NEW YORK – In an important message of solidarity and support for its longstanding ally and acknowledgement of the role the Greek-American community can play in Greece, the Obama Administration has invited community leaders to a discussion at the White House with Senior Administration Officials on the current situation on August 6.
Approximately 40 community leaders are expected to be present, and there is reportedly an emphasis on people and groups already on the ground in Greece providing humanitarian aid and promoting economic development.
Former Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic Presidential Nominee Michael Dukakis is reportedly among the invitees.
Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff, will be among those who will make remarks along with Caroline Atkinson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, and other Senior Administration Officials.
The meeting will take place in the historic Indian Treaty Room in the East Wing of the Executive Building, where seminal documents such as the UN Charter and the Bretton Woods Agreement were signed.
Philip Christopher, President of PSEKA, looks forward to the gathering. “Greece deserves this kind of support during the crisis, a situation which has been compounded by the flood of refugees into the country,” he said.
Andy Manatos, the founder and president of the Coordinate Effort of Hellenes, said the meeting constitutes “positive fallout from the activity of President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s activities during the recent negotiations.
“The American government is taking a look at what we have that might be helpful to Greece. It’s an opportunity for the administration to share its assessment of what might be possible and enlist the community’s support for such an effort,” he told TNH.
Manatos agrees that it is rare that when policymakers think about America’s interest in helping other countries they can draw on the resources of a successful and engaged Diaspora community.
John Galanis, Supreme President of AHEPA, will send representatives. “It is commendable that the Obama Administration is reaching out to the community … it is very encouraging and it should prove to be helpful to Greece and to America,” he said, adding that “AHEPA will be there to listen at this point and make recommendations later.”
Mark Arey, The Hellenic Initiative’s (THI) Executive Director, said that “knowing that many THI Board members have been invited, and given that it engaged in crisis relief, working with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and working with the entrepreneurial ecosystem to promote economic development, we are very pleased the White House is taking this interest in the situation in Greece, which is quite grave.”
Phillip Angelides, the former California State Treasurer, told TNH “Like many other Greek-Americans, I am hopeful that we can find ways to help Greece at this time of immense challenge and I am appreciative of the efforts that the President and the administration have made in support of Greece.”
The meeting shows how concerned Washington is about the situation in Greece in the aftermath of the July 12 agreement.
The outreach was reportedly partly spurred by conversations of administration officials with Greek-Americans, economists and other analysts, who have been working with officials in Greece. In that regard, some of the impetus for exploring how the Diaspora can help is emanating from Athens.
One prominent community leader noted to the endeavor will require the continued engagement and interest of President Obama, who can spur the bureaucracy to move forward. The President is not expected to be present at the meeting, but is believed “to be behind what is happening now.”
Endy Zemenides, the Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) told TNH the meeting must be seen in the context of the many meetings the Obama administration has been having with community leaders on about the crisis.
“It’s yet another indication of the U.S. government’s commitment to helping Greece as a critical ally – it is reiterating its commitments to standing by Greece.”