BOSTON – At the recent celebration of Greek Independence Day at the White House, President Donald Trump singled out and honored three Greek-Americans.
He spotlighted Rev. Kosmas Karavellas, Aphrodite Skeadas, and Carl Hollister by calling their names during his speech at the celebration and praising each one of them.
Fr. Kosmas is one of the most distinguished priests of the Archdiocese of America, serving the Community diligently for 34 years at the Sts. Constantine and Helen parish in Annapolis, MD.
Aphrodite Skeadas is former president of the National Philoptochos of the Archdiocese with a six-year productive tenure capped by the purchase of the building in a prestigious area of Manhattan that became the Philoptochos Center of Philanthropy. Carl Hollister is a past Supreme President of AHEPA who led the organization successfully and is also a retired U.S. Army Major with 21 years of active and reserve service, of which 17 years in Special Operations with tours of duty in Central America and Central Asia.
The National Herald spoke with all three of them about their experience at the White House.
Fr. Karavellas told TNH that, “It was a great honor when the President called me out and told the story of my parents coming to America with my sister and me on July 4th. I thought it was very nice. I was thinking about the effort my parents made to come here, like so many other Greek families that have come to America.”
He and his sister, Presvytera Xanthi Karloutsos, the wife of V. Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, “were born in Kerkira. My parents escaped from Himara,” of Northern Epirus in Albania, and added, “if nothing else, in America we have the opportunity to be free and I love this concept of freedom. I always try to celebrate freedom during the 4th of July honoring my parent’s example of wanting to be free, leaving a communist nation and fighting to be free.”
Fr. Kosmas also said, “I had the opportunity to talk to the President. He asked me ‘what else are you doing?’ and I said to him I am still fighting for freedom for the people in Northern Epirus so they can have their properties returned to them, and I would love for you to continue to look at this issue for us. He said he will learn more about it.”
Aphrodite Skeadas said to TNH, “I was very surprised and honored, of course. The President made a mention not for me, but for the work of Philoptochos, this is how I see it. He mentioned my name because I am also immigrant in America; I was five years old when we came from Greece, from Sparta in the Peloponnesus.”
She added that, “I remember the village and the area not because I was born there but because we later visited in the summer months. My grandmother and my family was there.”
Asked if she was expecting the honor, she said, “no I wasn’t expecting that from the President. It was a complete surprise. Every year it is an honor to be here and I don’t take it for granted to be present at the celebration of Greek Independence Day at the White House. I therefore take it very seriously because I feel very proud for what the Greek revolutionary heroes did.”
She also said, “The celebration was beautiful. It is always nice, all the years that we have attended; I felt a special pride. Of course I am Greek but I am also a Greek-American.”
She had the opportunity to meet President Trump in person, saying, “I was invited to meet him and take a photograph with him. He thanked me for my service to the Community and told me to continue the good work…he was very reserved, very formal but at the same time, warm.”
Skeadas has been a member of the Philoptochos for over forty years. “I started at a young age at my parish in Rye, NY when I got married and my children were small, then I became president. I must say that when I became active with the Philoptochos I loved it so much! I thought it was a way to serve my community on many levels. There were other organizations that wanted me to join, but I chose Philoptochos because it has to with Hellenism and my Faith and with service to humanity.”
Carl Hollister told TNH, “I was extremely humbled, overwhelmed, and proud. It was a total surprise – I had absolutely no idea. I was shocked.”
He added, “It is always a wonderful experience to be at the White House and to be able to meet with members of Congress, the Senate, the Cabinet Secretaries. There is such a tremendous sense of pride…there are only two ethnic groups that are provided access to the White House for such events, the Irish and of course, the Greeks. It is something that we should be extremely proud of.”
Hollister also met with the President. “I told him it is such an honor to meet the President of the United States. He thanked me for my military service and he was familiar a little a bit with the AHEPA…I was blown away with the way he grabs your hand with authority; you know you are shaking hands with a leader.”
Hollister is president of L.M. Kohn & Company, an Investment Advisory and Brokerage firm in Cincinnati, Ohio, managing 60 branch offices with more than $3.5 billion in client assets. With more than 20 years of experience in the Securities Industry, the supreme president holds a Master’s Degree in Finance from Webster University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Grove City College.
Note: The photos are from the Official White House Photos/Shealah Craighead. The photographs, which are only for personal use, were provided to The National Herald by the above honorees. Any kind or form of republishing, reproduction or use is prohibited.