The AHEPA leadership asked me to introduce the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, last Wednesday night, at its historic Grand Banquet at a prestigious hotel in Athens.
Of course, one’s speech on such occasions should be short, up to a maximum of five minutes, focusing on a few of the points on the honoree’s resume, emphasizing what makes that person worthy of the honor that is being bestowed upon them.
But if I were to give a more lengthy speech to the delegates, I would have said something like this:
“Expatriate brothers, fellow Hellenes,
This is a historic night for AHEPA and for all Hellenism.
This is an evening of national hope and optimism.
Tonight our Nation celebrates.
It celebrates 200 years since the National Revolution.
It celebrates the decisive contribution of the Society of Friends and the Hellenic Diaspora as a whole to the great struggle that led to Greece’s freedom from the Ottoman yoke.
Tonight, the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Greek immigrants have returned to this holy place:
To worship its sacred soil.
To pay tribute and honor and to express their gratitude to those who emigrated. Leaving mothers, fathers, loved ones, and the homeland behind, they did their cross and ‘dived’ into the darkness of the unknown, without any resources, in order to give us, their children, the opportunity for a better life.
To express their gratitude to their forebears who with their sweat and blood built churches and schools, so that the faith and the language of their parents and grandparents would not be lost. And thanks to the resources they made available to their children, the latter are in a position and feel the urge to make pilgrimages to Greece and to declare their support for the motherland given the new national security challenges faced by Greece in the Aegean.
But these descendants are also sending a strong message to their American homeland: that they are possessed by a passion for their country of origin, perhaps no more, but certainly no less than other nationalities.
They came here to renew the vows and ties that bind them to the motherland.
Tonight opens a new chapter in the relations of Hellenes abroad and Greece.
Tonight Greece embraces its expatriates and their children and grandchildren and expresses its admiration for their success.
Tonight I would suggest that this year be called the year of the Expatriates, or the Year of Hellenes Abroad, a year of expatriates of historical proportions, such as Dr. Albert Bourlas, and Giannis Antetokounmbo and Greek-Americans like Dr. George Yancopoulos and others who offered lifesaving and life enhancing services to humanity with their talents and character during the pandemic.
They have risen so high, they have been honored as few other Greeks have been in our recent history – their Greek names have spread worldwide, like those of no other ethnic group.
Tonight, AHEPA, by bringing its Supreme Convention to Athens, proves that it is fully aware of the challenges, and as in the past, so now, it will face them successfully.”
These and many more ideas I would share. Because this is the historical truth.
And whoever wants to hear this, let them hear.