NEW YORK – The annual vasilopita cutting of the Athenians’ Society was its most recent excellent event and the first in the community to honor and bid farewell to Consul General of Greece Amb. George Iliopoulos, whose tenure in New York turned its fourth year on January 18 but which comes to an end this March.
Athenians’ Society President Panos Adamopoulos thanked the Board, giving special acknowledgement to his wife Sylvia, and all who contributed to the evening’s success. He highlighted not only the group’s popular social and cultural events, but their philanthropic work which includes having raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Brefokomio Athinon foundling hospital and the Mazi Me to Paidi organization which benefits children in need.
During his introduction of Iliopoulos Adamopoulos said “thank you from the bottom of my heart” for the support the Society has received from Iliopoulos and his staff, and paid tribute Anthousa Iliopoulos by noting that behind every great man stands a great woman. He also invited to the podium Greek Consul Manos Koubarakis, who attended with his wife Georgia and their newborn Alexandra.
Saying he made an exception to the rule of not speaking of personal relationship with superiors in public, Koubarakis expressed appreciation for both Iliopoulos’ friendship and leadership, especially noting the value of his and Anthousa’s advice about challenging task of raising a family in the diplomatic service.
The Society’s Vice President Tassos Mouzakis wished everyone a happy New Year with “health and prosperity and strength in our daily struggles to become better persons,” and then introduced Iliopoulos.
Mouzakis said it was a joy to honor to Iliopoulos for his service to the Diaspora and “his support for all our cultural and philanthropic endeavors, and we especially appreciate him for his messages about our Greek heritage, the state of our homeland, and his hopes for a better future.”
Iliopoulos was deeply touched. Thanking all for the honor and the gift of a clock which is replica of the famous Movado Museum Watch – Anthousa was also present a bouquet of red roses – he smiled and told the crowd “you did not think you were going to get away with just a greeting from me,” as he began his speech.
The comment was ironic because Iliopoulos proved to be a welcome master of the short and sweet speech. Nevertheless he was brief by community standards.
As it was, what they heard was unique from a Greek diplomat. After expressing his appreciation for what the Society and other organizations do for the community and for Greece, and for the advice they can offer the homeland, he presented some advice of his own, accompanied by the wish that they become even more successful.
Iliopoulos has often preached the valuable message of community unity and cooperation among its organizations, but on Sunday evening he urged them to adopt another priority – to become even more effective in the political realm, for their own benefit and Greece’s, by complementing t contributions to political campaigns by overcoming the civic stigma of low voter registration rates.
While praising the community for “preserving your Hellenism…in a country that is a melting pot” he urged them to become even more ambitious, advising them to set measurable goals, to raise the bar when they succeed, and to examine the reasons why when they do not.
He also took the opportunity to convey to the community the challenges of providing it with consular services during the crisis. “I was blessed with exceptional colleagues” who adapted, and were able to do “an even better job with one third the resources…a tragic reduction of staff and funding.”
Iliopolos concluded by saying that without his wife “my accomplishments would have been much smaller than has been the case.”
Accepting the reality of a diplomatic life, he concluded by saying “Anthousa and I will leave our hearts behind in New York,” with the city and friends they have come to love.
Adamopoulos thanked Society benefactors like Demetrios and Georgia Kaloidis and other community organizations for their support.
The guests who packed the hall of the NY Cephalos Cephalonian Society on a snowy Sunday night enjoyed fellowship and a buffet dinner and were also delighted by the musicians, vocalists Grigoris Maninakis, pianist Glafkos Kontemeniotis, and Kostas Psarros on Bouzouki.
The children were thrilled to receive gifts from Agios Vasilis, AKA Santa Claus.
L to R
Christina Skiadas, Tassos Mouzakis, Fani Pagoulatou, Vana Kontmerkou, Stelios Stroumbakis, Sylvia Adamopoulos, Panos Adamopoulos, George Iliopoulos, Paul Hatzikyriakos, Gregory Koulbalides, Manos Koubarakis.