AHIF Holds 2nd Annual Conference on Future of Hellenism in America

Participants call for more active engagement of Greek Americans in the community

Dr. John Brademas, President Emeritus of New York University
WASHINGTON, DC – On October 18, 2003, the American Hellenic Institute Foundation held its 2nd Annual Conference on "The Future of Hellenism in America" at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. The conference featured prominent speakers from the fields of the academia, journalism and the private sector, who identified key challenges facing the Greek American community today.

The speakers were: Dr. Dan Georgakas, Director of the Greek American Studies Project at the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College, John Metaxas, Esq., Producer at the CNBC, Aristotelis A. Chronis, Esq., Business Development Director of Special Counsel, Inc and Co-founder of DC Greeks.com, Gene Rossides, President of the American Hellenic Institute Foundation and Emmanuel "Manny" Rouvelas, Esq., Chairman of Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP. The panel was chaired by James Marketos, Esq., Chairman of the American Hellenic Institute. The Conference ended with the luncheon address by Dr. John Brademas, President Emeritus of New York University.

Dr. Dan Georgakas gave a very insightful presentation of the situation of the Modern Greek studies programs in the U.S. and identified the challenges that the Greek American academic community is currently facing. Dr. Georgakas identified Greek American scholarship as "motherless discipline" that depends on the area of specialization of each instructor and stressed that there is not "a functioning Greek American academic community but there are only freelancers." Dr. Georgakas addressed the central question of where do Greek Americans fit in Hellenism and elaborated on the relationship between Greeks and Greek Americans. He concluded his presentation with a positive acknowledgement of the powerful position that many Greek-Americans are in and urged them to strengthen their Hellenic side.

Dr. John Brademas, President Emeritus of New York University, long time AHI supporter and benefactor Mr. James Lagos, and Dr. Spiros Makris, former Supreme President of the Order of AHEPA
Mr. John Metaxas touched on the importance of engaging the American media and presented the issue from his standpoint as a Greek American journalist. Mr. Metaxas shared some of the dilemmas he faced during his career and mentioned examples where he tried to maintain his objectivity as a journalist but at the same time honor his Hellenic heritage. He reiterated the importance of shaping public consciousness through reference to historical events and stressed the importance of knowing well Greek history in order to promote Hellenism. Mr. Metaxas concluded his speech by naming the American Hellenic Institute as a leading organization in dealing with the issues facing the Greek American community today.

Mr. Aristotelis Chronis focused on the importance of engaging the youth to be active participants of Hellenism and spoke from personal experience as a Greek American who went through all major fora for socialization into Hellenism, such as Greek school, church and college. Mr. Chronis stressed the need for engaging the youth not out of obligation but of
genuine Hellenic interest. With this in mind, he talked about the creation of the DC Greeks.com, an internet community that he co-founded with his brother Themis, whose main purpose is to engage Greek youth in Hellenism.

Mr. Gene Rossides stressed the need for more active involvement of the Greek American community in American politics, through more active participation in the political process with elected officials and candidates and through financial contributions to candidates and political parties. Mr. Rossides reiterated the American Hellenic Institute’s role in strengthening U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus and support of the rule of law and human rights in foreign policy decisions as in the best interests of the U.S.

Mr. Gene Rossides, President of the American Hellenic Institute Foundation

Mr. Manny Rouvelas, in his speech "Engaging Greek American Professionals," identified the problem of social disengagement from the community as a broader social phenomenon but he stressed that Hellenic identity can provide the solution, "due to its variety and richness." Mr. Rouvelas stressed that "we define Hellenism very narrowly; we confine it with everything being Greek" while the idea of Hellenism is much broader and represents a
certain process of thinking that involves the notion of choice to engage in the community. Thus the key issue is to provide the incentives for professionals to engage, not do it out of obligation.

During the discussion period the audience had
the opportunity to ask questions which ranged in scope from the relationship between Greek Americans and Greece to the role of the Greek Orthodox Church.

During his luncheon address, Dr. John Brademas provided an overview of the achievements that Greek Americans have accomplished in various areas of the American political, economic and social spheres and made insightful suggestions of how to enhance the educational ties between the U.S. and Greece. He suggested the advancement of programs on Hellenic Studies in various universities, support more cultural events that promote Greek artists and the establishment of endowments and chairs on Hellenic Studies in prominent universities.

Benefactors who helped make the AHIF's conference possible include: Peter G. Angelos (Baltimore, MD); Nicholas Bouras (Summit, NJ); Dr. James Faller (Wilmington, DE), Elias P. Gyftopoulos (Lincoln, MA); James and Nike Lagos (Springfield, OH); James S. Nicholas (East Grand Rapids, MI); James Pedas (Washington, DC); Theodore Pedas (Washington, DC); Gene Rossides (Washington, DC.)

Digital photographs from the 2nd Annual AHIF's conference on The Future of Hellenism in America are available upon request. Please contact Angeliki Vassiliou at (202) 785-8430 or at angeliki@ahiworld.org for additional information on the conference. For general information about AHI, please visit our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.