WASHINGTON, DC – The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) held its 41st Biennial Congressional Banquet, April 29 at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington, DC. Nearly 400 leaders of the Greek-American community from across the United States and Canada were on-hand to salute excellence and service in the community.
In addition to honoring outstanding Greek-Americans, public servants and institutions, the Banquet is also an opportunity for Ahepan across the country to visit their elected officials and speak to them about important community issues such as U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus – including support during the economic crisis – and religious freedom and the protection of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey.
Capitol Hill Day activities, which drew Ahepans from 20 states and generated meetings with 70 members of Congress, included a morning reception featuring Congressman Gus Bilirakis as keynote speaker.
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) and AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaidis shared duties as Emcee and Banquet Chairman Andy Zachariades, Supreme Secretary, welcomed the audience Archbishop Demetrios offered the Invocation and Benediction.
The banquet program included a Keynote Address Archbishop Demetrios and Response from Supreme President Phillip T. Frangos.
The guests were treated to patriotic music from “The President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band under the direction of MSgt Duane F. King, which also performed the Star-Spangled Banner. The United States Marine Corps Color Guard presented the Colors.
The auspicious event drew to its conclusion with closing remarks by AHEPA Supreme President Phillip T. Frangos, who thanked all who made the events’ success possible.
The honorees and the awards they received included Rep. John Lewis, AHEPA Pericles Award, presented by U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes; Ambassador Robert W. Peck, ambassador of Canada to the Hellenic Republic, AHEPA Aristotle Award, which was presented by AHEPA Canadian President Ken Matziorinis; The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, AHEPA Archbishop Iakovos Humanitarian Award, accepted by Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis, senior advisor to the Board of Directors and member of the Executive Management Team of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, presented by AHEPA National Educational Foundation Secretary George Vorkas; Col. Alan C. Macaulay, (USMC ret.), AHEPA Military Medal of Honor, presented by AHEPA Public Policy Chairman Carl Hollister, Maj., U.S. Army, ret., Amb. Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, Daughters of Penelope Civic Responsibility Award, presented by Daughters of Penelope Grand President Anna-Helene Grossomanides; and AHEPA Past Supreme President Gus J. James, II, AHEPA Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Supreme President Phillip T. Frangos.
In their acceptance remarks, the honorees shared their inspirational personal stories of triumph over adversity and reflected upon the importance of public service and community service. They also expressed gratitude toward the AHEPA and Daughters of Penelope for promoting these principles.
Introducing Congressman Lewis, Congressman Sarbanes described him as “A hero of our time and of all time.” In addition to the Pericles Award, Congressman Lewis was presented with a custom-framed copy of the historic March 26, 1965 issue of Life Magazine “Memorial at Selma” with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos on the cover. The inscription written on the frame stated in part, “In Commemoration of the Unity of the African American and Greek Communities.”
“When Dr. Martin Luther King issued a call, members of your church responded, and we will never forget it,” Congressman Lewis said. “And fifty years later you came to Selma to walk with us. Thank you.”
Ahepan Jim Vlassopoulos, retired deputy fire chief, Washington, DC Fire & EMS Department; and Dianne Katsakis Quebral, corporate social responsibility program manager at Fairfax County, Virginia made a special presentation to support the participation of police officers and firefighters from Greece in the Fairfax 2015 World Police & Fire Games.
Among the dignitaries were, Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos Panagopoulos and Ambassador of Cyprus to the U.S. George Chacalli, both of who offered greetings; Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Danny Davis, Rep. Robert Dold, former U.S. Rep. Zack Space; and George A. Kalogridis, president, Walt Disney World Resort.