12th Athens Awards Dinner Held, Draws Largest Crowd Ever
Washington, DC — A delegation from the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) successfully completed the organization’s annual leadership trip to Greece and Cyprus where it held substantive meetings with high-ranking government officials with the purpose of strengthening relations and addressing issues of mutual concern. The 10-day trip occurred May 4 to 12, 2016.
“We had a very productive series of high-visibility meetings in Greece and Cyprus,” President Nick Larigakis said. “We accomplished the objectives we set out to achieve, and the briefings we received on issues of importance to the Greek American community were insightful and informative. We thank all of the leaders who took the time to meet with us to discuss these very important issues.”
AHI Works to Address Many Issues Facing Cyprus
The AHI delegation received multiple briefings from Cypriot and American officials on the status of settlement talks for Cyprus under UN auspices; Cyprus’ efforts to explore for hydrocarbon reserves in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and on Cypriot commerce and tourism sectors. All throughout the delegation’s meetings in Cyprus, AHI was commended for its past advocacy and current steadfast efforts to keep the Cyprus issue highly visible with key policymakers in the Obama administration and in the U.S. Congress.
During its stay in Cyprus, May 5 and 6, the delegation met with U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus Kathleen Doherty, President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulidis, President of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou, Minister of Defense Christoforos Fokaides, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, Ambassador Andreas Mavroyiannis, the chief negotiator for the current settlement talks; and Fotis Fotiou, commissioner to the Presidency for Humanitarian Affairs and Overseas Cypriots.
The AHI delegation also met with Espen Barthe Eide, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General on Cyprus.
“Our meetings provided us with a candid assessment of the current state of the settlement talks and other developments in the eastern Mediterranean,” Larigakis said. “AHI believes the United States must exert pressure on Turkey as the biggest problem in the effort to solve the Cyprus issue is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan`s behavior.”
Greece: PM Tsipras, President Pavlopoulos, Amb. Pearce, Meetings Top Agenda
Meetings with Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Alexis Tsipras and President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, U.S. Ambassador to Greece David Pearce, and extensive briefings with foreign ministry and Department of Defense officials, were highlights of the delegation’s itinerary in Greece from May 7 to 11, 2016. The itinerary included the 12th Annual AHI Athens Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner at the Grand Bretagne Hotel, May 11, which drew a record number of attendees at more than 400 persons.
“Our meetings covered a broad range of issue topics, including Greece’s economic crisis, the Cyprus issue, and Greece’s relations in the Balkans and with Turkey,” Larigakis said. “We also explored ways in which the Greek American community can strengthen cooperation and enhance relations between Greece and the United States.”
The delegation met with Ambassador Pearce and Prime Minister Tsipras on May 9. Also on that day, AHI met with: Government Spokesperson Olga Gerovasili, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, and Minister of State Nikos Pappas, prior to the latter’s departure to the United States. The delegation’s audience with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos was held May 11. In addition, meetings with high-level ministry officials were held with: Deputy Foreign Minister Ioannis Amanatidis, May 10; Ambassador Dimitris Alexandrakis, director, A7 Directorate for North America, May 11; Ambassador Ioannis Papameletiou, acting director, A2 Directorate for Cyprus, May 10; Ambassador Dimitris Chronopoulos, A4 Directorate for Turkey, May 10; and Director General of the Secretariat for Greeks Abroad Michalis Kokkinos, May 10. In addition, the delegation met with members of the Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Parliament, May 10; and Governor of the Bank of Greece, Yannis Stournaras, May 11.
AHI Hosts 12th Athens Awards Dinner
The Twelfth Annual AHI-Athens Hellenic Heritage Achievement and National Public Service Awards Dinner was held May 11, The Grande Bretagne. Ambassador Pearce offered greetings. Honorees were: Dennys Plessas Leonidis, vice president, Business Development Initiatives, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics/International; and Fulbright Foundation—Greece. Videos profiling the honorees and Lockheed Martin’s involvement in Greece for half century were shown to a record 406 AHI friends and supporters who attended.
AHI President Nick Larigakis provided opening remarks. He highlighted the objectives of AHI’s annual trip to Greece and Cyprus and updated the audience with regard to how AHI programs are successful in keeping the Greek American community’s policy issues at the forefront of policymakers in Washington as well as how AHIP programs help to promote Hellenic heritage and support the Greek American community.
In acceptance, Leonidis acknowledged his employer, Lockheed Martin and his colleagues, and having the good fortunate to work from Greece and his volunteer charitable work with “Doctors of the World.” He also took the opportunity to commend the resiliency of the Greek people and to state that he shares the honor with the Hellenic Armed Forces, “who with personal sacrifice defend the Greek skies, the Aegean Seas and the Greek land and are the true successors of ‘Icarus and Daedalus.’”
Leonidis said, “It is events such as this that help reaffirm common democratic ideals between Greece and the United States. We all know the challenges that Greece is facing with regards to immigration, the economy and terrorism. Greece and Greek people demonstrate incredible resiliency and a deep commitment to our shared values of freedom, democracy, family and friendship for years to come. This is what demonstrates our character of perseverance and courage. For these reasons Greece deserves the support of the United States and Europe.”
In acceptance on behalf of the Fulbright Foundation—Greece, Executive Director Artemis A. Zenetou credited Fulbright being about teamwork and collaborations. As such, she stated the award belongs to U.S. Ambassador David Pearce, who actively supports Fulbright; the Greek and U.S. members of the Board of Directors, to the Fulbright team, which is its staff members; and to the “more than 5,000 Fulbright alumni in Greece and in the U.S. who represent academic excellence, scholarship and 68 solid years of educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Greece.” She also presented the audience with the background and history of Fulbright in Greece and how it is evolving to respond to a changing landscape and to address current and future needs in education.
She stated, “In response to today’s environment, Fulbright increased the number of grants for short-term scholarship programs that have an immediate impact in Greece and enhance collaborations between Greek and U.S. educational institutions.” Zenetou added that this academic year, the Foundation awarded 66 scholarships evenly distributed between U.S. and Greek grantees representing a diverse range of academic disciplines and educational institutions in Greece and the United States.
In remarks, Ambassador Pearce congratulated the honorees and commended AHI for hosting a “wonderful celebration for Greece, for the United States, and for our enduring friendship.” He also reflected upon his three years as American ambassador to Greece, noting a strong U.S.-Greece relationship and the generosity of the Greek people and the Greek American community, “After three years, I can happily say that our relationship as defense allies and friends is as strong as ever. Greece needs allies, and friends, now, perhaps more than ever. I have seen how the Greek people have suffered under the tremendous weight of the economic crisis and the migrant crisis. But, when I see the remarkable generosity of Greeks and Greek-Americans, helping their neighbors and total strangers through this time of crisis, I feel optimistic about the future of Greece. It is a true testament to the generosity of spirit, the natural ‘philotimo’, which exists both here in Greece and among the diaspora community.”
Olga Bournozi of Capital Link served exceptionally as Master of Ceremonies. Ilias Malevitis, president, AHI-Greece; George C. Economou, president, AHI-Athens Chapter; Panagiotis Madamopoulos-Moraris, director of Development; and AHI Members Katerina Papathanassiou and Sylvia Gavalla contributed to the dinner’s success as did AHI Member George Mermelas, who provided public relations support and guidance.
Also, AHI President Nick Larigakis made a special presentation to former Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos P. Panagopoulos. Larigakis presented Ambassador Panagopoulos with a public service award for his efforts as ambassador to the U.S. to foster a stronger bond between the people of Greece and the people of the United States. In accepting the award, the ambassador was very moved as he thanked the organization.
Dignitaries in attendance included: Government Spokesperson and Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister Olga Gerovasili, who officially represented Prime Minister Tsipras; Minister of Interior Panagiotis Kouroumplis, Vice Admiral George Giakoumakis, chief, Hellenic Navy General Staff; Lt. General Christos Vaitsis, chief, Hellenic Air Force General Staff; Lt. General Ilias Leontaris, commander, 1st Hellenic Army and the Hellenic European Union Operations Command HQs, who officially represented Lt. General Vasileios Tellidis, chief, Hellenic Army General Staff; Deputy Foreign Minister Demetris Mardas, Alternate Minister of Defense Dimitrios Vitsas, Adonis Georgiadis, vice president, Nea Demokratia, who officially represented Kyriakos Mitsotakis; Vasilios Leventis, president, Union of Centrist Party; Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos, former Greek ambassador to the U.S.; AHEPA Supreme President John Galanis, Michael Kokkinos, head, General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; George Michelis, chairman, Hellenic Financial Stability Fund; and and many other business, cultural, government and political leaders.
“We congratulate our honorees and commend them for their excellence in their respective sector of industry and their contributions to society,” Larigakis said. “We are delighted this special event, now in its twelfth year, has grown to new heights. We would like to thank the AHI-Athens Chapter for its hard work as well as to our generous benefactors and sponsors.”
Benefactors: Lockheed Martin and SigmaPharm Laboratories, LLC.
President’s Circle: Dole Hellas, Ltd., and Constantine and Sophia Galanis, Mexico City, Mexico.
Chairman’s Circle: Aeroservices, G.C. Economou and Associates, Athens; Gus Andy (La Mer Beachfront Inn, Cape May, N.J.), Interoperability Systems International; James H. Lagos, Springfield, Ohio; Jim and Ted Pedas, Washington, D.C.
Sponsors: Agora Trading, A.S. Papadimitriou & Partners Law Firm, Aris Drivas Yachting, Athens; Greek Dream, Inc.; Kapotas S.A.; Karipidis Brothers, Symeon G. Tsomokos S.A.; Ted & Erika Spyropoulos Foundation, Chicago; George Tsetsekos, Ph.D., Philadelphia, PA.
Supporters: Theodors Vakrinos and Helen Abadzi, Virginia; Emvatis S.A.; Apella S.A.; Hotel Grande Bretagne; Theon Sensors; Itracom Defense Electronics.
AHI Delegation Participants
On the trip, AHI President Nick Larigakis was accompanied by AHI Board Member Leon Andris and AHI Legislative Director Georgea Polizos. AHI Foundation Board Member Gus Andy joined the group in Cyprus only, AHI board members Kostas Alexakis and Dr. George Tsetsekos and AHI-New Jersey representative Constantine Larigakis joined the delegation in Greece only.
The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American think tank and public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.