New York.- By Vicki J Yiannias
When Dr. John Brademas said, in his remarks at the September 11 reception hosted by Consul General Katherine Bouras at the Greek Consulate in New York in honor of Mrs. Benaki, President of the Hellenic Parliament, “I recall my Greek-born father telling me when I was a child, “We Greeks invented democracy; some of us should practice it” there was a surge of affectionate applause.
There was even greater crowd reaction when the charismatic President Emeritus of New York University and Former Member of the United States House of Representatives related an anecdote about a television program in Athens that he and Representative Paul Sarbanes were asked to do following their trip to Cyprus after the Turkish armed forces invaded the island. “The moderator was speaking in English then turned to Paul Sarbanes and started speaking in Greek — both Paul’s parents were born in Greece — and then he turned to me and I said something like this, as I remember, ‘O Pateras mou einai Kalamatianos, alla i mitera mou then einai Ellinida kai then katalaveno polla Ellinika, alla eimai Ellin stin psyche.’” Dr. Brademas keeps a bronze bust of his father in his offices in the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center of New York University Foundation, of which he is President.
His illustrious service in Congress and the Presidency of the largest private university in the world, New York University, were Brademas’s first two careers. Now he is entering a third career, his own ”principal project”, The John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress at New York University, devoted to the study of Congress as a policymaking institution.
His point in saying that The Center “is for the study of Congress as a policymaking institution”, said Brademas, is that in a separation of power system like that of the United States, unlike in a parliamentary system, Congress has great powers when it comes to making national policy. “Senators and Congressmen can, if they know what they’re doing, and the political stars are right, without picking up the telephone to call the White House . . . write the laws of the land . . . and I did. Many of our colleagues did. But with 100 members of the Senate and 435 members of the House of Representatives, and without the party discipline characteristic of European parties, it is very difficult, even for informed Americans like those in this room, to understand the operation of the Congress of the United States . . . even . . . I have observed, it might be difficult for some Presidents to understand the Congress of the United States! Therefore, what I seek to do is to bring to New York University, Presidents, Senators, Representatives, current and former Democrats and Republicans — this will not be a partisan activity — Congressional staffers, the Executive Branch officials, Parliamentarians that are present from other countries, and scholars, to discuss the processes by which the Congress of the United States makes policy, and important issues of policy.”
Dr. Brademas announced the Center’s official launch event, The First Annual Bernard and Irene Schwartz Lecture on Congress, held at the Library of Congress on September 15, where he kept his non-partisan promise, bringing together a Republican, Indiana Senator Richard G. Luger, and a Democrat, Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes, to reflect on the current state of politics and how the nation’s “First Branch” — the United States Congress — plays a critical role in shaping the nation’s domestic and foreign policies.
Dr. Brademas, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, who remembers saying in grade school, “My ancestors were Plato and Socrates, who were yours?” was the first native-born American of Greek descent elected to Congress — the highest-ranking Greek American who ever served in America’s national legislature — served as United States Representative in Congress from Indiana’s Third District for twenty-two years (1959-81), the last four as House Majority Whip, has shown his loyalty to his father’s homeland throughout his prolific career, one case being his dedication to the Greek position on the Cyprus issue, for which he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Cyprus Foundation of America, in 2000.
Dr. Brademas’s list of credits occupy a list of rare length, even for a public figure. Here are just three: in Congress in 1965, Brademas rightfully became the darling of the art world when he co-sponsored the legislation creating the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) and the Humanities (NEH); he was chief House author of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Act of 1974, which assured ownership by the Federal Government of the tapes and papers of the Nixon Presidency. He was chief House sponsor of numerous vitally important Acts, two being the Education for All Handicapped Children Act and the Environmental Education Act.
Some among many of his Greek-related awards and titles through the years are: Member of the Board of Directors of the Alexander Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA), and the Society for the Preservation of the Greek Heritage, and was a founder of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, in Thessaloniki, Greece. He is an Archon of the Order of Saint Andrew, received the Order of Saint Barnabas from Archbishop Makarios, President of the Republic of Cyprus (1975), and the City of Athens Medal of Honor. He was named a Grand Commander of the Holy Sepulchre, a High Knight Commander of Honor (Order of the Phoenix), and received an honorary degree from the University of Athens.
Dr. Brademas was born in Mishawaka, Indiana, in 1927 and has been married to Mary Ellen Brademas, M.D., since 1977. Dr. Brademas is a faculty member of the Department of Dermatology at the NYU School of Medicine and has a private practice.