Bethesda, MD.- By Yvonne Montesantos
A truly remarkable Celebration of the 186th Anniversary of the Greek Independence was held on Sunday, March 25, 2007, at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church, in Bethesda, Maryland. The Hellenic Society Prometheas & The Hellenic Organizations of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area all worked in synergy to accomplish a truly unforgettable evening, highlighted by the keynote speaker; Dr. George Babiniotis, distinguished professor of linguistics at the University of Athens, president of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture; president of the University of Athens (2000-2006). Dr. Babiniotis is synonymous with the substantive book, “Elliniki Glossa”, one of the most popular books for the incremental learning of Greek vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. It is a must read, and the 2006 edition is now out, in softcover. The brilliant Keynote Address was delivered in Greek with a summary in English, by the esteemed Dr. George Babiniotis. Besides being known throughout the world for his renowned Dictionary; Professor Babiniotis is the President of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, which serves as a beacon of reference for the Greek language and its teaching abroad. His Hellenic Foundations for Culture are world-wide, with educational initiatives, lectures, workshops, and seminars for Greek language teachers. Branches of the Hellenic Foundations for Culture can be found around the world.
Through the able leadership of Mr. Lefteris Karmiris; President of the Hellenic Society PROMETHEAS, the tremendous synergistic efforts led by Prometheas, made this- a most memorable evening. Due to Prometheas’ leadership, Greek Independence Day is celebrated as a community-wide event in the Washington, D.C. area. All Hellenic regional, professional, academic and student organizations participate actively, making the celebration the largest and most important event of the year. Prometheas President, Mr. Lefteris Karmiris spoke of the need for cooperation for all to succeed in the cause of Hellenism- and of the importance of passing this torch on to the next generation; this enthusiasm for the ideals of Hellenic culture. With this synergy and cooperative spirit of excellence and virtue (arete) found in Hellenic ideals; a masterful Program was presented in honor of the Celebration of March 25th, 1821. In his keynote address, Dr. Babiniotis spoke of the National Identity and National Awareness derived from the Hellenic Language, Culture, and time honored traditions. As depicted in the famous work of art, “The Secret School” by Nikolaos Gyzis, and set to prose by Ioannis Polemis; Dr. Babiniotis spoke of the major role the Church initially played in the enlightenment of children of the epoch, in teaching the Greek language. From these “secret schools”, the public schools sprang forth- in order to perpetuate the Greek language even further. Children walked to school in the dark of night.
Dr. Babiniotis also accented the major role of the “Teacher of the Nation” – “Language as National Identity”: Adamantios Korais, whose “philogenesis”(love of the origins of culture and language) gave way to the fluidity of the Greek language, and its applied forms. Also, the substantive cultural and historical development that has evolved, has made the Hellenic culture a forerunner in human rights. Professor Babiniotis closed his inspiring remarks with the following exhortation; “E glossa kai ta matia sas”- (Your language is like your eyes.)