Obama and Hellenic America: Year in Review


by Ioannis Fidanakis


It’s been a year since the American people took to the streets chanting ‘Yes we can”. Ushering in the dawn of a new era of change promised to them by the charismatic Barrack Obama. When Mr. Obama assumed office last year polls showed his approval rating between 65 and 70 percent. Hellenic-America was celebrating to the sounds of “Unite the Nation” by Misa-Misa, a Hellenic-American group with 3 Sons Productions from Baltimore. A year later, however, the ‘hope’ Mr. Obama inspired is slowly fading away with an approval rating of a mere 48 percent. U.S. troops are still abroad fighting wars the majority of Americans have grown tired of during a time when our economic is in crisis. In Europe voices like Former European Parliamentarian Giulietto Chiesa mimic the disappointment in the United States. Asked by the Russia Today on Mr. Obama’s performance former MP Chiesa said, “I don’t see any changes, Obama is a wonderful speaker, but they are only speeches. When it comes to concrete deals, nothing has changed”. The career of this golden boy of the Democratic Party is now tied directly to the fate of the American economy. With political analysts expecting Democrats to lose many congressional seats the fear of huge losses looms, especially with the recent Republican victory in Massachusetts. Celina Lake, a pollster for the defeated Democrats in MA told CNN her thoughts on the Republican victory. “There is a wave here. The first shore was New Jersey and Virginia, where the Democratic governors lost. The second was Massachusetts. It’s coming to the island now and Democrats better be ready.” This nightmare situation which if blamed on the current Administration could be the nail in the coffin for Obama’s ‘revolution’.

What does this mean of Hellenic America? Well for starters it means that Mr. Obama will be less concerned with keeping his promises on foreign policy issues that are not deemed important to his political survival. It also means that he will be easily swayed by effective lobbyists who can offer him and his party cash and a united voting block. Seeing that Hellenic America lacks an effective lobby and a united voting voice this puts our national issues in a dangerous position. Leaving us to pray that our enemies, who do have an effective and aggressive lobby and a united voting block; fail to capitalize on the current political situation. Hellenic America’s best hope is that America’s current economic woes distract or force it to take a neutral position on our issues, giving the Hellenic Government plenty of breathing space to flex its diplomatic muscle to gain the upper hand on our issues.

Since Hellenic America lacks a united voice I thought it would be appropriate to given Mr. Obama a grade on his first year in office concerning Hellenic issues. Many of us held high hopes for the Obama Administration; he seemed to be on our side on every important issue from Macedonia to Cyprus, and even the Armenian Genocide. However, our hopes were dashed when Mr. Obama traveled to Turkey on April 6th, the Pan-Hellenic day of Remembrance for the Genocide of Thracian Hellenism, to strengthen relations with a nation many in the State Department view as an important strategic ally. While on his visit Mr. Obama laid a wreath at the tomb of Mustafa Kemal ‘the butcher of Anatolia’ and was quoted as saying, “I am honoured to pay tribute to his name”. Honoured to pay tribute to the very man responsible for the extermination of 1.4 to 1.7 million ethnic Hellenes from their indigenous homelands on very same day Hellenic-Americans gathered outside the United Nations to pay their respects to their ancestors who perished under Turkish cruelty.

Mr. Obama would next make a heart filled speech to the Turkish Parliament, where he carefully side-steps his campaign promises of recognizing the Armenian Genocide and directly insulted Hellenism by portraying the Hellenic forces who were asked by the Great Powers to liberated Anatolia and enforce the Treaty of Sevres as imperialist forces bent on the dismantlement of Turkey. In his speech Mr. Obama pandered to historical revisionists saying, “At the end of World War, Turkey could have succumbed to the foreign powers that were trying to claim its territory, or sought to restore an ancient empire.” How quick one forgets the Genocide survivors who were promised the right to self-determination and hailed Hellenic troops as liberators. Mr. Obama would end his trip to Turkey by failing to officially visit the leader of millions of Orthodox Christian, the Hellenic Patriarchate of Constantinople. Instead holding a private 12 minute meeting with the Patriarch in a hotel room, an insult the Pope would never have had to endure.

The next low point in Mr. Obama’s performance would come later that month when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with puppet Turkish ‘President’ Mehmet Ali Talat of Occupied Cyprus, a meeting which was held despite opposition from established Hellenic-American lobbyists like Philip Christopher and Andy Manatos. What if anything has Mr. Obama done for Hellenic America on our national Issues? For the most part he has been neutral not interfering as much as former President Bush did on Macedonia and to his credit he did remember to flatter Archbishop Demetrios on March 25th with a speech on the importance of Hellenic Americans to American society in the same old tradition of past administrations. Overall Mr. Obama’s performance on Hellenic Issues falls short of Archbishop Demetrios’ shameful brown nosing and outrageous comparisons to Megas Alexandros. Mr. Obama is no Alexander the Great, his indifference to our issues and Anti-Hellenic slips of the tongue get him a rating of a C-.

How do the established Hellenic American leaders rate Mr. Obama’s performance? Well one of my favorite Hellenic-American newspapers, Greek News, recently published an interview with Cyprus Federation President Peter Papanicolaous and PSEKA President Philip Christopher. Both oddly view Mr. Obama’s first year performance in a positive light and feel neither happy nor disappointed with his policies on Hellenic issues. Why such a bland and neutral rating by our leaders you may ask, well it’s because these two businessmen would never dare to ‘rock the boat’ or upset a political party which they are heavily invested in. The established Hellenic-American lobby thrives off our community’s indifference and would never release a statement that would not keep Hellenic-American opinion apathetic to our current state of affairs. Their indifference to Obama’s performance, Obama’s indifference to our community’s concerns, our community’s indifference to our issues, it is all apart of the same sickness that infests Hellenic America. A disease that flourishes within the establishment, whose only remedy is shot Nationalistic pride and respect for our heritage or I could be wrong. It could be just as simple as, ‘it’s bad for business’. I mean who would buy the ‘Baracko’ if our community didn’t continue believing that Mr. Obama was an enthusiastic supporter of Hellenism?

Take Alexi Giannoulias for example, the close friend of Obama and leading Democratic candidate for Obama’s senatorial seat. Marketed as the future great champion of Hellenic America, will we really witness the day when Alexi will captivate the Senate and lead to the overturning of the United States’ recognition of Skopje or better yet the Recognition of the Hellenic Genocide? Will his victory spark renewed interest in Hellenic Issues and bring an end to the illegal Turkish occupation of Cyprus or will he turn out to be a Democrat first and a Hellene second? In a recent interview with Greek News, Giannoulias evaluate Mr. Obama’s performance on Macedonia, Cyprus and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In the interview Alexi states, “From the beginning, we saw a much warmer relationship between this Administration and the Greek government than we saw during the Bush years. On the Macedonian issue, this Administration has been more supportive of the NATO position – that there must be a mutually agreed upon solution between Greece and Skopje – rather than the unilateral actions and blind support of Skopje by the Bush Administration.” However, he continues by claiming, “President Obama and Secretary Clinton have also fortunately reversed the Bush Administration’s attempt to force an unfair solution on the people of Cyprus.” I guess recognizing the Turkish puppet of a military occupied piece of Hellenic territory as the ‘President’ of ‘Northern Cyprus’ is helping to find a ‘fair solution’ for the people of Cyprus. On the issue of Patriarchate, Alexi says, ‘especially during the visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Washington late last year, I feel that the Administration has begun to elevate religious freedom in Turkey as a policy priority.’ I thought religious freedom in Turkey was suppose to already be a policy priority, that’s what Hellenic America was led to believe during Obama’s campaign. The one thing that Alexi is dead on about was that “2010 is a key year on all these fronts. The involvement of this Administration will be vital to resolving the Macedonian issue, which could lead to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joining NATO, which the U.S. has identified as a goal. Furthermore, Turkey’s E.U. negotiations would proceed more smoothly if Ankara honored the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and ended the occupation of Cyprus. And pressuring Turkey to make these moves is where the Administration has to step up.”Unfortunately unless Hellenic America organizes and leads an aggressive campaign to pressure the Administration on our issues the possible outcomes for both Macedonian Issue and Turkey’s E.U. negotiations may not be resolved favorably.

Finally when asked what his election would mean for Hellenic America, Giannoulias said, “At a minimum, it will show what a force the Greek-American community has become. This community has not only been my base, but it has fought more fiercely on my behalf than any other candidate’s base has. If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I hope I can motivate an entire generation of young Greek-Americans to get involved in public service and serve myself as a leading voice for issues that are important to our community for a long time.” Well Alexi I hope you do become a leading voice for Hellenic issues and inspire a generation of young Hellenic-Americans to get involved in public service and our National Issues. However, please do not forget your heritage, you’re a Hellene first and a Democrat second.

So ends the first year of Obama’s historical presidency, average, uneventful and full of broken promises. What the next three years will have in store no one truly knows, maybe change can still come to America. Just maybe. . . .



Ioannis Fidanakis is a Grad Student and Hellenic-American Activist. He was the youngest elected President of Panthracian Union of America “Orpheus” serving as President from November 2007 till November 2009. As President of Panthracian Union he was responsible for organizing the first ever Hellenic Genocide Commemoration outside the United Nations on April 6, 2009. He is currently the Panthracian Representative to the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, where he is also a Board Member. A member of the Hellenic League of America, HLA and Cyprus Action Network of America, CANA he has been featured as a guest speaker at several different grassroots rallies, lectures, and functions up and down the American East Coast. His writings have been published several times in Hellenic-American newspapers from Chicago to New York, as well as on Global Politician.com. His various articles have been republished on numerous blogs and web sites such as Sparta: Journal of Ancient Spartan and Greek History. Ioannis has a B.A. in Political Science; with a concentration in International Politics and a minor in History. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Public Policy.



(Posting date 15 February 2010. Article reproduced with permission from the Hellenic League of America (HLA) whose website is located at the URL http://www.hellenicleagueofamericahla.org, and from the author, Ioannis Fidanakis, who maintains a weblog at the URL http://enocism.blogspot.com.) 

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