Chian Federation Honors Michael Psaros with the Homeric Award

FILE - The Chian Federation honors Michael Psaros with Homeric Award. Photo: TNH/Costas Bej

ASTORIA – The Chian Federation honored Michael Psaros with the 37th Annual Homeric Award for his dedication to philanthropy, Hellenism, and Orthodoxy. The award ceremony was held at the Hellenic Cultural Center of the Chian Federation in Astoria on Dec. 2. Psaros, an emerging leader of our Greek-American community, is a co-Founder and co-Managing Partner of KPS Capital Partners, LP, and a member of its Investment Committee. KPS is the manager of KPS Special Situations Funds, a family of private equity funds with approximately $5.6 billion of assets under management, focused on making controlling equity investments in companies across a diverse range of manufacturing industries. Psaros is a faithful Churchman, philanthropist, a true Hellene, and a proud American. The Chian Federation honored him with the Homeric Award because he is also a proud son of Chios. Psaros told The National Herald, “When I was called by the Chian Federation and asked to participate in this ceremony, at first I was hesitant because my grandmother Eugenia from Chios always told me to avoid glory. I like to think that I am a humble person, but as it was explained to me that the funds raised will go to worthy causes, I accepted this honor with great humility and with enthusiasm.” Psaros is the Treasurer of the Holy Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. He is an Archon, and a founding member of FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism. Psaros serves on the Board of Trustees of The Leadership 100, and on his Parish Council. He has received numerous awards for his work in the Greek-American Community. Along with his wife Robin, he is a great supporter of US/Hellenic and Orthodox causes.

Among those attending the event were Master of Ceremonies journalist John Metaxas, Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras and his wife, Consul General of Cyprus in New York Vasilis Philippou and his wife, Chian Federation President John Kontolios, Chair of the 37th Homeric Award Nicholas Poulis, Co-Chair Markos Marinakis, Dr. Peter Michalos, President and CEO of American Network Solutions, LLC Philip Christopher, President of the Leadership 100 George Tsandikos, President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies Petros Galatoulas, New York State Senator Tony Avella, Mr. and Mrs. Nick Livanos, Father Robert Stephanopoulos, Publisher-Editor of the National Herald Antonis H. Diamataris and his wife Evangelia, and many proud Chians and fellow Greeks showing support for the efforts of the Chian Federation and honoree Psaros.

Archimandrite Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, Dean of Saint Demetrios Cathedral in Astoria gave the invocation and Constantina Tsouklidis sang the National Anthems of the US and Greece. Chair of the event Poulis welcomed all in attendance as did co-chair Marinakis. Senator Avella presented a proclamation from the State of New York to Psaros in honor of his achievements, noting that New York needs some of his help in terms of job creation.

Traditional dances were performed by the dance group of the Women’s Auxilairy of the Chian Federation. The dancers entered holding candles and singing a traditional folk song. They wore the traditional costume of Chios and impressed the guests with their skill.

President and CEO of American Network Solutions, LLC and director of the Cyprus-US Chamber of Commerce Philip Christopher spoke about his long association with the Chian Federation, and praised their efforts for Cyprus, noting that unfortunately since 1974, Cyprus is “still divided and still occupied.” He exhorted all those present to unite all the Greek and Cypriot organizations to “fight together for Cyprus and for Greece and Hellenism.”

Dr. Michalos delivered the keynote address, praising Psaros for his humanitarian efforts and noted Psaros’ many achievements and awards, highlighting his dedication to faith, family, and Hellenism. Psaros then noted how when asked who should introduce him at the award ceremony, Dr. Michalos was his choice, calling him “a brilliant doctor, a special person” and “a true Renaissance man.”

Psaros who spoke in English and a few words in Greek said, “It is with great humility, respect, and reverence that I accept the 2016 Homeric Award.”

He spoke eloquently about his family, including his Theo Niko who told him, “There is no higher honor than being recognized by your own people,” and about his late grandparents who were so influential in his life, especially Yiayia Evyenia. Psaros said, “Even though my Yiayia only completed the third grade, she may be the best writer I have ever encountered. She wrote in lyrical poetry, not prose. She wrote many speeches I delivered as a young man. She is watching us this evening from heaven.” He noted that she taught him how to speak in public and her home in West Virginia was donated to the Weirton Christian Center and “she continues to help the poor and less fortunate through the house that she loved.”

Psaros also spoke about his pride in being a Chiote, about the value system he was raised with as a member of the Hellenic community, and about the Orthodox faith and Hellenism. He observed that, “there is no such thing as Hellenism without Orthodoxy.”

Psaros continued, “Chios, Mytilene, and Kos are ground zero for one of the world’s worst refugee crisis” and that Greece is under threat from Turkey, but it is not the first time. He listed the historical events that have tested Greece over hundreds of years and still Greece with an enduring spirit survives, but more needs to be done. Psaros called on all those present to unite their efforts behind the leadership of Andy and Mike Manatos in Washington, DC.

Announcing that for the funds raised by the Chian Federation in the US and Canada, Psaros and wife Robin will donate up to $100,000 in matching funds received a standing ovation from the audience. As an Archon, he asked for all to pray for His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, and noted the installation of the Justinian cross atop the dome of St. Nicholas Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center which took place on November 28. He said, “I ask everyone to energize their communities regarding St. Nicholas… an American National Shrine, our National Shrine, constructed in a sacred place where 3,000 people were murdered by Islamic terrorists.” Psaros observed that, “experts say it will be the most visited Church in the US and possibly in the hemisphere,” and while millions have been raised, more funds are needed. He concluded his remarks with thanks and blessings, “May the patron saint of our island Ayia Markella send her blessings to all of you and your families. I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas and New Year. Xronia polla.”

 

Following is the full speech of Michael Psaros:

Reverend Clergy,

Your excellencies,

Esteemed members of Chian Federation,

Family, Friends and Colleagues,

My family and I thank you for attending this evening’s event.

It is with great humility, respect and reverence that I accept the 2016 Homeric Award.
Upon hearing that I was to receive the Homeric Award, my Theo Niko said to me “there is no higher honor than being recognized by your own people.” He is right. This is a very important moment in my life. This is very personal. Everyone in this room is family, and you have decided to honor me, a member of your family.

Tonight, I dedicate this this prestigious Homeric Award to the people of Chios. To the people, the DEMOS, who deserve this recognition much more than me.

Tonight, I dedicate this Award to my grandparents of blessed memory, Harilaos Loufakis and Evyenia Gailas Loufakis, who immigrated from XIOS in the early 1930s. I can assure you when they left OLYMPOI nine decades ago, they could have never dreamed that their grandson would be standing in New York City being honored by their own people.

I never knew my grandfather who fell asleep in the Lord before I was born, but my YiaYia raised me. Along with my father’s father, my mother’s mother, stands as one of the two giants in my life.

Even though my YiaYia only completed the third grade, she may be the best writer I have ever encountered. She wrote in lyrical poetry not prose. She wrote many speeches that I delivered as a young man. She is watching us this evening from heaven. And trust me, she will send me a sign critiquing my speech, and offering suggestions on how to improve my delivery. I learned how to speak in public by standing in front of her International Harvester refrigerator, and being drilled over and over on what professionals would call spacing, breathing, elocution and diction.

Whether it was a heroic poem for the 25th of March, practicing to offer the ASPILE or the KEHTOSEMEN, or just a regular speech for school, her standards for her grandson were exacting.

Her house in my hometown of Weirton, West Virginia, was donated to the Weirton Christian Center, where it was christened “Evgeniya’s House of Hope”. To this day, she continues to help the poor and less fortunate through the house that she loved.

But what matters most to me, is that my Yiayia’s love for me was the most unconditional I have never known or will I ever know.

May the Memory of my Grandparents be Eternal.

I would like to introduce my wife Robin. Robin is my angel. My conscience. My rock. She keeps me grounded. She is everything that beautiful and good in my life. We have three children: Alexandra, Leo, who is present this evening, and Marina. Leo, every Greek father is proud of his son. But I want you to know, you are already a better man at 17 years old than I will ever be.

I would like to introduce my cousin Harry Harilaos Dematatis, who along with my brother, is named after our grandfather from Chios, Harilaos. I would like to also introduce Harry’s daughter and my God-daughter Ioanna and his son, Alexander.

I thank Archon Peter and Aphrodite Skeadas for attending tonight. They are pillars of our community, and true aspirational and inspirational role models for all us on how to live a righteous life.

I thank my brother and sisters in Christ who are here from the Church of Our Savior in Rye. I love you, respect you and count on you all, more than you will ever know.

Let me start by saying – I burst with pride to say I am a XIOTE.

I would like to share a story with you: we have been to XIOS as a family many times. The first time was in my late twenties when Robin and I were newlyweds.  When we landed on the island, I had one of the most intense, unique and moving experiences of my life. To this day, I believe I was touched by the Holy Spirit. When we landed, while still on the plane, I was overcome with a feeling that I cannot describe. I knew that I had come home. My soul knew.  I cried. I was shaking. And I was right – I was home. How else do you explain such an overwhelming mental, emotional and very physical reaction to touching the soil for the first time?

On a return trip, I experienced one of the greatest days of my life. My family, accompanied by my parents, went to OLYMPOI. My Mother’s grandfather, Father Stamatis, served as the parish priest in the village generations ago. How can I describe the emotion of watching my children, my mother’s grandchildren, enter the old Church where my Mother’s grandfather was the Priest? It was overwhelming.

Why do I burst with pride to say I am a XIOTE? I will explain:

I am who I am today, and to the extent I have had any success, it is because my family raised me with a fundamental understanding that I am an American of Hellenic Descent. This has grounded me. This has provided me with confidence.  This has provided me with dignity.  I know exactly where I am from. The island, the village, the house. I have a sense of place, and that is powerful.
I am who I am today, and to the extent I have had any success, it is because my family raised me with a value system, with the traditions and respect resident in every Greek family, along with accompanying obligations and expectations.   I carry that value system with me every day.  I understood from a young age, that my actions reflect not only on me and family, but on our entire Hellenic Community.

 

I am who I am today, and to the extent I have had any success, it is because my family raised me our Orthodox Church. I want to be very clear about something, in my opinion, there is no such thing as Hellenism without Orthodoxy.  I can only view Hellenism through the glorious prism of our Church. You cannot separate the two.
My grandparents came to this country with a dream. They understood the possibilities for their family presented by America.

 

I am who I am today, and to the extent I have had any success, it is because I have also received the great blessing and privilege of being an American. America is and always will be the land of opportunity, a shining city on the hill, a beacon of hope for the world, and has me blessed me with every opportunity to fulfill my dreams.

We gather here tonight at a critical time in Greece’s history.

Greece has experienced an unprecedented financial catastrophe, and its people have suffered under an inhuman, irrational and dogmatic Troica-imposed austerity regime that has destroyed a country, destroyed communities, and caused great injury to families.  Despite everything however, the people, the DEMOS, still maintain the hope and dreams for a better tomorrow. No amount of austerity will ever crush the Greek spirit, sense of destiny, and will to overcome.

Greece is confronted with an epic and unprecedented refugee crisis. This crisis, directly resulting from the failure of the Obama Administration in Syria, has placed an existential burden on the island of Chios and its people. Chios, Mytilene and Kos are ground zero for one of the world’s worst refugee crisis. The humanitarian crisis is beyond the island or the country’s ability to cope.

While the world has watched, the world has done nothing. While Europe has watched, Europe has done nothing. How could the U.S., the EU and NATO have not demanded the Turks seal their border five years ago?

Greece and Chios are confronted by a new Sultan in Constantinople. This absolute dictator has released real criminals from his prisons, in order to make room for over 50,000 journalists, political opponents, judges, teachers, clerics, military personnel and civil servants. This Sultan has suspended all freedoms. This Sultan has absolute control over the second largest military inside NATO.  This Sultan is doing everything he can to turn HAGIA SOPPHIA into a mosque, thereby revealing his hand that he intends to use his dictatorial powers to abandon all pretense of the Turkish Republic being a Republic and a secular state.

Most ominously, in a moment of recent lunacy, he suggested the repudiation of the Treaty of Lausanne, signed on July 24, 1923, which created the modern borders of Turkey. As a result of the Treaty of Lausanne, Modern Turkey gave up claims to the remainder of the Ottoman Empire, and in return, the Allies recognized Turkish sovereignty within its new borders.

In September 2016, the Sultan said and I quote: “They threatened us with Sevres in 1920 and persuaded us to accept Lausanne in 1923. Some tried to deceive us by presenting Lausanne as a victory. At Lausanne, we gave away the (Greek) islands that you could shout across to.”

This is terrifying. He is questioning the Greece’s sovereignty of Chios, Lesvos, Lemnos, Samos and Nikaria.  To this Mr. Sultan, we say “OXI”.

Further, this week, according to the Times of London, the Sultan is threatening to grant 3,000 refugees a day safe passage through Turkey. Where are they going to arrive? Chios, Lesvos and Kos. The silence from Europe has been deafening.

This is unfortunately not the first time Greece and XIOS have been threatened.

 

We endured 400 years of enslavement and bondage by the Ottoman Turks. For 400 years we successfully fought to maintain our identity, our customs, our culture, our language, and our religion. In 1822, the Turks killed or enslaved over 100,000 men women and children on Chios, substantially all of the population. The survivors lived because they hid in caves.  “The Massacre of Chios”, as it is known, was immortalized by the painter Delacroix, whose paintings of the massacre are resident in every great museum in Europe. We survived the Balkan Wars, WWI, WWII including the horrific German occupation, Civil Wars and the Cold War.

 

We will survive today’s events too.

Ladies and Gentlemen, now is the time for us to rally in support of XIOS and Greece. And I am not talking about waving flags in our Church halls. That does absolutely nothing.

Rather, I suggest we act concretely:

First, Washington, D.C.  may be the only leverage we have to check the forces confronting Greece today. I am exhorting our entire Diaspora, our Hellenic American Community, and each of our respective Hellenic and Orthodox Organizations, to finally coordinate our respective political and lobbying activities in Washington. To speak with one voice. We all have an identical agenda. We have the same heart. We have the same soul. We need to unite to coordinate our efforts to ensure the new Administration protects the territorial and national integrity of Greece and Cyprus. I have great confidence in our ability to do so. Andy and Mike Manatos are our two angels in Washington, D.C. We should merge all of various efforts behind their leadership.

Second, we need the North American Xian and Greek community to send meaningful assistance to XIOS, especially medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. This was just done for Lesvos. My brother, Nick Livanos, present this evening with his wife Lorena, hosted an event that his restaurant, Moderne Barne, in Armonk that raised $60,000 for Lesvos. In total, this was part of a $250,000 contribution that funded a shipment of medical supplies to Lesvos.

 

I commend the XIAN Federation for its efforts since 2012 to respond to the economic plight of XIANS due to the financial catastrophe.  The Metropolis of Chios, under his Eminence Metropolitan Markos, began a soup kitchen, to help provide meals to the poor.  This soup kitchen feeds almost 700 people a day including pensioners, the unemployed, and kids that go to school hungry.  In addition, the XIAN Federation has purchased pharmaceuticals for the poor and supplies to the hospital that is short of basic, clean sheets and towels and medical supplies. The XIAN Federation has provided funding so that the hospital could purchase CAT SCAN equipment and equipment for cardiograms and mammograms.

 

The XIAN FEDERATION’S goal from the beginning of the relief effort was to raise and send $5,000 per month to XIOS.  To date, the Federation has raised $180,000.  The money is wired the Metropolis’ Philoptochos account and the Federation works directly with the Philoptochos and the Metropolis to distribute the funds.  The Federation has three of its own people on the ground directing efforts.

 

More must be done.

 

Robin and I will match any funds raised by the Xian Federation in the U.S. and Canada, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000, and believe me we will do more, specifically for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. We have hundreds of Xian Chapters throughout the Churches in the Archdiocese. Dr. Peter’s advice and council will be critical. Let’s get moving. Embros!

 

I would like to conclude with a few exhortations:

First, whether it has been in my professional or personal life, I believe in leading by example.  Words are powerful, but nothing speaks louder than actions. I ask you to support and embrace our Church and the Holy Archdiocese. We live in an increasingly secular country, where this is a war against organized religion and faith of any kind.  As XIOTES, I exhort you to lead through your actions, to be living Icons, to be true examples of our faith and to thus inspire others. Get involved, volunteer, contribute.

As an Archon, Ostiarios, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and a member of the Executive Board of the Order of St. Andrew, first called of the Apostles, it is incumbent on me to ask you, and your communities to pray for His All Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, who is now under siege from many forces. His All Holiness just celebrated the 25th anniversary of his enthronement. We, as XIOTES must act as vocal advocates of our Mother Church in the in Washington and in our statehouses.
Finally, this past Monday, an Orthodox Justinian Cross was placed on the dome of the new St. Nicholas that will tower over Ground Zero forever. For Robin and me, the blessing of laying one of the cornerstones of the Church was one of the most transcendent and humbling experiences of our life.  I ask every one of you to energize communities regarding that St. Nicholas.  St. Nicholas is an American National Shrine, our National Shrine, constructed in a sacred place where 3,000 people were murdered by terrorists. This is not just another Church in New York. Experts believe that St. Nicholas may become the most visited Church in the U.S. As members of our community, I ask that you take a leadership role in ensuring we raise the capital required to construct and endow St. Nicholas. While we have raised almost $40 million, much more is required.
Thank you for spending time with me this evening.

Thank you for honoring me with the Homeric Award.

May the patron Saint of our Island, Ayia Markella, send her blessings to all of you and your families.

I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas and New Year.

Xrponia Polla