ATHENS – AHEPA Hellas’ Solon Chapter HJ04 led by its president, Greek-American expat George Malamo, hosted its Annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Athenian Riviera Hotel near Athens on December 2, an event that also featured a presentation and Q&A on U.S.-Greece relations by Nicholas Larigakis, president of the Washington, DC-based American Hellenic Institute (AHI).
Malamo offered brief and warm greetings, saying “I want to thank all of you who came to celebrate Thanksgiving with our chapter and I am happy that in addition to our honored guests most of you are my personal friends.”
He also expressed the Chapter’s best wishes for AHEPA Supreme President George Horiates and Executive Director Basil Mossaides, as well as a “Thanksgiving ‘thank you’ to them and congratulations for all their efforts in behalf of Hellenism.”
Malamo then introduced the keynote speaker. “We are pleased to invite Nick Larigakis – who was born in my home town of Glossa on Skopelos – to tell us a little about how Washington sees things and how things work in Washington.”
There were also greetings from Simos Kedikoglou, Deputy Minister to the Prime Minister, Nick Papadopoulos, past Region 10 Supreme Governor, and Alec Mally, former U.S. Consul General in Thessaloniki. Also attending was Maria Kalagia, recent candidate for the Greek Parliament.
Larigakis began his presentation by thanking Malamo and Solon for the invitation and congratulating their success. First he highlighted the achievements of AHEPA in America in helping Hellenes protect themselves and assimilate, and the reasons its success, especially its spirit of brotherhood and mutual support. He later noted that the Greek-American Community’s lobbying efforts would benefit from greater cooperation among its organizations today.
Regarding those efforts, Larigakis described the work of AHI and emphasized the value of AHI’s approach, speaking as Americans in the interest of the United States, which he said overlaps 99% with those of Greece and Cyprus when not distorted by the efforts of the Turkey’s lobbyists. Turkey spends an annual total of $20 million in all its U.S. efforts – which Larigakis also discussed.
The recent White House meeting of Turkey’s president Erdogan was characterized as something not at all new, but merely the latest wrinkle in the decades-long U.S. practice of appeasement of Ankara, which Larigakis said surely emboldened Turkey to move forward with the revelation last week of the outrageous Memorandum of Understanding with Libya which claimed vast tracts of the Aegean and Mediterranean for Turkey, as if the Greek islands did not exist.
The guests enjoyed the lively Q&A which gave Larigakis the opportunity to explain the important distinction between being a lobbyist for Greece – which AHI is not, and which would require registration as a foreign agent – and supporting Greece and Cyprus in the context of U.S. national security and economic interests.
In response to one man’s question about what people in Greece can do, Larigakis noted that it is American citizens who have the ear of Members of Congress, however, another guest noted that people in Greece can light a fire under their friends and relatives in America and urge them to communicate with their congressmen and support AHI – Larigakis adding that the modest $100 annual membership would go a long way if more people signed up.