The Greek-American community represents an “unshakable bond” that will always bind the two countries together, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told a Joint Session of Congress on his recent visit to Washington.
His historical address to American lawmakers was followed by a dinner organized in his honor by 11 organizations of the Greek diaspora, at which the prime minister bestowed awards on 12 Greek Americans in recognition of their “significant contributions, not only to their homeland, the United States, but also to Greece.”
“Today, Greece is a vibrant democracy with a thriving economy. A country that has managed to overcome a very painful economic crisis. A country that offers hope to its young people again,” he said.
“Probably the most encouraging thing that is happening in Greece today is the fact that many young people who left the country during the crisis have decided to return to Greece. They do so not just because we offer more employment opportunities. Unemployment has been significantly reduced over the past years. Investment has accelerated in the country. There are good jobs in Greece. But no one decides to take their family back to the homeland unless they feel confident that the long-term trajectory of the country is moving in a positive direction. And this is exactly, I believe, how Greeks feel about Greece today,” Mitsotakis said.
Stressing that the awards are “only the beginning,” as there are many more Greek Americans who deserve recognition, “tonight,” he told the gathering, is “not about Greece. It’s about you. It’s about honoring the Greek-American community.”
“I was so moved when I spoke today in Congress, when I looked up at the galleries and saw so many of you feeling proud about my presence, feeling proud about Greece,” said the prime minister.
Here are the recipients and the awards:
Commander of the Order of the Phoenix
A lawyer with a BA from DePaul University, an MA from the University of Essex in the UK and a JD from the Georgetown University Law Center who practiced in Chicago for more than a decade, Endy Zemenides is the executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC). Hailed as one of the most active and effective advocates of Hellenic causes among the younger generation of Greek American, he enjoys strong relations with members of the US administration, Congress and think tanks, and has decisively upgraded the influence of the Greek-American lobby in the US. He builds bridges between communities and has formed close alliances with American-Jewish and American-Armenian organizations to the benefit of shared pursuits and interests. He also led the effort to adopt the EastMed Act and the US-Greece Defense and Interparliamentary Partnership Act. Dynamic and tireless, Zemenides also has a strong public voice, writing extensively in both the American and Greek press, while he encourages and engages young Greek Americans, cultivating future Hellenic leaders.
GEORGE D. BEHRAKIS
Grand Commander of the Order of the Phoenix
The man who gave us Tylenol, among other important medicines, George Behrakis excelled in the pharmaceutical industry. Hailing from the proud region of Mani in the southeastern Peloponnese and born into the historic Greek immigrant community of Lowell, Massachusetts, his philanthropic work is significant. His most recent donation of $25 million allowed the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to designate a wing highlighting Greek antiquities, while the $125 million he gave to his alma mater, Northeastern University, helped it improve and upgrade its infrastructure. His lasting legacy at Northeastern includes the stunning Behrakis Health Sciences Center. Behrakis has also supported many Greek-related causes and provided scholarships to a large number of Greek students studying at American universities. An advocate of the Greek language, he also sponsors the Hellenic American Academy, the only Greek school in New England.
Commander of the Order of the Phoenix
Angelo Tsakopoulos left his village in Arcadia in the Peloponnese at the age of 14 and headed to California, where he got his first job as a farmworker, before going on to establish one of Northern California’s largest land development companies. In 2006, his hometown newspaper described Tsakopoulos as “the most significant force to shape Sacramento since John Sutter,” referring to the man who started the Gold Rush. Dedicated to higher education and Hellenism, Tsakopoulos and his family have donated land for three Greek churches, four major hospitals and a private university. They have endowed chairs at six American universities, including Stanford, Georgetown and Columbia. A friend to American presidents, senators and speakers, he has provided counsel and support to generations of civic leaders, and is the father of California’s first female lieutenant governor, Eleni Kounalakis.
Officer of the Order of Beneficence
Multitalented and multifaceted, Marina Hatsopoulos studied mathematics and music at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She founded Z Corporation, one of the world’s first 3D printing companies, in the early 1990s and is regarded as one of the most acknowledged business personalities in the world. Today, she heads the board of Levitronix Technologies and manages Cynosure Inc. With a unique professional trajectory in setting up and guiding companies, Hatsopoulos also played a leading role in the founding and operation of the Hellenic Innovation Network, spending many hours of her valuable time, pro bono, assisting the efforts of Greek startups. She actively supports entrepreneurship and innovation in Greece and provides assistance to the effort to attract investments in Greece. Her career in business and investment is an example to be emulated for dozens of young entrepreneurs seeking to transform innovation ideas into internationally competitive and marketable products.
FATHER ALEXANDER KARLOUTSOS
Officer of the Order of the Phoenix (accepted by Michael Karloutsos)
The man everyone knows simply as “Father Alex” has faithfully served the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America for nearly 50 years. During this tenure, he has successfully cultivated the Greek Orthodox Church’s relationships with the US administration, Congress, Greek- American organizations and other churches. A confidant of Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios and the closest collaborator of consecutive archbishops, starting with Archbishop Iakovos, Father Alex is highly esteemed by the Greek-American community, as well by US leaderships past and present. He also advocates for all issues important to Hellenism, while working tirelessly for the preservation and enhancement of Greek values and culture in the Greek-American youth. He has also contributed like few others in promoting and strengthening the role of the Greek-American community in the American political and business arena.
THE ORDER OF AHEPA
Grand Commander of the Order of the Phoenix (accepted by AHEPA Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas)
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) celebrates 100 years of service to the Greek-American community and to Hellenic causes this year. Founded to counter the bias and discrimination experienced by Greek immigrants and help them integrate into the mainstream of American society, over the years, especially as the status of Greek immigrants improved, AHEPA broadened its mission to advance education, philanthropy, social responsibility and public service, while also advocating equality. It has also done important work in cultivating and preserving the Greek heritage in America. With 400 chapters throughout the US, Canada, Australia and Europe, and more members than any other Greek-American organization, AHEPA is an integral part of the Greek diaspora communities and an influential grassroots organization that is respected not only by those of Greek heritage but also by the broader American public. Over the past 100 years, AHEPA has been at the forefront of fighting for Hellenic causes, the rights of the Greek immigrants and their descendants, and preserving Greek culture for future generations of the diaspora.
DR GEORGE PAVLAKIS
Officer of the Order of the Phoenix
With an MD from the University of Athens and a PhD from Syracuse University, Dr Pavlakis is an internationally recognized biomedical researcher at the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. His work has led to new and innovative drugs and vaccines using the technologies of genetic engineering, and his discoveries have been incorporated in many therapeutic products and modern vaccines, including coronavirus vaccines. His work on virology, immunology and immunotherapy has led to more than 250 scientific publications and more than 80 patents. He is also engaged with the community as a concerned citizen, and is active in disseminating valid scientific information to the general public.
Knight of the Order of the Phoenix
Internationally acclaimed Greek-American photographer Constantine Manos is a member of Magnum Photos, the world’s most prestigious photographic agency. His work is on a par with that of such photography masters as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Josef Koudelka. His photographs are included in the permanent collections of institutions suchas the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and the Benaki Museum in Athens. A proud Greek, Manos has systematically promoted and highlighted Greece throughout his artistic career. His most characteristic work, the “Greek Portfolio,” a pictorial account of his travels through the country, especially rural Greece and the Greek islands, captures the evolving essence of the Greek people, the land, and culture in the 1960s. He is also recognized for his contribution to the promotion of human rights and the struggle against racism, most notably through work that has highlighted racial discrimination in the South, and documented the abhorrent acts of the Ku Klux Klan, the oppression of African Americans and the events of the Civil Rights Movement.
Grand Commander of the Order of the Phoenix (accepted by Dr George Kallins)
Gus Bilirakis – the son of the well-respected former congressman Michael Bilirakis – has been a member of the US House of Representatives since 2007. He is the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues and the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, of which he is also the co-founder. A consistent and ardent supporter of Hellenic causes in the US Congress, Bilirakis is a respected consensus builder who has mobilized members from both sides of the aisle to support Hellenic and Orthodox causes.
DR KATHERINE FLEMING
Commander of the Order of Beneficence (accepted by Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras)
Represented by Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, Dr Katherine Fleming was awarded the Commander of the Order of Beneficence for her work as an accomplished academic leader and an internationally recognized scholar with a passion for Greece, a passion she will take to her new position as president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Provost of New York University since 2016, Fleming is the Alexander S. Onassis Professor of Hellenic Culture and Civilization. She specializes in modern Greece, the Balkans and the Mediterranean, has received a number of awards and authored many books, most recently “Greece: a Jewish History.” She has collaborated with the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris and with the University of Piraeus in Greece. She is an influential figure in American academia, is fluent in Greek, and has become a naturalized Greek citizen.
Commander of the Order of the Phoenix (accepted by Consul General of Greece in San Francisco Socrates Sourvinos)
The co-founder of the Marcus & Millichap company, and founder and chairman of Essex Property Trust, as well as other successful ventures, George Marcus is an active philanthropist who has used his considerable talents and resources to support Hellenic causes and the Greek-American community. He is the founder of the National Hellenic Society and provides scholarships to Greek-American students. He is particularly keen on preserving the close bond between the Greek-American youth and their fathers’ homeland, the traditions, the values and the importance of Greece.
SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE
Grand Commander of the Order of Beneficence (accepted by Consul General of Greece in Boston Stratos Efthymiou)
Of Spartan origin, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine is one of the most prominent and noted political figures in America. A graduate of the Greek Orthodox Academy of St Basil in New York, Senator Snowe has a long and active presence in US politics. She was a leading female figure in the Republican Party, with an uninterrupted presence in Congress of 35 years. In 18 years as senator and 17 years as a member of the House of Representatives, she never lost an election. Known for her unique ability to work successfully with her Democratic colleagues, and to make key contributions toward establishing majorities for crucial American policy legislation, she systematically advocated for women’s rights and the rights of LGBTQI communities and contributed to the promotion of Hellenic causes and has worked tirelessly to promote good relations between Greece and the US.