[The speech delivered by Andreas C. Dracopoulos, co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and one of the National Herald’s guests of honor at its 100th anniversary celebration on May 22 at the New York Public Library. The Herald selected Dracopoulos to deliver the address on behalf of all of the honorees.]
Your Eminence, Senator, official guests, dear co-celebrators,
Today, we have gathered all together in this temple of education and knowledge, the central library of New York, to celebrate a great anniversary for Hellenism!
First of all, we have to congratulate my good friend, Anthony Diamataris, owner and publisher of the Greek National Herald, a real herald and messenger, which this year celebrates 100 years of life, 100 years of hard struggle, to maintain Greek language, Greek education and culture, and the Greek soul. 100 years of keeping company to each one of us that luck brought us to the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean, thousands of miles away from the motherland. A herald, who during these 100 years has stood by us tirelessly and reliably, with dignity and respect. A herald, who continues to build a strong foundation in order to continue its mission and its purpose for another 100 years and hundred years more, and 100 more on top of that.
Thousands of years ago, Cicero, the Roman philosopher, had said “The language of the Gods is the Greek language.” The German poet Goethe followed by saying “what the mind and the heart is for a human being, Greece is for humanity,” and the German poet and philosopher Schiller added “Damned Greek, you found everything; philosophy, geometry, physics, astronomy… you left nothing for us.” The American poet and journalist William Cullen Bryant said “We are the pupils of Greece’s great men, in all the principles of science, morals and of government.” Victor Hugo said “it is great to descend from Greece, the land that gave the light to the world.” Voltaire, “Defend Greece because to them we owe our lights, our sciences, and all of our virtues.” The Russian writer Tolstoy “without Greek studies there is no education.” Robert Kennedy, “let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago … to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life in this world.”
How is it possible not to be proud of this heritage? And yet it seems that we still have not realized that together with the pride that we rightly carry with us, we must also understand that we have a huge responsibility to our ancestors, our children and the whole world. The responsibility not to rest on the laurels of our ancestors, the responsibility to work hard and in a moral way, in order to pass a healthy baton to our children. On this, let us not forget that the Diaspora is a branch of the motherland. In these difficult times, the burden of responsibility for Hellenism everywhere is even heavier, and I am sure that all of us are fully aware of our responsibilities. Do not let the lyrics of the Greek singer Sotiria Bellou “I leave bitter, leaving you behind, a lost piece of wood in the midst of the sea. I can’t keep shedding my blood for a country gravely ill” do not allow these lyrics to give us any excuse. All of us must, without any exceptions, continue to offer our best, for a better tomorrow for everyone.
I also would also like, in turn, to warmly congratulate the other co-honorees: Nick Andriotis, Evangelos Gizis, Stella Kokolis, Dr. George Kofinas, Philip Christopher, Protopresbyter Demetrios Constantelos, Dr. Spiro Spireas, Nikos Tsakanikas, and the late Theodore Spyropoulos. You make us proud!
I also would like to appeal to all co-travelers: do not forget how valuable our language is. If it is forgotten, it will be lost. If it is lost, a huge part of our Hellenism will be lost as well.
Again, many congratulations and a happy centennial to Anthony Diamataris, his family, and his colleagues in the National Herald, together with a big thank you for the great work it does every day.
In closing, and firmly believing in the effectiveness of the right partnerships, I would like to say that we are watching closely the developments in relation to the Parthenon Marbles. We will in turn contribute to the degree possible, so that the marbles return home. We will do everything in our power. Thank you!