When some time ago Professor Evangelos Hatzimichael, governor of AHEPA Region 7 – with chapters in Connecticut and Rhode Island – asked me to address the joint AHEPA and Daughters of Penelope (DOP) conference in Norwich, I accepted the invitation immediately, despite the long distance from New York .
And I accepted it because apart from the obligation I offer anything I can to the community, apart from the fact that the professor is a serious man the subject of the speech that was put to me, ‘The role of AHEPA in the future of the Community’, is a serious issue for our Community that has concerned me for years.
Since this matter does not concern only the members of AHEPA but all of us, I quote for your consideration the main points of my speech:
“AHEPA has been one of the great success stories of our Community as is proven by the fact that it is celebrating 100 years of service.
“It’s by seven years younger than ΕΘνικός Κήρυκας, but much older than our English language weekly edition, The National Herald, that celebrated it’s 25 years anniversary on Monday.
“One might even argue that AHEPA is more successful than it would have been to its benefit to be, as I will suggest later on.
“Yet, in the past several decades its mission became unclear.
“It continued to remain a formidable community organization but it seemed to become less ambitious.
“What happened? And more importantly, what needs to be done in order to assure its future?
You know the history of AHEPA as well as I do. In a few words, it is Greeks organizing to protect themselves from discrimination, attacks, abuse.
It was not an easy life.
The path AHEPA chose was the path of assimilation in the general society. It was a winning, forward-looking strategy.
Look at the demographics of the Community.
So what should AHEPA’s mission be in this changed world?
My answer is that AHEPA needs to copy a chapter from GAPA and become more Greek.
Our community is facing serious challenges. In some respects it’s almost beginning to disintegrate.
It faces a protracted lack of leadership.
Meanwhile Greece and Cyprus are facing perhaps an existential threat from Turkey.
This is not a pleasant situation.
Yet, this is an opportunity of AHEPA.
Here is what I propose:
I propose that AHEPA steps in to play an even more important role in the community. Both in terms of its ethnic identity and the Greek national issues.
If not AHEPA than who?
It’s the only organization with deep roots in the community.
And if it does it, it will give it a new life, new glory.
Yes, AHEPA in the past 15 -20 years is moving in that direction. It’s much more active in these areas than before.
And very importantly it’s expanding overseas, like in Greece, which is one of the smartest things it has done.
It needs to do much more. For its own sake. For its long term relevance. Both in getting closer to Greece and its Hellenic roots and becoming the most effective defender of the Greek issues.
And here are some other ideas: Let’s build a programme of teaching the Greek language on a large scale the USA. Surely today’s technology makes it possible.
Indeed, let’s build a Greek school in a major city.
And let’s build an AHEPA village somewhere in Greece– with the support of the Greek government –where their members will be able to take vacations, spend their retirement years, where their children and grandchildren will visit them and bond with the place.
And please, change your bylaws so your president can serve for a longer period of time. One year just is not enough.