New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Very few people in the Greek American Community have worked so close with former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes who passed away on Sunday, December 6, at the age of 87. Aside his confidant Peter Maroudas, the other two people are Coordinated Effort of Hellenes Chairman Andrew Manatos and the President of PSEKA Philip Christopher.
Philip Christopher has given many fights in Washington, pushing for legislations in Congress and trying to avert dangerous policies by the Department of State, the White House or the Pentagon. Senator Sarbanes was the advisor of our Community to succeed in these efforts.
We asked the president of PSEKA to speak aboyt Paul Sarbanes.
A: Senator Paul Sarbanes was the father of Hellenism in America. A proud son of Greek immigrants who elevated the Hellenic values and ideals, not only in the United States Congress but in the conscience of the American public. He was a proud Hellene who fought for the Hellenic ideals and he embraced those Hellenic ideals and to the American public. He often said that being a public servant was a noble profession and this is what is missing today in America. That when you are a United States Congressman or United States Senator or a public servant, you serve, not only your constituents, but the American public with those ideals.
I am so proud to have been his friend and I am so proud to have known him. And today all of us as Greek Americans mourn his passing and remember his words and his legacy.
Q: Philip, when the Turkish invasion took place, we were in our misery, fortunate enough to have two giants in the Congress, John Brademas and Paul Sarbanes. Since he have spoken extensively about late Brademas, please recall few things about Paul Sarbanes.
A: There is no question that without Congressman Paul Sarbanes at that time in 1974, along with Congressman John Brademas and with Benjamin Rosenthal of New York, we wouldn’t have done enough. They were able to articulate the rule of law and they were indeed the ones that spearheaded the embargo on Turkey. Paul Sarbanes was very well respected as a Rhodes Scholar and often along with John Brademas were referred to as the two brilliant Greeks in the United States Congress. After the invasion they visited the island of Cyprus and spent time with the refugees, bringing hope. That brought hope to the 200,000 refugees and to the Republic of Cyprus. I remember that not only did he fought for humanitarian aid to Cyprus, but politically he stood by the side of Greece and Cyprus during difficult times.
Q: He was a wise man, definitely. And I remember through all the PSEKA conferences, but even before that, how he was advising us on particular things like unity. And of course I remember another thing he was saying: You have too many fronts open, close some of them. You cannot have all the fronts open in Washington.
A: In every conference in Washington, D.C., we were starting with a strategy session with Paul Sarbanes in which he analyzed the current policy and where we stood at the time ,with issues that Greece and Cyprus were involved. We always closed our conference with him being the last speaker; again, evaluating and analyzing in a very objective and independent way where we received the truth. Senator Paul Sarbanes was not only a politician when it came to the Greek issues. He didn’t come to tell us what we wanted to hear, but he came to tell us what we had to do based on, may I say either Republican or Democratic administration.
We all know Senator Paul Sarbanes was a Democrat. He was well respected within the Republican circles. As a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, he was a towering figure in the United States Senate. So, also, may I say he was the Chairman of the Banking Committee. I am so proud as a businessman that the Act which is called Sarbanes-Oxley Act, is the Act in the United States Senate that brought common sense and regulations to the United States business; to end corruption and other things.
He was a person that was never concerned about fundraising, unlike many other politicians who are always fundraising. In all our conferences, he never once referred to fundraising or anything like that. When he retired, he had the smallest amount of money than any Senator in the United States Congress. He was always dedicated and committed to the American values and he always leaned on his Hellenic heritage and the Hellenic ideals.
Q: Finally Philip, we are losing all those giants, starting with Brademas now Sarbanes, Andrew Athens Gene Rossides, NicosMouyaris, and so on, without seeing a solution yet to the Cyprus issue.
A: It’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that 46 years have elapsed and those past 46 years I often refer to our giants, the people that fought for our cause. But, there will be other giants, other people who will pick up the torch and follow this fight and the struggle of the Cypriot people for freedom and justice. So, we continue, whether Republic or Democratic administrations, to fight for the cause. We all recognize, as Senator Sarbanes right now, that Turkey is a country of 80 million people; geo-politically, geographically and militarily it has the means and is able to to maintain the occupation. I recall from 1988, we had the hope that Governor Mike Dukakis would become President. We often spoke with Senator Sarbanes that it would take a President that has the courage, the will, and the determination to make that type of a decision to put enough pressure on Turkey with all types and any possible moves to reverse the invasion that led to the occupation of Cyprus. Unfortunately, to his point, the Greek American community has done a good job in terms of keeping the Cyprus problem alive and in the forefront for every administration to deal with, even though not a single refugee has gone back to their homes.
We are proud of the fact that the Republic of Cyprus is a member of the European Union and the ties between the United States and Greece is closer than before. And another thing to remember, Senator Paul Sarbanes always encouraged us to develop strong relationships with the American Jewish community and with Israel and I think that part of what these giants fought for are we can say that today we achieved that particular harmonyand that particular alliance between Greece, Cyprus and Israel and particularly here in the United States between the Greek American community and the American Jewish community.
*** A special tribute to Paul S. Sarbanes in pages 22-29