[The following is a commentary on the occasion of the 100th anniversary gala of the Ethnikos Kyrix-National Herald and its meaning for the history and future of the Greek-American community by Constantinos E. Scaros, the Executive Editor of its sister publication, The National Herald.]
NEW YORK – At the majestic entrance of the main branch of the New York Public Library along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue await two formidable stone lions.
Originally nicknamed “Leo Astor” and “Leo Lenox” after the Library’s founders, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox, they were called “Patience” and “Fortitude” by NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who bestowed those monikers upon them to express the qualities of New Yorkers insofar as their ability to withstand the Great Depression.
Based on the momentous occasion held at the Library on May 22, honoring the 100th anniversary of this newspaper’s sister publication, Ethnikos Kyrix-National Herald, it would not be out of place to give them alternative concurrent nicknames: “NH” and “TNH.”
The Library – the second-largest in the United States, after the Library of Congress, and the fourth largest anywhere in the world – is the National Herald’s (NH) contemporary. Founded in 1911, it is the older sibling of the Herald, which was established in 1915.
When realizing their respective impacts on the entire humankind, it would be disingenuous, even foolhardy, to suggest that NH – or any single news medium, for that matter – can stand equal to the Library. But it is also fair to say that what the New York Public Library is to scholarship, the Ethnikos Kyrix-National Herald is to American Hellenism.
I have been to the Library countless times in my life – in fact, I had an office right around the corner not too long ago – but now that I live in Central Pennsylvania, the trips there are less frequent. I recalled how many times I entered that grandiose but largely quiet and uneventful main lobby, and how wonderful it was to see it adorned with hundreds of smiling Greek faces on May 22, all delighted to be there and to celebrate the Herald’s remarkable milestone. Not many people realize that, at 100, NH is not only the oldest US-based Greek newspaper, but it is also the oldest foreign language publication in America. Period. In any language. For sure, then, it deserves the royal designation of “lion.”
A NEW LION
But there is another lion that is worthy of appearing alongside NH, and that is this very newspaper, The National Herald (TNH), the English edition. Founded 18 years ago, when juxtaposed against its Greek counterpart, the Kyrix, TNH is still just a baby. But when considering that it grows bigger and stronger each year, no longer just in print but now – thanks to technology – in its digital format, which renders it a bona fide daily publication – even hourly, to some extent – TNH strives every day to maintain its place as the Greek-American community’s English language newspaper of record – just as the Kyrix has done for so many years and continues to do. In his letter congratulating NH, Patriarch Bartholomew described it as “the voice of the Diaspora.” Speaking live at the Gala, retired U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes said “the National Herald equals the community, and the community equals the National Herald.” It is those giant footsteps in which TNH aspires to follow. Not to replace them, but to replicate them.
SIDE BY SIDE
An important similarity between the Public Library’s lions and the two versions (Greek and English) of the Herald is that one is not the heir who has come to succeed the other, but rather the partner who complements it.
There were many examples at the Gala that confirm that the Greek language and culture, far from withering in America is on the rise. I see this in the important work that my fellow Nisyrians Nick Andriotis and Timoleon Kokkinos do to advance Greek education in America. In the work done by Stella Kokolis as well, whom I was happy to see at the Gala after many, many years. She was my Greek teacher in high school, and Mr. Kokkinos was my Greek Afternoon School teacher in the second and fifth grades. All of that happened a very long time ago – Paideia thrived then, and it does now.
Hellenism’s resilience in America was also evident in the speeches given by the children of Andreas Dracopoulos, Stavros Niarchos Foundation co-President, who was honored at the Gala, and of Publisher-Editor Antonis H. Diamataris – all of whom profoundly touched the crowd by speaking so fluently and eloquently in Greek, despite being American-born.
The side-by-side relationship of NH and TNH was further symbolized by Diamataris’ brilliant notion to have the speakers at the Gala deliver their addresses in Greek, while giant screens provided a simultaneous translation in English. (Perhaps Greek Orthodox churches in the United States can adopt that idea for their liturgies.)
I cannot take credit for, pardon the pun, the “lion’s share” of the Herald’s successes, as my contributions amount to nothing more than a fraction of a century’s worth of accomplishments. But I am proud to work with such a fine group of dedicated individuals, all of whom work tirelessly day after day, week after week, edition after edition. And I look forward to the day, a couple of years from now, when we have another gala to celebrate another milestone: the 20th anniversary of TNH, the younger of the two lions.