LOS ANGELES – The American Hellenic Council (AHC) Annual Awards Gala attracts leaders from a wide spectrum of areas: politicians, entertainers, business executives, philanthropists and activists, among others.
This year, on the occasion of honoring Dr. Peter Diamandis and Congresswoman Judy Chu, the Gala received a surprise guest, former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.
AHC is a political advocacy group that was formed as a response to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and has a long history of advocating and lobbying for Hellenic causes. While AHC has welcomed an array of distinguished guests in previous years, Papandreou is the first to have been a Greek prime minister.
DROP-IN FROM THE DR
Former Prime Minister Papandreou took the stage to talk about the current refugee crisis in Greece and about the challenges facing the Greek Diaspora in these difficult times for the homeland.
Papandreou, who is criticized by many for the handling of the country’s financial crisis, received a mixed reaction. Few patrons even refused to stay in the ballroom during his speech. After the conclusion of the presentation, Papandreou answered questions and took pictures with many attendees.
Currently President of the Socialist International organization, Papandreou had been in the Dominican Republic attending a committee meeting when he accepted an invitation to attend the Los Angeles Gala, held on April 2, at the last moment. His participation had not been announced in advance.
The Gala honored Dr. Diamandis, an international pioneer in spaceflight innovation, an author, and Chairman of the X Prize Foundation. Fortune Magazine declared him one of’ ‘the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”
The other honoree, Representative Chu (D-CA), is the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress. She was honored for her contributions to the Creative Rights Caucus and her legislation to create a National Recreation Area to preserve and expand access to the San Gabriel Mountains, which was endorsed by President Obama.
Serving as Emcee was Peter Economides, a branding consultant whose team launched the “Think Different” campaign following Steve Jobs’ return to Apple in 1997.
AHC President Menas Kafatos updated the audience on the progress of the philanthropic campaign Project Elpis, to benefit the historic hospital Elpis in Athens. Like many other health care facilities, Elpis has operated under extremely difficult conditions due to the severe budget cuts as a result of the country’s economic crisis.
With the help of St. Sophia Cathedral Dean Fr. John Bakas, AHC organized a community fundraiser last December that was attended by then-Elpis director Theodoros Giannaros, who gave a firsthand account of the challenges facing the hospital. The event raised $70,000, and Kafatos announced at the Gala that ”the AHC worked with the leadership of Elpis Hospital and identified the most useful medical equipment. We are in the process of purchasing two machines for the Ophthalmic Outpatient Clinic and one Otolaryngologic machine for the Surgery Department. We are very pleased.”
In receiving the Aristeion Award, an award honoring excellence and innovative thinking, Dr. Diamandis encouraged people to take initiative and ”create the future you desire yourself.” He told TNH, ”I am honored to receive the award from the AHC organization. My life and successes have been driven by the principals taught to me by my Greek-American parents. Those of work-ethic, education, and aspiration to pursue my dreams.”
Congresswoman Chu, who received The Periklis Award, which highlights individuals whose efforts advance democracy, said ”I am now honored to tell you that I am the newest member of the Hellenic Caucus in Congress.” Aris Anagnos, who is the Vice President of Political Action and one of the founding members for AHC told TNH ”I have known Congresswoman Chu for more than 20 years and have worked with her on many issues. She is very knowledgeable about the Hellenic issues and I am very pleased that she has now joined our caucus.” Chu’s efforts to pressure Turkey to return stolen church properties to the Greek and Armenian populations is one of the many reasons she was selected to receive the Periklis award.
A recently established Aris Anagnos scholarship was given to LMU University student Konstantinos Kaplanis for his exemplary academic accomplishments and his volunteer work promoting Hellenic causes. The scholarship’s purpose is to reward excellence in academia and civic participation and it provides a one-time reward of $5,000 toward the applicant’s tuition.
Music was provided by the Takis ”Kokotas” Stathoulis Band, which performed a compilation of classic Greek songs, accompanied by singer Korinna Kaplanis, and with a special appearance by acclaimed singer Athena.
More information about AHC is available at americanhellenic.org.