ATHENS — The Academy of Athens honored John Kerry, US President Joe Beiden's first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, with the Lord Byron prize for philhellenism at an online event held on Wednesday.
The prize was awarded at a special celebratory session of the Academy by Hellenic Republic President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and attended by the prime minister, cabinet members and ambassadors.
By the International Award 'Lord Byron' bestowed on the American diplomat and politician on the country's 200th anniversary since the breakout of the Greek War of Independence, the country also honors "all his predecessors and all those who contributed to the birth of a liberated Greece," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in his online address.
Greece also recognizes the constant commitment of the United States to the idea of liberty, which was imprinted during its fight against fascism and Nazism during World War II, the Greek prime minister added. The former secretary of state has served the ideas of unity and moderation during his political career, and during his tenure as the 68th US secretary of state worked tirelessly for international conciliation and multi-sided understanding, Mitsotakis said in his tribute.
"I am sure that under his new role for the climate, Mr. Kerry will bring energy, decisiveness and finally success to the greatest long-term challenge of our era, the overheating of our planet," the prime minister said, noting that Greece and the United States stand together in the battle against climate change. "We are proud to honor John Kerry today," he added.
In a tweet on the event, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said, "Proud to see John Kerry honored w/ Lord Byron prize, proof of the depth of US-GR friendship, from American philhellenes like John Winthrop who rallied behind the Greeks in the 1820s to modern US philhellenes who will launch the next 200 years of our strong alliance."
Outstanding philhellenes honored by Greek leadership
Besides Kerry, former French minister Jack Lang and Swiss banker Charles Pictet were also presented with the International Awards of Philhellenism 'Lord Byron' for 2021 at a ceremony of the the Academy of Athens on Wednesday.
Presenting the awards at the celebratory session of the Academy was President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, while Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis delivered a message online.
The meeting was opened by Academy Secretary General Christos Zerefos. Also addressing the meeting was Constantine Velentzas, president of the Society for Hellenism and Philhellenism, which established the international 'Lord Byron' prize. Each of the honorees receives the silver medal, a diploma, and a stipend of 10,000 USD which is donated to a foundation of their choice amont those that promote Greek and Philhellenic ideals.
"The glory of philhellenes, older and contemporary, remains untarnished through time," Sakellaropoulou said, while presenting the award during Greece's 200th anniversary since the declaration of independence from the Ottoman Turks.
The president noted the imagery on the award medal, with its depiction of Lord Byron on the obverse. She noted its reverse, with the phrase from the Iliad (Book 10), "afthitos kleos aei", "glory that is imperishable," and said this quality still reminds Greeks that their country belongs to an extensive international field of constant exchanges of ideas and actions. The awards, she said comprise "a small token of honoring those who tirelessly continue the long tradition of philhellenism."
Speaking of the award, she that as of this year (2021) it is being presented to individuals who looked for guidelines on how to live their lives in Greek ideals, such as democracy, paideia, and individual freedom. "We shall honor three outstanding personalities this year," she said. For each honoree she noted that Kerry was a descendant of Thomas Winthrop, president of the Philhellenic Committee of Boston, Jack Lang had contributed to promoting European culture and unification as Education and Culture Minister, and banker Charles Pictet is a descendant of the Picted de Rochemont family, who collaborated with Jean-Gabriel Eynard to support Ioannis Kapodistrias and the philhellenic movement in Switzerland and Europe at large.
The president of Greece presented the medals to embassy representatives, while Premier Mitsotakis and ministers delivered addresses to the honorees, who were connected online. Mitsotakis addressed John Kerry, Education Minister Niki Kerameus addressed Jack Lang, and Finance Minister Christos Staikouras addressed Charles Pictet. Receiving the medals on behalf of the honorees were US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, French First Councillor Nicolas Jose Croizer, and Swiss Ambassador Olaf Andreas Kjelsen.