NEW YORK – Former CIA Director George Tenet spoke about “Life in Public Service,” at the 2015 installment of the Peter T. Kourides Lecture Series of the (HACF) on April 29 at Manhattan’s renowned University Club.
The purpose of the Foundation is to “organize and promote high quality and relevant educational and cultural programs, performances, lectures, exhibits and similar events,” according to the program, and during his remarks Nicholas Kourides, HACF’s chairman, added “and to inspire and promote the extraordinary legacy of Greek culture” among Greeks and Philhellenes.”
The Lecture series, however, “is intended to recognize and focus on the contributions of members of the Greek community to public service and to the benefit of society.” Billed as a “fireside chat”, the talk with Tenet, moderated by Mike Emanuel, FOX News’ Chief Congressional and Senior Political Correspondent, more than lived up to its promise to be a fascinating event.
Kourides welcomed everyone and acknowledged Tenet’s family – his wife Stephanie and son John Michael – and the diplomats and other dignitaries in attendance.
The content of Tenet’s 2007 book At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, and additional observations, combined with his wit and incisive observations on the critical events of the three decades of world history he witnessed, and his extraordinary ability to connect with audiences had the guests riveted.
Tenet, a proud Epirote, like his fraternal twin brother, noted cardiologist William Tenet, had the classic Greek-American family experience growing up in Queens and being active in the Church of St. Nicholas in Flushing. His parents, Evangelia and John Tenet immigrated from Epiros and owned the Twentieth Century Diner, where both brothers worked as busboys.
After earning his Bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University and his master’s at Columbia University in the 1970s, Tenet held a number of national security positions working for Congress and the Executive branch.
He served as the 18th Director of Central Intelligence from 1997 to 2004, winning “the respect and confidence of two different presidents, one a Democrat and the other a Republican,” Kourides noted. From 2004-2007 he was Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and he is currently Chairman of Allen & Company, a privately held investment bank based in New York.
Kourides lauded Tenet for his “deep commitment to public service, a keen intellect and being an incredibly effective leader. He has also received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon civilians, for his public service and efforts to strengthen global security.”
When he resigned as CIA Director, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, chairman of the Select Committee in intelligence, read the following tribute into the Congressional Record: “I have known every CIA director since Allen Dulles…all of them have been honorable men, well-meaning and decent public servants, but none was a better director of Central Intelligence than George Tenet….I will remember him as a tremendous public servant who served honorable, effectively, and tirelessly.”
The fireside chat was followed by a lively Q&A and a reception.
In his introduction, Kourides shared the gist of discussions with his sister about how best to honor the legacy of their father “and his insatiable desire to support and promote the interests of the Greek community.”
They decided on the lecture series because “we believed we could invite other people, who also had devoted much of their lives to public service, to share their experiences. The Foundation was established in 2011 and it seemed like the ideal organization,” to offer the series he said.
Kourides, a Senior Vice President who played a role in the recovery of American International Group (AIG), has been its Deputy General Counsel since 2007. He is also a lecturer at Columbia Law School.
Peter Kourides was born in Constantinople in 1910 and grew up to be the quintessential New Yorker and dedicated son of the Greek-American community. He served as general counsel of the Archdiocese for more than 50 years, working with three archbishops, and practiced law in the City for 70 years.