I counted more than 10 times that the members of Congress – of both parties – who attended the speech of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the U.S. Capitol stood up to applaud him. And sometimes they applauded him for a long time. But the warmest, and also the most enthusiastic applause – where everyone turned their eyes to the galleries filled with invited Greek-Americans – was when Mitsotakis praised the members of our Community.
Many members of Congress know from personal experience – and that is why they attended Mitsotakis’ speech – the importance of the Greek-American community, their contributions to America, their commitment to the country’s institutions and laws. They have also received financial support for their election campaigns from them.
For these reasons they jumped to their feet and applauded for several minutes upon hearing a reference to the Greek-American community. Among the most important highlights and great successes of Mitsotakis’ visit to Washington – and there were many – was the expression of respect and pride by him and the members of Congress in the Greek-American community.
And since all of a sudden many in Greece have discovered our Community and are now praising us, contrary to all the trivial and derogatory things they would say just a few years ago, it is time to put things in order, to put matters in proper perspective.
So, what changed? The reality is that the Community did not change overnight. Nor is it the case that we are without problems and weaknesses. Quite the contrary.
However, the members of the Greek-American Community from one coast to the other, as well as the few but dedicated staffers of organizations based in Washington, New York, and Chicago – who are often referred to as the ‘Greek Lobby’ – have found a genuine ‘partner’ in the Greek Prime Minister. Someone they can finally talk to and work with. Someone who makes them proud – and who understands and appreciates them.
This has fired them up. And one example of an expression of mutual understanding and appreciation, painless and inexpensive to Greece, but important, is the award presented by the Prime Minister to one of our Community’s leading organizations, the Order of AHEPA, and nine individuals for their contributions to Greece. That is, the recognition of their efforts. Of their struggles.
Unfortunately, the number of recipients of the medal had to be limited. There are many, many more who deserve the recognition of the Motherland.
As the Prime Minister stated in his speech, however, this was just the beginning, and it will continue. Because teachers and priests, businessmen and scientists, Greek-Americans and American philhellene politicians, and presidents of associations and communities should be and deserve to be honored.
On his trip to Washington, Kyriakos Mitsotakis made history because he understood and seized the historical moment and took the opportunity to deepen relations between the two countries. And he did the same with the Greek-American community.