Having completed a six-year tenure – setting a record – at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, Consul General Konstantinos Koutras returns this week to the central service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens.
We bid him farewell with warm thanks, but also sadness.
This is, of course, the cycle of service of diplomats. Their tenure in a post is temporary and usually lasts four years. The fact that Dr. Koutras stayed for six years at the most demanding Greek consulate general in the world, the Consulate General in New York, speaks for itself about the level of his ability.
The role of a consul general does not have detailed specifications. A consul general does not follow prescribed orders, beyond a general description of his or her duties. And his formal duties have to do with the functioning of the consulate’s bureaucratic structure: issuing passports, notarizing documents, acquiring citizenship, etc.
Thus, each consul general shapes his tenure according to what he carries inside him: his character, his capabilities, and the degree to which he feels an urge to rise to the occasion, to honor the high position entrusted to him by his country and to stand in the best way at the side of the Hellenic community of the place where he is posted.
In my many years of living, working, and serving the Community in the United States I have seen consuls general of all stripes: bad, average, good, and very good.
But in the case of Koutras, we must create another category to be able to accurately describe the level of his tenure: the category of Greece’s top consuls general.
These can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
However, of all those who passed through New York in recent decades, after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, no one identified more – and, therefore, served with greater dedication and efficiency – with the Hellenism of this vast area which contains the largest population of expatriates and American-born Hellenes in the USA than Koutras.
And this for me is the highest criterion by which consuls general should be judged.
Dr. Koutras embraced the Greek-American community. He became one of us – he worked hard in his office, then he ran to attend our events, sharing our joys and our sorrows with modesty, ethics, and love.
He became one with us. That’s why he made history.
In the same vein, the motherland had a worthy representative, someone on whom she could rely with confidence and certainty that he would best serve her interests. Even when he needed to get tough.
I worked with Koutras in two capacities: As editor/publisher and now as advisor to the publishers of the National Herald, and as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Hellenism Abroad.
I am therefore in a position to say, and I owe it to him, that he fought with readiness, attention, and knowledge in the battle for the modernization of consulates, that is, for the improvement of the services that Greece offers to expatriates and other Hellenes Abroad.
And he was thus able to put the consulate on a course of modernization. It is up to his successor whether he wants to continue his work or not.
Konstantinos Koutras, consul general of Greece in New York until last week, and for six years, is leaving, but I am sure that he is not turning his back on us.
From whatever position of responsibility he finds himself, he will have us in his thoughts and concerns.
I am sure that the “Omogenia will follow him,” to paraphrase the verses of our great poet, that great Hellenic expatriate Constantine P. Cavafy.
I believe that the experiences he acquired, the love he experienced, the concern he felt for our course, the obligations he feels towards us, will follow him for a lifetime and that he will always be willing to offer whatever and as much as the circumstances allow him.
Again, this is why we do not merely say goodbye to him, but we bid him farewell with sadness as well as many thanks. We wish him the best. Until the next time our paths cross again.