Key Biscayne, FL.- Leadership 100 honored Dimitris Avramopoulos with its Leadership 100 Award for Excellence at the Grand Banquet of 15th Annual Conference here for his outstanding service as Mayor of Athens, in the diplomatic service of Greece and in his current role as Minister of Tourism. In his acceptance address, Avramopoulos told the Greek Americans who gathered in record-braking numbers at the conference, “I know you, I respect you, and I love you.” He spoke of the founder of Leadership 100, the late Archbishop Iakovos, as one who excelled in his vocation and praised the Greeks of America, “who came from every corner of Greece”, for forging a family that continued their devotion to the Orthodox Church and Hellenic values, coupling it with “a burning desire to succeed” and the perpetuation of philanthropy as a “loving responsibility.”
The Minister extended a formal invitation to the Board of Trustees of Leadership 100 to meet in Greece next September and stressed the goal of establishing creative collaboration. He said Greece, as evidenced by the Olympics, was a confident country proud of its past and hopeful for the future that had a vision and plan to be the most competitive and dynamic economy in Southeastern Europe, strengthening bilateral relation with the United States and relations with Russia, Latin America and Africa. He said that “in the 21st Century there are no small or big countries, only small or big ideas.”
Leadership 100 also honored Congressman Michael Bilirakis of Florida, who is retiring after 24 years in the House of Representatives. Behrakis acknowledged the exemplary work of Bilirakis in advancing the Greek American agenda and in regarding the Greek American Community in America as his constituency along with his own constituency in Florida.
George D. Behrakis of Lowell, MA gave his inaugural speech as the new Chairman of Leadership 100, praising outgoing Chairman John Payiavlas of Warren, OH, who he said gave real purpose to Leadership 100 with his quiet determination, executive qualities and compassion. He cited the excellent programs at the conference that conveyed Hellenic values, from New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, who married into a Greek Orthodox family, and gave a Workshop on Sports and Nicholas Gage’s and his daughter Eleni’s Forum on Hellenism to the Workshop for Women by Barbara Spyridon Pope, who held high positions in the administrations of three U.S. Presidents to Leadership 100 member John Catsimatidis’ Business Forum.
John Payiavlas gave welcome remarks, saying that Leadership 100 had a bright future with Behrakis as its head and Stephen G. Yeonas of McLean, VA, as the new vice chairman.
Andrew Athens, President of the World Council of Hellenes and first Chairman of Leadership 100, who with his brother, Dr, William Athens hosted the conference, gave the Greeting, saying Leadership 100 had risen to a new level in the United States and internationally.
The Grand Banquet ended with remarks by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios. The conference, attended by more than 400 people, formally ended Sunday, February 12, with liturgy led by the Archbishop at St. Sophia Cathedral in Miami.
FORUM ON HELLENISM
Nicholas Gage, former New York Time journalist and author, and his daughter Eleni led the Forum on Hellenism at the 100 at the 15th Annual Leadership 100 Conference here. Gage the author of the widely popular ELENI, the more recent GREEK FIRE and many other books addressed the topic: “Can Orthodoxy and Hellenism Survive in the American Melting Pot?”
He pointed to the unique identity of Greeks and Greek Americans who carried the values paramount in an enlightened world, and gave Western Civilization not only the gift of democracy, but the gift of the love of life or “pursuit of happiness”. He cited the disappearance of the Greeks of Southern Italy who lived in a similar and friendly culture and were assimilated as a lesson for the Greek in America, who, he felt, must decide whether to struggle mightily to preserve their culture through monumental achievements education and religion or face the same fate.
Eleni Gage gave the perspective of women and youth, saying that mothers preserved perpetuated Orthodoxy and Hellenism but passing on the language, values and culture of their faith and heritage. The author of a new book, North of Ithaka, she spoke of her experience, recounted in the book, of returning to her father’s native village, Lia, in Epirus, Greece, to restore the ancestral home. Now living in New York and an editor at People Magazine, she said she learned that “you can go home again”, but that the essence of Hellenism was to be neither Greek nor American, but as Socrates said, “A citizen of the world”.