WASHINGTON – For the 12th year in a row and with a resplendent ceremony held at the Institute of Peace in the nation’s capital, the Washington ‘OXI’ Day Foundation honored the heroes of our time, the men and women who do not hesitate to say their ‘OXI! – NO!’ to the authoritarian forces that oppose freedom, human rights, and democracy.
At this year’s event on October 27 the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and the Iranian journalist and activist, Masih Alinejad, were honored with the ‘OXI’ Courage in the presence of prominent Greek-Americans and Washingtonians.
For his part, the Ukrainian president called on the international community in a video message not to hesitate to say ‘OXI!’ to fascism.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, received the award on Zelensky’s behalf from White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. During his speech, Sullivan pledged that the United States would continue to support Ukraine, praised the unprecedented bravery of the Ukrainian people, and spoke about the unjustified and unprovoked war waged by Russia. He also referred to the well-known Snake Island incident in the Black Sea this year, saying that the response of the Ukrainian forces to the Russian ultimatum that they would not surrender was this year’s ‘OXI’ moment.
For her part, Alinejad said that what scares her the most is that all the dictators of the world are united as one fist, while the countries of the free world appear to her to be more divided than ever. She lives in exile in the United States, fleeing persecution by the Iranian government for her activism. She has recently emerged as a person who has breathed new life into the protests that continue to take place in Iran against the compulsory wearing of the headscarf.
Also honored that evening was Greek-American veteran George Poppas, who had fought in Greece’s National Resistance and then when he immigrated to the United States fought with the U.S. Army in the Korean War. Due to his advanced age, the award was given to his son, Andrew Poppas, himself a four-star general in the US Army. He told ANA-MPA, “my father taught me what it means to serve, what it means to have honor and integrity. This is the way he lived his life and these are the values he passed on to us. To be honored for ‘OXI’ day, which reflects the courage of all Greeks and inspired the world, is something I thank you for.”
The Washington ‘OXI’ Day Foundation
The idea for the establishment of an ‘OXI’ day foundation that will reward latter day democracy activists belongs to well-known Greek-American lobbyists Andy and Mike Manatos. Based on the archetypal David vs. Goliath narrative, the foundation uses Greece’s heroic ‘OXI!’ in 1940 as the basis for honoring the heroes of our time who have dared to say their own ‘OXI!’ to the forces that undermine democracy and freedom in the modern world.
The people of Greece showed extraordinary courage against insurmountable obstacles, fighting to preserve their freedom, and “the Washington Oxi Day Foundation is a nonprofit, 501c3 organization dedicated to: informing American policymakers and the public about the profound role Greece played in bringing about the outcome of World War II and; celebrating modern day heroes who exhibit the same David vs. Goliath #OXIcourage as the Greeks did in fighting to preserve and promote freedom and democracy around the world,” the Foundation’s website states.
It is an effort that aspires to highlight the universal dimension of Greek culture, turning October 28 from a national holiday into a world heritage event. The goal is to ensure that the epic struggle of the Greeks in 1940 and afterwards will secure the place it deserves in the historical memory of the United States and of her other WWII allies.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, the Foundation’s Executive Director Mike Manatos spoke about making the most of opportunities to develop Greece’s ‘soft power’ through cultural diplomacy, and he believes Greece has great potential in area. He noted that Greece, “has started, and is doing a good job in using the so-called ‘soft power’. In other words, it helps people to understand that while it is a small country, and although it cannot offer the United States what the largest economies on the planet can, Greece has certain ‘soft power’ advantages, which are its great comparative advantages” compared with other countries.
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