CHICAGO – The Stavros Niarchos Foundation awarded a $1 million dollar grant to the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), headquartered in Chicago, for the promotion of a special program dedicated to developing a new generation of leaders in the Greek-American community.
In a statement to the National Herald, the Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Andreas C. Dracopoulos, declared that “all of us at the SNF are proud to pay tribute to the legacy of the late Nikos Mouyiaris for all he did during his lifetime to contribute towards a better tomorrow for all of us and especially for our young generations.”
The Executive Director of HALC, Afxentios (or Endy as he is commonly known) Zemenides, told the National Herald in a telephone interview that “the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and especially Mr. Andreas Dracopoulos wanted to do something to honor Nikos Mouyiaris’ memory. They had a great relationship with Nikos and believed in his vision for cultivating a new generation of Greek-American leaders. About a year and half ago HALC launched a pilot program called Leadership 2030 Fellowship Program focusing on Hellenes 30 years old or younger who had completed a college degree, and the program exceeded expectations. We’ve decided to take the program to the next level and with the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation – which provided a $1 million Endowment Grant – we will expand the program and rename it the Nikos Mouyiaris Leadership 2030 Fellowship Program.”
As for the number of fellows in the program, Zemenides informed TNH that “presently we have 19 fellows in the Chicago program but now we are accepting 26 additional fellows from New York and New Jersey, giving us a total of 45 at this point.”
He emphasized that “in the Community we don’t have a common point of reference for Hellenes. Someone from New York may have a very different experience with Hellenism than someone experiencing Hellenism in Chicago,” and he added that, “the only thing that ‘unites’ us anymore is our Hellenic decent. What we have launched is a program where all our fellows will establish a common point of reference by going through the same skills and knowledge training. Moreover, every fellow will be given a mentor. And to demonstrate to these fellows that we’ve reached the point where every door is opened to the Greek-American community, the training will not only take place in the offices of HALC, but in the offices of major firms in corporate America and even in the halls of Congress.”
When asked about the status of the Cyprus issue, he stated that “the reunification negotiations are semi-frozen right now. We are still at the beginning of the term of the UN Secretary General’s new special envoy on Cyprus – Jane Holl Lute. Because of recent elections in Turkey, Erdogan has played the nationalist card. Just a few days ago, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus and I presented at AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and we both relayed a message to Members of Congress and to the pro-Israel community that the status quo in Cyprus is not an acceptable solution. We want negotiations to restart but we can’t just accept whatever Erdogan wants.”
Asked what was done wrong for 45 years in failing to make progress on the Cyprus issues, Zemenides responded that “The first mistake was that for many years – until the present government – the Republic of Cyprus hadn’t really decided whether it wanted to be a Western state or not. For the Republic’s first 50 years it was in the Non-Aligned Movement. And when we claim to be an ‘ally’ of [the United States], that required some things to be true that were not. The other mistake we made as a Community was that we were always searching for a Messiah – whether it was Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump.” He emphasized that “there is no such thing as a Messiah in American policy making.”
Zemenides added that “when you consider even the pro-Israel community, which we look to as the gold standard, despite the fact that they are the best advocacy community, even they have not achieved all of their policy goals. They wanted to freeze F35 sales to Saudi Arabia and weren’t able to. Their opposition to the Iran deal was also unsuccessful. But, there are key differences. For example, the Prime Minister of Israel has had personal contact with probably at least 300 of the 535 members of Congress. All the Prime Ministers in the history of Greece have not made contact with a total of 300 members of Congress.”
Before becoming Executive Director of HALC, Afxentios (Endy) Zemenides spent a decade in politics and also practiced law in the area of municipal law and government relations. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from DePaul University, his Master’s from the University of Essex, and his Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center.