Washington, D.C..- By Catherine Tsounis
“Today, we honor Ambassador Alexandros Mallias, a man who has created history in Washington, D.C.,” stated Mrs. Stella Kokolis, President of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators, SAE – USA Region. “He is responsible for creating the education events at the Capitol in 2008 and 2009. Without his support, we would not be here. We wish him well in his next diplomatic mission, since this is his last day in Washington, D.C.”
“The Federation of Hellenic American Educators under the auspices of SAE-USA (World Council For Hellenes Abroad) Region and the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C. presented the 2nd annual event on “The Ecumenical, Humanistic and Diachronic Values of the Greek Culture and Education” on Thursday morning, June 4th at the Cannon Building of the Capitol, Washington, D.C. Nancy Biska, representing Mariyana Spyropoulos, was Mistress of Ceremonies. Greetings were delivered by U.S. Congressman John Sarbanes and representatives from Congressional leaders Carolyn Maloney, Gus Bilirakis and Tina Titus. Closing remarks were made by Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis.
The honorees of the “Capitol 2009 Award” included: His Excellency, Alexandroʼs Malias, Ambassador of Greece to the United States; Honorable U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, Assistant Majority Leader; Honorable U.S. Senator John F. Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; Marcus Alexander Templar, Balkan Expert and Dr. George Melikokis, Principal of Jamaica Greek American Day School.
Student presentations were made by the following schools: The Hellenic School of Potomac, Maryland, Ancient Greek from Isokratesʼ “Evagora”, Andreas Nicolaou, Yiannis Philipopoulos, George Seferis “Helen”, Irene Frantzis; St. Athanasios, Paramus, New Jersey, Recitation of “The Philikonʼs Oath”, Stelios Kostopoulos; The Choir of the Odyssey Charter School, Wilmington, Delaware, performance of traditional Greek songs by Theodorakis, Hadjidakis and Leontis.
“Today, we honor His Excellency, Ambassador Alexandros Mallias, the Hon. Senator John F. Kerry and Hon. U.S. Senator Richard Durbin for their efforts to establish world peace and an understanding between countries in sensitive regions such as the Balkans,” said Nancy Biska. “The presence of all honors our Hellenic heritage, democratic values and ideas. Our efforts keep Hellenism alive for the younger generations.” Senator John Sarbanes believes “our youth must learn and strife for excellence that leads to personal success. Give back to your own community, strengthening institutions for the next generation. Take Hellenic values and use them for the larger community.”
Ambassador Alexandros Mallias, is of Arcadian descent, from the city of Megalopolis in the Pelopponese. He explained his mother “was an educator for thirty-seven years, in a time of political and economic upheavals. Educators were unappreciated. I firmly believe in Socratesʼ philosophy that you are all Hellenes. Not only a person born in Greece, is a Hellene one who is educated in Greek education. My Odyssey has ended. I am going back to my Ithaca.”
We are now celebrating the Sixty-Fifth Anniversary of D-Day. Ambassador Mallias revealed a little known fact about WWII. “Over two thousand Greek seamen lost their lives in WWII. Greece has always had a joint commitment for Liberty and Justice.” He revealed that the Federalist Papers were an analysis of the Greek Polis. Reading Aristotle, Democritus and Greek philosophers will add to our knowledge of the economy. His final farewell was saying “it was a great honor to serve my country in Washington, D. C. and follow in t he footsteps of former ambassadors.”
Vassiliki Filiotis, President of Prometheus Greek Teachers Association, said “in the Capitol where all the elected officials of the United States preside, Greek songs were heard. Greek civilization is spreading among Americans. Greek culture not only gives knowledge but ethics. Tomorrow, the youth will be complete citizens to rule American society as businessmen, politicians, professionals and involved citizens.” Antonios Marmarinos, Greek Education Counselor for Embassy of Greece, Washington, D.C., who is originally from the Greek Diaspora of South Africa, added “diversity is the key of Hellenism.”
Dr. George Melikokis explained his deep appreciation of being selected “the 2009 Teacher of the Capitol in the greatest building of the world. The greater the honor, the shorter the speech.” Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis delivered the closing remarks saying he “learned Greek at home. I did not have the opportunity to go to Greek School. I went to Greece every summer and tried to speak Greek as a native. My home state of Rhode Island passed a bill to continue the Greek Language in our Rhode Island University for mainstream America.
The Choir of the Odyssey Charter School of Wilmington Delaware represented mainstream American society. January Nardo, a parent whose daughter, Carli, sang in the choir, said she “remembered her uncle Denny Pandalakis and the memory of her aunt Mary Pandalakis when her daughter speaks and sings Greek.” Mr. Kostopoulos, a Greek-American businessman from Paramus, New Jersey, believes “our children are our future. I felt deep emotion listening to the Odyssey School Choir and my son, Steliosʼ recitation in Greek.”