Washington, DC—On March 14, 2009, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) honored a distinguished set of Greek Americans at its 34th Anniversary Hellenic Heritage and National Public Service Awards Dinner, held at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. Linked by their important career achievements and by their contributions to the Greek American community and the community at-large, this yearʼs honorees were:
Cat Cora, acclaimed chef, philanthropist and author
Dr. George P. Tsetsekos, Dean of the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University
George Pelecanos, renowned crime novelist
U.S. Congressman Gus M. Bilirakis, of the 9th Congressional District of Florida (R-FL)
John G. Rangos, Sr., philanthropist and successful businessman
The master of ceremonies for the evening was, George Stephanopoulos, ABC News Chief Washington correspondent and anchor of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
These individualsʼ many accomplishments were celebrated throughout the evening, and also highlighted in congratulatory letters submitted to AHI by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandros P. Mallias, Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States Andreas S. Kakouris, World Council of Hellenes Abroad USA Region President Ted G. Spyropoulos, and International Coordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus President Philip Christopher (letter excerpts follow this press release).
Opening the eveningʼs program was AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis. The Marines of Headquarters Battalion presented the colors and the American and Greek national anthems were performed by Elena Stavrakas. Father Constantinos Pavlakos, of Saint Katherine Greek Orthodox Church, Falls Church, VA, offered the invocation. Music was provided by the band Apollonia.
American Hellenic Institute Secretary of the Board of Directors, Nicholas G. Karambelas, Esq. introduced the master of ceremonies, George Stephanopoulos.
AHI Founder Gene Rossides then welcomed the eveningʼs guests. He also introduced and congratulated his successor, the newly elected AHI President, Aleco Haralambides.
THE EVENINGʼS HONOREES
The first award recipient of the evening was George Pelecanos, who was presented with the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his literary achievements and excellence in his profession. In his acceptance remarks, George Pelecanos spoke about his pride in being Greek American.
“To me Greek American means a rich culture of tradition, family, work ethic, the pleasure of good friends, good food, good drink, and our faith. We are known for being proud. Some might say overly proud; of our heritage, our relatively rapid progress, and success here in America. And to that I say; we have a right to be!”
Dr. George Tsetsekos received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his outstanding achievements, and innovation strategies in education. Upon receiving his award, Mr. Tstsekos said,
“Itʼs always wonderful to be recognized for professional achievements, but being recognized by an organization connected to my heritage is something very special to me. Today it is estimated that more than three thousand academics of Hellenic heritage are involved in education and various roles at universities across the United States. They are part of the intellectual fabric of this great country. The Greek ideals of freedom and democracy provided the foundation upon which the West was built. It is in these challenging times it is with honor and distinction that Greek American faculties exemplify our Hellenic ideals in continuing the path of our ancestors to enrich the lives of generations to come.”
Cat Cora received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for her dedicated philanthropy, achievements and excellence in her profession. She spoke about the influence and importance that her Hellenic heritage has made in her life and profession.
“I am very humbled by this honor for doing simply what I love. And that is showing my passion as a Greek American to the world through food, wine, and teaching. I especially want to say how proud I am of the tireless work of the AHI in upholding the rule of law and matters of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in our nationʼs response in dealing with Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, and all of Southeastern Europe. They continue to inform and influence leaders, policy makers and citizens like myself.” She thanked AHI for its work in promoting our history, our heritage, and our future.
Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) was the recipient of the Hellenic Heritage National Public Service Award for his commitment to public service and his support in strengthening U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus.
“As a member of Congress I feel that it is especially incumbent upon me to do all I can within my power to uphold the rule of law, in matters of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in our nationʼs dealings with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, the articulated mission of AHI.”
John G. Rangos, Sr., received the Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his outstanding business achievements, dedicated philanthropy, and generous support of education and the Greek American community. Mr. Rangos spoke about the strength of the upcoming Greek American generations, the importance of upholding the values and faith of the Hellenic heritage and the need to educate the world on Modern Greek history.
“We have so much to work for because we are the Sheppardʼs of tomorrow and we must work hard in these stormy waters of today with what strengths we have in these upcoming generations of Hellenes. They are some of the most prosperous, best educated, and have the desire to be successful. We have the goals of our Church and the strengths of our families to accomplish anything in the world…We had a Thermopoly in World War II, and todayʼs Greek American great writers, and people that make movies, should have these truths publicized all the time.”
Special guests attending the event included: Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandros Mallias and Mrs. Mallias, Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States Andreas Kakouris and Mrs. Kakouris, former U.S. Ambassador to Greece Tom Miller and Bonnie Miller, two former U.S. Deputy Chief of Missions from the U.S. Embassy in Athens Tom Countryman and Mike Cleverly, and former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Patrick Theros.
Other notable guests attending the dinner were: Basil Mossaides, Executive Director, Order of AHEPA; two former Supreme Presidents of AHEPA, John T. Pappas and Frank Manios; Maria Stamoulas, President, Hellenic American Womenʼs Council; Manny Velivasakis, President, Hellenic American National Council and President Pan Cretan Association of America; Demetrios Kontolios, President, Chios Societies of America and Canada; Panos Spiliakos, past President of the Pan-Macedonian Association; Dr. George Moutsatsos, President, AHI-Delaware Chapter, Tina Papadopoulos, President, AHI-New England Chapter; Mariyana Spyropoulos, President, AHI-Chicago Chapter; Paul Sogotis, President, AHI-California Chapter; Congressman Zack and Mary Space (D-OH); Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD); John Sitilides, Chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Center Southeast Europe Project; Athena Katsoulos, Deputy Director for European and Eurasian Public Affairs, Department of State; Terry Netos, Cyprus Desk Officer, Department of State; David Horner and Mrs. Horner, new President of the American College of Greece; and three AHI members that travelled from Athens, Greece to attend the event, Aris Drivas, Constantine Poulios and Katharine Papathanassiou.
Notable members of the Press attending the dinner were: Helen Thomas, Dean of the White House Press Corps.; Art Demopoulos, Publisher, Odyssey Magazine; Greg Pappas, Publisher, Greek America Magazine; Paul Kotrotsios, Publisher, Hellenic News of America, Philadelphia; Apostolos Zoupaniotis, Publisher, Greek News; Vicki Liviakis, former MC and Anchor/Reporter for KRON TV San Francisco; Fosene Phillips, Managing Editor, The Hellenic Journal, San Francisco; Demetrios Rhompotis, Publisher, NEO Magazine; Evan Lambrou, Editor, English Edition of the National Herald; George Bistis, Director, Greek Service, Voice of America; George Moshos, Executive Producer, Radio Olympus; and George Mermelas, Co-Owner of the 24/7 Radio Program in Florida, “Greek Voice Radio.”
Former AHI honorees at the dinner included: Mrs. Marylin Rouvelas, Dr. Christine Warnke, Reverend John Tavlarides, Dean, Saint Sophia Cathedral, Washington, D.C., Dr. John Brademas, President Emeritus, NYU, Kathryn Porter, Human Rights Activist, and Thalia Assuras, CBS News Correspondent.
Greek Embassy Dinner in Honor of AHI
The weekendʼs events were kicked off with an elegant dinner at the Greek Embassy on Friday, March 13, 2009, hosted by Ambassador Alexandros Mallias and Mrs. Mallias in honor of AHI for its significant contributions to strengthening ties between Greece and the U.S. This event was a tremendous success, attended by the maximum possible guests of 100 persons.
Breakfast and Presentation by CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras
On the morning of March 14, 2009, AHI hosted a breakfast and presentation at the Capital Hilton featuring CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras. Her presentation revolved around her life as a broadcast journalist, her Greek heritage, and the challenges one is faced with reporting on Greek issues. Her presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session with audience.
Thalia Assuras has been a CBS News correspondent since 1997, reporting for a variety of CBS News broadcasts. She has filed numerous international stories, including reports from Iraq, where she covered the U.S. military action following the fall of Saddam Hussein and was one of the first television journalists to report live from Tikrit only hours after his capture. She also covered the aftermath of the deadly earthquake in Bam, Iran and the Kosovo refugee crisis in Albania. Thalia Assuras has also covered a wide range of domestic stories, including the 9/11 attacks in New York, the Elian Gonzalez controversy and Hurricane Floyd, and has interviewed world leaders ranging from President Bill Clinton to the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.