hellenism. The Supreme President reiterated George’s insistence that AHEPA continues to be influential with world leaders on protecting Hellenism as the leader of track two diplomacies. The two shared a smile and a hug as they posed together in the blue and white atmosphere.
Finally, the crowd stood again roaring in approval as George lifted the award for all to see. He noted Ben Franklin stated, “Our cause is the cause of all mankind…we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.” A thank you to the Supreme President, and a crowd-pleasing Eagles football team cheer followed all speakers, attendees, family, and sponsors. As the packed house applauded, Ben Franklin looked down and smiled approvingly.