New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
“The mission is tough, but in order to avoid the abyss all healthy forces have to stand up and demand the cleaning up of the country”, Andreas Dracopoulos – co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation – said, accepting the Person of the Year Award, of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce.
Nancy Papaioannou, President of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce called Andreas Dracopoulos “a man with philotimo” and told the audience that he was honored “in recognition of his achievements and inspired leadership as co-president of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and specifically in regard to the support and relief effort of our beloved homeland, Greece”.
The entire net proceeds of the event will be donated to the Hellenic Relief Fund, “an organization dedicated to providing humanitarian support to those in Greece who have and are suffering during the current economic crisis”, Nancy Papaioannou announced during the dinner.
Many prominent Greek American business leaders attended the event, which also had a strong presence of young professionals. Also present were the Consul Generals of Greece and Cyprus, George Iliopoulos and Vassilios Philippou.
Although he clarified that the Foundation does not get involved in policy making and “we do not try to ‘replace’ anyone or anything”, Andreas Dracopoulos made a strong appeal to all Greeks, including those of the Diaspora.
“In order for Greece to come out of this extreme crisis, its governments, together with its people must realize that the every-day mentality has to change and start rebuilding the basis for efficient collaborations across the board. Greece has to show the world that as it did in the past, the country can once again lead by example. Greece should aim for creating a true social welfare society where all the healthy forces from all sectors of the country will be allowed to take the lead to ‘clean up’ and fix a country where the majority of its proud people are suffocating, paying the price for Greece’s exploitation by some minority groups, an exploitation that has been going on for most of the country’s modern history.”
Citing a Japanese proverb that says that “vision with no action is day-dreaming, whereas action with no vision is a nightmare”, he pointed out that in the case of Greece, it seems that we are in a no vision, no action state of paralysis; in an on-going nightmarish abyss.
“I do hope, and actually I want to believe that there is indeed hope”, Dracopoulos added.
Speaking about the severe socioeconomic crisis that has hit Greece, he said that the crisis is now in real danger of becoming the ‘norm’, destroying dreams and real livelihoods, not only for one, but for many generations to come.
“The issues that Greece is dealing with are well known to all of us, given the wide media coverage in the last few years, and especially during this latest rather surreal chapter that took place in the summer, when it all came very close for Greece to exit the Euro, Europe, etc. Apparently this was the dream and mission of some, hopefully and apparently a small minority. At the same time, apparently it came too close to becoming a reality, a reality which in my mind would take Greece to a nightmarish scenario. Hopefully this has been averted, at least for the time being, but a lot of damage has been done already.”
Andreas Dracopoulos provided information to the audience on the rich philanthropic work of the Niarchos Foundation/
“We at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation have tried to contribute as much as we can in Greece, and we continue to do so. For the last 20 years we have been actively engaging in grant making activities that hopefully have contributed to socioeconomic improvements across the board. Our three additional initiatives, in the last 3 years, of about 370m to help alleviate the effects of the crisis, together with the imminent completion of our 815m Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, are major pieces of this effort. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, a unique public-private partnership endeavor, will be delivered and fully donated to the Greek people in 2016 and it includes the new homes for the National Library and the National Opera House of Greece, surrounded by a 40+acre green park. We are very proud of the end result but equally proud of the process of building this project over the last few years, a process that provided work to almost 13,000 workers, a project that is expected, according to an earlier study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which is available online at our website, to help contribute significant job opportunities and have an overall positive economic effect.”
Dracopoulos challenged others to follow Niarchos Foundation paradigm and help Greece.
“We want to believe that there are others, the known others with a lot of means, who can also step in and help, especially during this on-going severe socioeconomic crisis which is disintegrating the social fabric of the Greek society in so many ways. If not now when?”.
He added that we all as Hellenes carry a huge responsibility to our ancestors, our children and to a large extent, to the whole world, “not to rest on the laurels of our ancestors, and the responsibility to work hard and in a moral way, in order to help provide our children with a better tomorrow.”.
Describing the Greek Diaspora an extension of the motherland, he reminded all to be fully aware of our obligations.
“There is no room left for more day-dreaming, but just for quick and efficient action.”
Introducing Andreas Dracopoulos, Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis, a senior advisor at the board of directors of the Niarchos Foundation, presented the honoree.
“Thanks to Andreas I realized that it takes courage to be committed to the welfare of others. Society as a whole doesn’t seem to understand how much need there is in its midst. Many of us are inclined to blame the government, the others or even God for poverty, disease or disaster. Few of us realize how much the mankind has contributed to such disaster through greed, or even worst apathy.
He added, “Andreas is not just another Greek. He is a Greek with filotimo. He loves his country and he feels a lot of pain when things turn sour, as is the case during the past five years. Andreas saw the needs from the beginning of the crisis but unlike most of our fellow Greeks back home he didn’t pass to the other to the other side of the road. Instead he took his enthusiasm, his persuasiveness and even his frustration to change things. This is the reason he has elevated the handling of the negative effects of the Greek socioeconomic crisis as the top priority of our foundation. In this context the board decided to dedicate during the past three years 378 million dollars, in addition to our normal annual grant-making to help the neediest of our sympatriotes weather the crisis.
Ambassador Kaskarelis said that in honoring Andreas Dracopoulos we acknowledge at the same time how essential the work of Stavros Niarchos Foundation is.
Goethe said “dream no small dream for they have no power to move the hearts of men. Andreas strongly believes in that. He believes in the obligation to dream big dreams for the Foundation and its work, our homeland Greece, the mission we love, the communities we live in and the work that we will pass on. He is among the few that make philanthropy his first priority. He firmly believes that if in what we do we fail to move the hearts of men, fail to inspire something to happen that wouldn’t otherwise happen, create the attainable from the unattainable, then we have not taken full advantage of the potential that we all possess, to do good.
The President of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce Nancy Papaioannou said that watching few months ago a Greek short film “The Greek Secret of Philotimo”, what stroked here most was the words of Mr. Dracopoulos.
“Philotimo….a whole sense of duty, something that has to be inspired, even if you have to pay a heavy price, you still do what you have to do act on it, all of us in order to inspire other individuals…..”
Nancy Papaioannou praised Dracopoulos’ sense of compassion and commitment, underlining that under his guidance and direction the Stavros Niarchos Foundation has been made an organization to inspire others.
Speaking about the Chamber, she said she is determined under her presidency to build on the spirit of compassion as well as to bring the Chamber to new levels, following its remarkable history and tradition for nearly 7 decades.
“Throughout the year, the Chamber hosts some very significant and high quality events such as the annual shipping conference, which we co-host with the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce, as well as events for real estate professionals, and the engineering, design and construction industries. Additionally, the Chamber organized the New York CIty Greek Film Festival, which is celebrating its ninth year.”.
Stelios Taketzis, board member of the Hellenic Relief Foundation thanked the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce for their contribution to the organizations efforts to help needy people in Greece.
“5 years of recession, over 60% youth unemployment, over 25% unemployment among the general population and a state depleted of resources. Many wonder how on earth is this society functioning?
He said the answer is in this room.
“Big institutions and foundations such as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the private sector such as the businesses represented in the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce and grass roots volunteer – based organizations such as the Hellenic Relief Foundation, all working together, creating a network that acts as a safety net and prevents society from collapsing”.
Mr Taketzis explained the work of the HRF and their main effort to preserve the dignity of those in need.