NEW YORK – The Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) invited members and friends to the inaugural “Politics on the Rocks” discussion series and The Attic Rooftop & Lounge in Manhattan was filled with young professionals on June 18 who came to hear featured speaker Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey.
Endy Zemenides, HALC’s executive director, travelled from Chicago to launch the series that will present events once a month, “to talk about the community’s pressing issues.”
He said the dual purpose of the endeavor is to get members of the community more civically engaged and to raise the level of civil engagement,” and emphasized that “Those of you involved in public affairs know that being able to bounce ideas off of people leads to relationships and policy initiatives.”
Zemenides introduced Pallone and said “We are honored that he came straight from votes in Congress,” Zemenides said, and when he noted that he could then read from a long and distinguished resume, Pallone smiled and said “Don’t do it,” eliciting laughter from the gathering.
Pallone is the Ranking Democrat on the important House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has increasing relevance to U.S. relations with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey given the substantial hydrocarbon deposits Greece and Cyprus are now known to possess.
The discussion ranged from Greece’s troika negotiations that were taking place as they were speaking, to FYROM to the Cyprus issues.
Greece’s importance as a strategically valuable friend and ally of the United States was highlighted, and the importance to American interests of helping it overcome its crisis was emphasized.
The importance of putting the situation into its proper perspective was mentioned – media distortions are among the challenged faced by people advocating for Greece – and it was noted that every South European country is struggling today, not just Greece – and that long term solutions were needed.
The guests acknowledged change was needed in Greece, and a sympathetic Pallone said that it cannot happen overnight.
The discussion on the new round of Cyprus included explanations and perspective on confidence building measures (CBM) that are often mentioned in news reports. In response to some skepticism on CBMs, Pallone said “they do make a difference…they help build relationships.”
Zemenides and other said one of the most important CBM would be Turkey’s addressing the issue of the up to 2000 Greek Cypriots that have been missing since illegal 1974 Turkish invasion.
Regarding the negotiation process that is supposed to lead to a solution Zemenides emphasized that “at the end of the day the people of Cyprus will have to vote,” on an agreement and that the people would need to have trust in the proves and the result.
He said that the issue of the missing “is a bigger issue than people realize.”
Among the guests was Andrew Gounardes, counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. He told TNH “It’s great to get the community together to meet with the members of Congress and other leaders of the country. It helps the community to understand how to navigate the issues we are organizing to try to address, and it gives the leaders a chance to hear from us directly about the concerns that we have, the issues we care about, and why we do what we do.”
Tassos Zambas told TNH he was pleased with HALC’s its initiative in working with the youth. Our future depends on it. From what I am seeing – being able to attract more than 30 young people to their own and other community events,” HALC is off to a great start.
Zambas was very impressed with HALC participation at the recent annual PSEKA conference in Washington, DC. “Fifteen young people from HALC came. I think it is unprecedented. When you get the young people involved, I am very optimistic about the community’s future, so I congratulate them for that.”
According to its website, Hellenicleaders.com, HALC, founded by scientist and entrepreneur Nikos Mouyiaris is “a national network of advocates & community leaders who advance issues important to the Greek diaspora community.”
Eventsy, the social and business networking company, helped coordinate the event.