Washington.- The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) held its annual Capitol Hill Day on Wednesday, March 24, 2010. Approximately 40 AHEPA family members from across the United States came to Washington to fulfill their commitment to civic responsibility and to heighten awareness of issues of importance to the Greek American community.
“We had a very successful Capitol Hill Day,” Supreme President Nicholas A. Karacostas said. “We were able to grow the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, educate members of Congress about legislation or federal programs that are important to the community, and honor excellence in public service. We commend those individuals who participated and we aspire to increase participation next year.”
AHEPA held a morning reception to brief its Hill Day participants. They also received remarks from a number of champions of Greek American issues, including: U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), who co-chair the Hellenic Caucus; Zack Space (D-OH), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
“We are extremely grateful for each member of Congress taking the time out of their intense schedules to speak with us and to provide words of encouragement for our efforts,” Karacostas added.
AHEPA hosted a “Salute to Civic Responsibility” dinner at which U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH) was presented with the AHEPA-Paul E. Tsongas Public Service Award. Senator Voinovich, an AHEPA member from Chapter 480, was honored for his work to strengthen Visa Waiver Program criteria that enabled the program to expand following September 11th. He was also recognized for being viewed and admired as an “independent thinker” on Capitol Hill and for earning accolades from the Concord Coalition, an organization founded by Tsongas in 1992. In his acceptance remarks, Senator Voinovich thanked AHEPA, complimented the work of Tsongas, and commended AHEPA for its role in Greece’s VWP designation.
In addition, the audience received remarks from His Excellency Markos Kyprianou, foreign minister, Republic of Cyprus, His Excellency Vassilis Kaskarelis, ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to the U.S., and U.S. Reps. Michael McMahon (D-NY) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ). His Excellency Andreas Kakouris, ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S. also was present.
Earlier in the day, Supreme President Karacostas also presented U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking member, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, with the AHEPA-Paul E. Tsongas Public Service Award. Senator Lugar was recognized for his decades of work in the public service where he is viewed as a centrist, and for being the longest serving U.S. senator in Indiana history. The senator is also a supporter of AHEPA’s Section 202 Housing Program in Indiana. In his acceptance, Senator Lugar fondly recalled working with Senator Tsongas as a member of the Senate Banking Committee and he admired the late senator’s work. The leading Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee also spoke favorably about the recent visit of Prime Minister George Papandreou to the United States.
AHEPA Family Leaders Receive State Department Briefing
In addition to walking the Halls of Congress, AHEPA family national leaders received a thorough briefing at the U.S. Department of State on United States policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Tina S. Kaidanow provided the briefing.
During the fast-paced day, the AHEPA family delegation also attended the American Hellenic Institute’s “Salute to Greek Independence Day” Celebration held on Capitol Hill at which Supreme President Karacostas addressed the audience.