TNH Person of the Year – 2014: Sylvia Mathews-Burwell

Our process for selecting the Person of the Year takes into account numerous criteria. First, as we are a newspaper whose primary mission is to serve the Greek-American community, our Person ideally ought to be of Greek descent. Second the Person’s should have done something meaningful in 2014 that should be an inspiration to Greek-Americans and Greeks throughout the world. Finally, the Person’s accomplishments ought to extend beyond our community and in some way affect American society as a whole.
It is for a combination of those reasons that The National Herald’s Person of the Year – 2014 is Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Mathews Burwell.
To the extent that success is defined by attaining a position of power and influence, few Greek-Americans nowadays can match Burwell’s success. She is currently the highest-ranking Greek in American politics.
Appointed HHS Secretary in June, Burwell is 11th in line to the succession of the presidency. That means, if President Obama, Vice President Biden, and ten other Cabinet members were to become incapacitated, Burwell would be president. Of course, that is extremely unlikely and for any of that to occur would be an unspeakable national tragedy – but the fact that she is that close to succession far exceeds any of her Greek-American contemporaries.
Burwell’s position renders her a role model not only for Greek-Americans in general, but Greek-American women in particular, as she is the highest-ranking Greek woman in American political history.
Under normal circumstances, the HHS Secretary would not be a particularly noteworthy position, at least not among the other Cabinet posts. But in the era of the sweeping, historical, and polarizing health care reform officially called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and commonly referred to as Obamacare, that Burwell is, in effect, that initiative’s steward, renders her position particularly prestigious.
Is Obamacare here to stay, like Social Security – or is it a law destined to be repealed, like the Volstead Act, which established prohibition? Supporters say that it is already a success, and detractors say just the opposite. Objectively, it is probably too soon to draw a definitive conclusion one way or another, and so the next couple of years are critical. And with Burwell at the HHS helm, she is playing a vital role in guiding one of America’s most transformational moments.
Perhaps equally as important as Burwell’s job is the positive image she projects. In one of the most bitterly partisan periods in American history, the U.S. Senate united behind Burwell’s nomination, confirming her overwhelmingly, 77-18. The year before, she was confirmed as Director of the Office of Management and Budget even more overwhelmingly, by a 96-0 vote.
Her appearance on Meet the Press in November reflected that her appeal to legislators, regardless of ideology or party affiliation, is not an accident. In her defense of Obamacare, she spoke in a calm, consistent tone and exhibiting a warm, exhibiting an everpresent smile.
Though her name, “Sylvia Mathews Burwell” does not sound very Greek, Burwell is not merely a Greek by birthright – she is “the granddaughter of Greek immigrants” as President Obama described her – but also by deed. Along with other prominent Greek-Americans, Burwell helped to establish the education foundation Next Generation Initiative – aka Hellenext. She taught master’s classes for young leaders and participated in the Greeks Give Back national competition.
Congratulations, Secretary Burwell, and all the best wishes for continued success.


ATHENS - A regulation in an omnibus bill will allow repatriated Greeks from Albania and the former Soviet Union to receive full national pensions, Labor and Social Protection Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said during a discussion in Greek Parliament on Tuesday.

Top Stories

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

General News

PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.


Mission…to Alonnisos, a TNH Documentary

O oceanic you sing and sail White on your body and yellow on your chimeneas For you're tired of the filthy waters of the harbors You who loved the distant Sporades You who lifted the tallest flags You who sail clear through the most dangerous caves Hail to you who let yourself be charmed by the sirens Hail to you for never having been afraid of the Symplegades (Andreas Empeirikos)   What traveler has not been fascinated by the Greek islands, drawn by the Sirens’ song of a traveler’s dreams? TNH and our video show ‘Mission’ marked the change of the season by transporting viewers into the heart of summer.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.