WASHINGTON, DC — Colleagues, family, and friends came together to commemorate the 30th anniversary of American Hellenic Institute (AHI) President Nick Larigakis’s leadership and accomplishments at the Institute. The celebratory event hosted by the AHI Board of Directors was held at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner, Va., October 27, 2017.
Among the dignitaries who offered congratulatory remarks and testimonials to Larigakis’s three decades of work were: His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America; Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Haris Lalacos, Andreas Nikolaides, deputy chief of Mission, Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Washington; AHI Founder Eugene Rossides, and AHEPA Executive Director Basil N. Mossaidis.
“Tonight, we celebrate 30 years of a man’s leadership and accomplishments,” AHI Board Member and Master of Ceremonies James Marketos said. “To be sure, 30 years at any one place these days is no mean achievement just by itself. But we’re not here just to celebrate his longevity at AHI.”
Marketos continued, “Nick is the public face of AHI. He knows the issues thoroughly. He’s a forceful advocate. He’s built alliances across the Greek-American spectrum and beyond it.”
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, conveyed congratulatory greetings on behalf of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
“All these things we have been doing by drafting resolutions, drafting critical positions…and AHI has been doing that when there was a need for Greece… As the Archdiocese of America, and as the Ecumenical Patriarchy, we declare our deep gratitude for what AHI has been doing for 30 years, its beyond words what has been done,” Archbishop Demetrios said.
Moreover, Ambassador Lalacos and Deputy Chief of Mission Nikolaides each shared congratulatory greetings from the heads of their respective governments, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, respectively.
“And a very good example of this [strength of Greece’s Omogenia] is the American Hellenic institute. We heard about the limited resources and certainly the very limited clerical human resources the institute has, however it is very well known to all of you. What some of you may not know is the extent of the impact and the recognition that the American Hellenic institute enjoys in Greece,” Ambassador Lalacos said.
Nikolaides said, “But at difficult times, the fact that we had AHI and its unwavering support, it meant a lot for us [the people of Cyprus].”
AHI Founder Rossides spoke to Larigakis’s dedication to AHI’s mission and the cause: “Talking about a guy that is there all the time, day in and day out, thinking about our issues and working every way he can to promote them; You don’t find that often. He is a man with integrity and movement up on the Hill and movement in the Congress, movement in the State Department and at the White House; he has become a respected member of the Washington policy establishment and that is not easy to do but he’s done it. He’s built the organization and the building and the people there to some degree we didn’t have before. I want to say, ‘Thank you, Nick,’ and ‘God bless you.’”
Furthermore, in his remarks, AHEPA Executive Director Mossaidis extended congratulatory greetings from Supreme President Carl Hollister. Mossaidis stated there is no one more “tenacious” on the issues than Larigakis. “…the continuity you have provided the AHI for the last 30 years has been spot on when it comes to the message so for that I applaud you and all your hard work you have done,” Mossaidis said.
In addition, Marketos read several congratulatory messages and greetings, including from: Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff; U.S. Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis’s Congressional Record entry to mark the anniversary; U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, Rhode Island State Senator Lou Raptakis, who provided a Rhode Island Senate Citation that congratulated Larigakis; B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, R. Barbara Gitenstein, Ph.D., president, The College of New Jersey, which is Larigakis’s alma mater; and The Philadelphia Phillies.
“Mr. Larigakis is a leading voice for Hellenism in [the] United States,” Admiral Apostolakis wrote. “He promotes the relationship between the United States and Greece, and he regularly engages with policymakers in the administration and Congress through letters, testimony, and meetings advocating the importance of Greece as a geopolitical and strategic asset to NATO and as a staunch ally of the United States.”
Congressman Bilirakis wrote: “I congratulate Mr. Larigakis on reaching this important milestone in his career and thank him for his outstanding service, which has benefited our country, Greece, Cyprus and Hellenes worldwide while helping to preserve our rich cultural heritage… Throughout his remarkable career, Mr. Larigakis has left behind a passion for perpetuating the cornerstones of Hellenism: justice and democracy. Axios.”
“Yours has been a strong, clear, and effective voice on behalf of the shared values and strategic interests of Greece, Cyprus and the United States. As important, you have the respect of so many in the world of diplomacy, in government, in think tanks, and especially in your community,” B’nai B’rith International CEO Mariaschin wrote.
Congresswoman Tsongas wrote: “Throughout your tenure you have been an exceptional advocate on behalf of the Greek-American community demonstrated by your unwavering commitment to strengthening U.S. relations with Greece.”
“The Philadelphia Phillies organization is very appreciative of your support throughout the years. Thanks to your inspiration, creativity, and leadership, “Greek Heritage Night” is annually one of our most successful promotions on the calendar,” David Buck, executive vice president, Philadelphia Phillies, wrote.
Also, in a formal, handwritten note, Dr. Gitenstein wrote: “Your work for this important organization is both meaningful and compelling…Your work has clearly been important and integral in U.S. foreign policy with Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey.”
Remarks from the Audience
The speaking program featured an “open mic” opportunity for colleagues, family, and friends to offer off-the-cuff congratulatory remarks. Among those who did were: Larry Michael, “Voice of the Redskins;” AHI Board Treasurer and Volunteer Legal Counsel Nickolas G. Karambelas, Esq., Hellenic News of America Publisher and Hermes Expo Founder Paul Kotrotsios, who presented a montage of photographs that captured Larigakis’s 30 years at AHI; Colonel Panagiotis Kavidopoulos, defense attaché, Embassy of Greece in Washington; Dean Sirigos, American Community Schools; Professor Polyvia Parara, Department of Classics, University of Maryland; and AHI-Athens Member George Mermelas. Larigakis’s brother, Constantine; and his daughter, Panayiota, also provided emotional, heartfelt remarks.
Michael said: “I think most people in this [football broadcasting] culture work so hard maybe they overlook the most important things, which is their heritage, and their faith, and really the reasons they were put on this earth, and I really believe that’s true. Through my relationship with Nick, I think I’ve really stayed connected to some of the things, with my parents gone I was telling Father Steve, I don’t speak enough Greek these days because I have no one to speak Greek with, except with my friend Nick…He will be my friend for life, and there’s not a lot of people I can say that about, but I can say that about that man right there—he’s got a heart of gold.”
Karambelas spoke about Larigakis’s accomplishments at AHI: “There are three very important things [that Larigakis has accomplished]. He has established, very uniquely, the political presence in the American political sphere, and in the Greek and in the Cypriot spheres, this is very unique; he can travel easily in each of those spheres for the benefit always of the interest of the United states. Second, he has established us as a think tank. The project done by Gregory Graves, the putting together of the original source material going back to the 70s, that is organized and now available to researchers, is a magnificent achievement. It doesn’t exist anywhere else. Thirdly… is what he has done for the youth. These Greek-Cypriot policy programs…these programs are working, learning ventures—meeting with political people and government.”
Kotrotsios added: “I admire him. I love him. I support him. And we do need many Nick Larigakises in the United States of America and in Greece because if we have many Nick Larigakises, we are going to be better off.”
Mermelas said: “Today, I am here in Washington to honor a fantastic person, who is a strong advocate regarding Greek American issues for the last thirty years. This [United States-Greece] relationship is the strongest it has ever been. I am of course speaking about a strong advocate, who raised the awareness of Souda Bay Naval Base in the context of Greek-American relations, a person which I know exceptionally well, and someone who has honored me with his friendship for the last twenty-five years, Nick Larigakis. Continue your hard work, Nick, we are with you.”
Larigakis’s daughter, Panayiota, spoke emotionally about her father: “People in Greece, when I go to Greece they say, ‘Oh you are Nick Larigakis’ daughter,’ and I take pride in that…You have made such a difference in so many people’s lives, including mine. I thank you for being there for me, for supporting me, for everything.”
Larigakis’s brother, Constantine, spoke about his effectiveness: “My brother is very passionate about Greek issues…It’s my brother who really delivers the message, and he just believes in the Greek American issues, he’s very passionate. The amazing thing is I can’t tell you how many congressmen tell me how educated he is on the eastern Mediterranean. There was a senator once that really didn’t even know Souda Bay existed… and it was up to my brother to educate him and that’s what he continues to do.”
The American Hellenic Institute is an independent non-profit Greek American public policy center and think tank that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.