Our Hellenic Traditions Helped Us Make
Unique Contributions to America

By United States Senator
Paul Sarbanes of Maryland

WASHINGTON, D.C.,- Andy Athens; Phil Christopher; Andy Manatos; Ambassador Mallias; Ambassador Evriviades; Secretary Fried; Congressmen Mike Bilirakis and Tom Lantos; my fellow honorees; members and friends of PSEKA, SAE, and UHAC with whom I have worked closely for many years on issues of great importance to our nation and community:

I am deeply honored by PSEKA's Livanos Award, and very pleased that my wife, Christine is able to be here for the awards ceremony. My son John is in Cyprus at this moment.

The Livanos Award is one of three awards that PSEKA is presenting this evening. It is a privilege for me to share the award with two very distinguished members of the House of Representatives who are longtime colleagues and friends: Mike Bilirakis, who is being honored with the Paraskevaides Award, and Tom Lantos with the Frizis Award. Since the Turkish invasion of

Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland receives the George
P. Livanos Award during the recent PSEKA (International
Coordinating Committee-|Justice for Cyprus) Conference in Washington, DC (L-R) National Coordinated Effort of
Hellenes President Andrew Manatos, Senator & Mrs.
Sarbanes, and Council of Hellenes Abroad World
President Andrew Athens
Cyprus more than three decades ago, we have had to fight many difficult battles over the direction of United States policy, and in every one, it has been reassuring to know that Mike Bilirakis and Tom Lantos were hard at work on the other side of Capitol Hill. Cyprus is fortunate to have such steadfast and committed friends.

Earlier today, I discussed with you the challenges we face in our continuing efforts to assure a fair and just reunification of Cyprus, and to ensure that U.S. policies advance that objective, rather than detracting from it. Our efforts reflect our most basic values and aspirations, and it is to these values and aspirations that I want to turn tonight. These are the values and aspirations which George Livanos honored in his own life.

George Livanos was born in New Orleans, but as the New York Times' put it, considered Kardamyla in Chios "most his home." He was educated at Athens College in Greece, and at Hofstra University in the United States. He served in the U.S. Army in Japan and Korea.

Returning from the service, he joined the shipping company his father had founded. He always took equal measures of pride in his American citizenship and his Greek heritage.

When George Livanos passed away - nine years ago almost to the day, - his company was Greece's largest merchant fleet, but he is not remembered for the size of his company. What was really important about the company, as the New York Times observed, was the "innovative way" in which he built it.

It was George Livanos who was constantly introducing improvements, and it was the industry at­large, and not just his company, which benefited. He introduced a new type of lifeboat. He introduced a new kind of cargo shuttle "uniquely capable" the Times said, of navigating in shallow waters and poor port conditions, and therefore an invaluable asset in famine-relief work. In Greece, he introduced hydrofoil service between the mainland and the islands to make travel faster and more efficient, thereby giving a vigorous boost to the tourist industry.

In 1982, George Livanos founded the Hellenic Marine Environmental Protection Association. He was acutely aware of the damage to the environment which oil spills and other risks of large-scale shipping posed, and he intended Helmepa to promote better training and ship safety, and to protect the environment. It has been said that at the time he founded the Association, George was regarded as "somewhat of a revolutionary." Indeed he was. His ideas have spread around the world and strengthened not only Greek, but also international, efforts to improve shipping practices and safe­guard the environment.

The values and aspirations which George Livanos honored, and for which we honor him, were the values and aspirations of our community. They are the same values and aspirations which learned from my parents, and which have shaped my life.

My parents came to this country as immigrants from Laconia in the earlier part of the last century. They made their home in Salisbury and raised their family there. All his life, my father ran a restaurant in Salisbury, and my mother ran it for a few years after he died.

I worked in the restaurant after school, and after I went away to college, I worked there during the summers. That's why it never bothers me at a luncheon or dinner event when people are eating while I speak. I'm used to having people eat while I'm working.

My experience was hardly unique for a member of our community. Indeed, in its outlines it probably comes close to the experience of everyone in this room.

My father was one of those who came to this country with little formal education. In effect; he educated himself. He had a real thirst for learning, - and he read voraciously. No matter how late he worked, or how tired he was when he came home, my father always made time to read.

My parents placed the very highest premium on education. Once, while I was in high school, I announced to my-father that I did not want to go to college. He vehemently rejected this notion: "You may turn out to be a good-for­nothing," he told me in no uncertain terms, "but at least you'll be an educated good-for-nothing."

My brother, my sister and I received our education at home, as well as in school. My parents took pride in their Greek heritage. It was a deeply felt pride. The Hellenic heritage was always a part of our lives. We learned from our parents to revere the culture and traditions which Greece first gave to the world.

Among these traditions was the obligation to serve the community - to take an active part in the world around us.

From an early age, I understood that some form of public service would be a part of my life. In my case, public service has taken the form of elective public office.

In four years in Maryland's House of Delegates, six years in the U.S. House of Representatives and nearly 30 years in the U.S. Senate, I have been guided by a few fundamental principles: integrity opportunity and fairness:

In a society which honors these principles, people who are willing to work hard can look forward to building a decent life; raising a family, and seeing their children have even broader opportunities than they themselves experienced. Through the years, I have worked to ensure that every American, and not just a privileged few, should be able to count on these principles. These principles are the American Dream. They are what our parents and grandparents sought in coming to this country.

In the years that I have been in public office, members of the Greek American community have moved into the mainstream of our nation's political life, and it has been a source of great personal satisfaction that I have been able to participate in that movement.

Forty years ago, Greek Americans in public office were relatively few in number. Today they stand everywhere, among the nation's leaders - at the federal, state and local levels; in elective and appointed positions; and in both major political parties. We see the same in every sphere of our national life - in our universities, in cultural affairs, in the professions, in business and finance. Moreover, the vital ties which bring us together in the Greek American community have underscored the underlying importance of community in our national life.

During the years that I have, held public office, we have worked together to strengthen relations between the U.S. and Greece. We have seen Greece emerge from its early role as a junior partner in the European Union to become an EU leader. We have witnessed the stunning triumph of the 2004 Athens Olympics, universally hailed as a model for the Olympics of the future.

We have also been gratified to see the Republic of Cyprus surmount every challenge to become a member of the EU. Yet challenges remain. More than 30 years after Turkish forces invaded Cyprus, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and communities, the island remains divided. An entire generation has grown up under the shadow of military occupation. Our efforts to keep this issue high on the national agenda reflect its vital importance, as well as the value we place on our democratic traditions. Our job is far from over. We must continue to work closely together, as we have in the past, intensifying our efforts as circumstances require.

In countless ways, our Hellenic traditions have enriched our personal lives and enabled us to make a unique contribution to American life. In this spirit, and with deep gratitude, I am honored to accept the Livanos Award. "

Senator Sarbanes, the longest-serving U.S. senator in Maryland's history, delivered the above remarks during the annual PSEKA Conference on June 8, in his acceptance of annual Livanos Award, which PSEKA grants to "that individual who, like George P. Livanos, has utilized ancient Hellenic values to realize extraordinary achievement in modern society while contributing to the improvement of our civilization."

(Posting date 25 July 2006)

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