To the Editor:
As the brothers assemble for the AHEPA National Convention in Las Vegas [July 23-29] to reflect on the accomplishments for the year and ponder the future, allow me, as a humble past contributor, to share my thoughts for their consideration. Unfortunately, I am not able to attend, but time and distance have no bearing on the merits of thoughtful and well-intended suggestions. I simply thought my comments would be appreciated, so I am using the Herald’s Letter to the Editor to express my point of view.
Foremost of the year’s achievements, that demand recognition and congratulations is Supreme President Jimmy Kokotas’ extraordinary leadership during the COVID pandemic and thereafter. Hellenes everywhere appreciated his youthful persona and the gravitas with which he conducted the affairs of the office of the Supreme President. His focus on the AHEPA youth was much appreciated and will pay dividends in years to come. Though all good things must end, we are fortunate that his enthusiasm and commitment will continue to lift Hellenism to new heights. Well done, Brother Kokotas, AXIOS.
In the last decade, AHEPA has made tremendous strides growing the lodge in many European capitals. Time and resources have been invested in raising our banner inside those capitals. However, let’s not forget that ‘A’ is the most important letter in AHEPA and it stands for American. It must not be ignored. Opportunities exist, where many chapters are either dark or have experienced significant declines. AHEPA needs to restore these chapters to their rightful status, reviving them with new and exciting leadership and programs.
There has been a huge cultural shift in the Greek-American population. Mixed marriages dominate our landscape. The Greek-American/Philhellene today is likely to be a third generation, well-educated, career-oriented and a very savvy business leader. These Greek-American Philhellenes are well represented in state capital leadership positions, on the national level in Washington, as well as in boardrooms across our nation. The vast majority are attorneys, physicians, educators, multimedia professionals, entrepreneurs, and local business people. They are growing in numbers and on any given day they are recognized in print and in broadcast media. Certainly, we are a very proud people carrying the torch of our ancestors. Collectively, we represent the opportunity of fulfilling the legacy we have received. To continue its successful trajectory AHEPA must provide a forum where these new leaders can express their vision of what it means to be a Hellene in the 21st century.
We shouldn’t forget our rich past, yet it is critical that AHEPA now concentrate its efforts on its promising future. AHEPA faces a formidable challenge: regain those who have left, appeal to an untapped Greek-American community, and inspire the young with their rich and demanding heritage. It cannot afford to fail. This is said with a degree of urgency. That’s my message. I’m grateful for this opportunity to be able to share my thoughts on the future of AHEPA.
James B. Zafiros
Retired Vice President, NBC Television
AHEPA Life Member and Vice Chair, New Rochelle, Chapter 405