ATHENS *#8211; For the first time in decades, the Greek state officially honored nine distinguished Greek Americans with its highest decorations late last week.
Recently retired Florida Congressman Mike Bilirakis of Florida and National Herald Publisher Antonis H. Diamataris, film director Jules Dassin and former Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis were among those honored by Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias last Friday, January 5.
Mr. Bilirakis was honored with the insignia of Grand Commander of the Order of the Phoenix, while the insignia of Commander of the Order of Honor was bestowed upon composer and Boston University professor Theodore Antoniou; philanthropist and industrialist George Behrakis of Lowell, Massachusetts; Mr. Diamataris; entrepreneur and professor of Thermodynamics at MIT and George Hatsopoulos; philanthropist and pharmaceuticals magnate Michael Jaharis of New York, who is also vice chairman of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America*#8217;s Archdiocesan Council; philanthropist and real estate magnate Alex Spanos of Stockton, California; and philanthropist and real estate magnate Angelo Tsakopoulos of Sacramento, California.
Retired journalist and lobbyist Elias Demetracopolous, who currently resides in the Washington, DC area, was honored with the insignia of Commander of the Order of the Phoenix.
The conferral of these prestigious orders and awards of high distinction upon Greeks of the Diaspora represents a notable shift in the recognition of Greek Americans by Greece.*nbsp; This fact, in conjunction with the recent government pledge to grant voting rights to Greeks living abroad, reconfirms the Greek American community*#8217;s lofty position within the ranks of Hellenism.
According to the official statement issued by Mr. Papoulias*#8217; office, *#8220;with the arrival of the new year, the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Karolos Papoulias, will confer the following distinctions:
*#8220;Ioannis Charalambopoulos, former deputy prime minister, former minister of foreign affairs and former minister of national defense will receive the Grand Cross of the Order of Honor.
*#8220;Ioannis Varvitsiotis, head of the New Democracy Party*#8217;s European Parliament members and former minister of national defense; and Petros Molyviatis, ambassador emeritus and former minister of foreign affairs, will receive the Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix.
*#8220;General Mohammad Abdel Salam El Mahgoub, Egyptian minister of state for issues of local development and former commandant of Alexandria; Valentina Ivanovna Matvienko, governor of St. Petersburg, Russia; Constantinos Nikolaou, former member of the Hellenic Parliament and European Parliament; and Antonios Vratsanos, member of the national resistance against Nazi occupation, will receive the insignia of Grand Commander of the Order of Honor.
*#8220;Michael Bilirakis, former U.S. Congressman from Florida; Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization; and Demetrios Beis, former mayor of Athens, will receive the insignia of Grand Commander of the Order of the Phoenix.
*#8220;Nana Mouskouri, (internationally renowned) singer, will receive the insignia of Grand Commander of the Order of Beneficence.
*#8220;Theodore Antoniou, composer and Boston University faculty member; Antonios Diamataris, publisher and editor of the National Herald; Sonia Ilingskaya-Alexandropoulou, professor of Philosophy at the University of Ioannina; Elsi Mathiopoulou, professor of Archaeology at the University of Bonn; George Behrakis, philanthropist-industrialist; Jules Dassin, film director and president of the Melina Merkouri Foundation; Alex Spanos, philanthropist-industrialist; Michael Jaharis, philanthropist, industrialist and vice chairman of the Archdiocesan Council of America; Angelo Tsakopoulos, philanthropist and founder of the Western Policy Center in Washington, DC; and George Hatsopoulos, entrepreneur and professor of Thermodynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will receive the insignia of the Commander of the Order of Honor.
*#8220;Gabriel Valdes, former minister of foreign affairs of Chile, former senator and former president of the Chilean Committee for the Restoration of the Parthenon Marbles; Castillo Didier, professor and director of the Center for Byzantine *amp; Hellenic Studies at the University of Chile; Elias Demetracopoulos, journalist and freedom fighter; and Patrick Leigh Fermour, member of the national resistance and author, will receive the insignia of Commander of the Order of the Phoenix.
*#8220;Maria Larentzakis, former athlete, disabled mother; Eleni Pappas, president of the student organization of volunteer blood donors at the University of Ioannina; Anna Tsakiri, baby nurse at the Center for Children *amp; Infants on the island of Tilos; Demetrios Fangopoulos, intellectual and contributor to Greek Letters; and Constantinos Chrysostalis, journalist, will receive the Golden Cross of the Order of Honor…*#8221;