By Paul Kotrotsios, President of the Hellenic American National Council
Distinguished Federations Presidents and Representatives, Members and friends of the Hellenic American National Council:
When in early May 2010, the previous Hellenic American National Council (HANC) administration handed the reins to the current Bureau, the outgoing President Manolis Velivasakis, said in his speech that he would not make an end-of-term report because “no remarkable work has admittedly been executed.” And he clarified: “We have not executed remarkable work because we failed to agree and create programs, and work collectively and harmoniously. We lost valuable time in fights, back-stabbing, and conspiracies.”
He even referred to the changes in the composition and the mentality of the Diaspora and the need to modernize its structures. With a heartfelt speech, he demonstrated that “the biggest enemy of Hellenism, regardless of locality, is himself.” Our enemy said “it is ourselves. It is the restless selfishness, the philautia and the Greek ‘know-it-all’ on everything.”
When we took on our duties, we did so with the hope that due to the criticality of events in Greece and Cyprus, we would transcend as one and with unity of soul and cooperation, make the HANC a common action front for the greater good of Hellenism again, as envisioned by its founding members in 1992. Five years and four months later, the truths expressed by Manolis Velivasakis remain relevant and reflect the current situation in the HANC, but also in wider spread manner in much of the Diaspora. National challenges not only brought us together, but also were unfortunately used as alibi by some members for the outbreak of disruptive initiatives and persistent conflicts that had the indirect effect of discrediting the institution.
This reference to the speech of my predecessor does not stand as means to relinquish, but on the contrary assume, responsibility. We have to admit our weaknesses. Let us place the scalpel of self-awareness deep in our souls and with true and not in a pretext way, remove the national canker of “I.” Let us expatriates collectively become “we,” creating a united national front of shared responsibility and synergy.
And the Hellenic American National Council is the ideal place to rediscover what unites us. Because as we shall see in the following pages, the National Council was created during an outbreak of national issues, during which time there was a need to rally our forces for the defense of those issues.
The HANC was considered then to be the “vestigial link” and indeed its foundation and activism united and highlighted the strengths of Hellenism throughout America, playing a catalytic role in our national issues in our cooperation with the AHI-PAC. Today, 23 years later, the Hellenic American National Council is once again the “vestigial link” of the Diaspora. Hellenism faces great challenges again, in an extremely difficult geopolitical-economic international setting.
In the last decade – the bitter truth is – the HANC has not presented great coherent action, collectivity and results. The reasons are many. The HANC failed to attract the interest of its members to act together, despite the proposals members discussed for specific changes in both the HANC statute and its proper functioning. I believe you understand me because I know how you yourselves, as leaders of the Federations, have exactly the same issue with your Unions-members. And our Unions have exactly the same problem with their members. The number of active members in the organized Diaspora is shrinking dramatically. Us immigrants are growing older. The majority of younger generations born in America, remain outside the organized Diaspora and we all share responsibility for that.
The question is: What do we do? Maintain or assert new titles in the organized Diaspora and stay voluntarily blind to the reality that we face? Close the doors of the Hellenic American National Council and gradually to all our organizations? Do we create new ones? Or stand facing the truth and assuming our responsibilities. I’m sure we all recognize the historic responsibility we bear to support the institution of the Hellenic American National Council, to renew it, to recruit new members, to modernize its Statute and the way it operates. To dedicate time, create a common fund, and to hire professionals. If there is honest intent and desire, I am certain that the new government formed after the elections of the 26th General Assembly, can bring change with the support and active participation of all of us.
Having served the HANC myself for 23 consecutive years in various positions, getting to know it from the inside, I made efforts and have tried with all my strength to keep it alive and to work with all the Diaspora organizations and bodies. Passing on the administration of the HANC, I would like to give special thanks to the Bureau members for their cooperation. I would also like to give special thanks for their cooperation, to K. Koutrakis, Chr. Christakis, B. Mataraga, K. Chatzistefanidi, D. Chios, St. Mani, K. Ouranitsa, K. Lambrakis, N. Gage, N. Larygkaki, G. Grosomanidou, E. Tommaso, ladies St. Kokolis and A. Filiotis; to many members of Associations of Pan-Macedonian, Panepirotic, Cypriot, PSEKA, the AHI, and the AHEPA. I express my gratitude to the Archdiocese of America and our Legal Advisor Aki Bey for his valuable contribution.
With these thoughts I invite you all to make a fresh start. To awaken and revive the sleeping giant, the Hellenism of America who has had a brilliant journey so far and must continue forward. To continue, I will now provide a brief account of the current Bureau’s tenure, as well as the proposals for upgrading the HANC, which were discussed and voted on during our meetings.
Project Report 2010-2015 term
From the time we assumed our duties our goals were the proper functioning of the HANC, regular communication and collaboration with our members, the development of a common line on issues of Greek interest in order to be more effective with our actions. In this framework, in addition to regular teleconferences, we organized the following:
- 24th General Assembly of the HANC on 22nd and 23rd of October 2010 at the Capital Hilton hotel in Washington, DC
- Meeting of the Executive Committee and the Presidents’ Forum on Saturday, November 5th, 2011 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Elmhurst, New York
- Conference on the Macedonian issue at the Concordville Inn hotel in Philadelphia in June 2011
- Meeting of the Executive Committee and the Presidents’ Forum at the Trump Taj Mahal hotel in Atlantic City, NJ on March 30, 2012
- Meeting of the Executive Committee and the Presidents’ Forum on 26th and 27th of May 2012 in Philadelphia, within the Congress of the Pan-Macedonian Association of America
- Meeting of the Executive Committee and the Presidents’ Forum on March 10th 2013 at the Greek Embassy in Washington, DC
- Meeting of the Executive Committee and the Presidents’ Forum on March 8th 2014 at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC
- Meeting of the Executive Committee and the Presidents’ Forum on Sunday, November 16th, 2014 at the Cretan Association Hall “Minos” in Astoria, New York
- 25th General Assembly of the HANC on March 14th 2015 at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC
- Meeting of the Executive Committee and the Presidents’ Forum on May 9th 2015 at the Cretan Association Hall “OMONOIA” in Astoria, New York
The involvement of the HANC member organizations at the institutions and the Committees we created began to gradually weaken over the years 2010-2015 and as a result binding decisions about the future could not be made due to lack of presence, and important work could not be accomplished. Repeated pleas through our mailings unfortunately were not met with any response. The change of the Statute could not proceed for this reason even though we sent our recommendations to our members. The loss of Th. G. Spyropoulos in 2014 was a heavy blow for expatriates but also for the operation of the HANC.
However, we managed to succeed in smaller ways, with the Committee of National Issues of the HANC having mainly worked on the Macedonian and Northern Epirus issue. The intervention of the two American Federal Senators Robert Andrews and James McGovern on the census of the Greeks in Northern Epirus in April 2012 is considered particularly successful.
Another success that we would like to mention is the founded amount of $150,000 for the continuation and completion of the construction work of the Centre for Greek Studies “Paideia” at the State University of Rhode Island, which took place during our teleconference on December 28, 2013 after a plea to the National Council from the Centre’s president Elias Tomazou. As a result from this initiative, executives of the Pan-Laconian Federation of USA Mr. Tsafatinou, Vlachaki and Chiou, who decided to offer a donation of $500,000 to the “Paideia” organization so as to support the creation of a special museum wing on site to house thirteen million dollars worth of artwork.
Even when met with resistance, we tried to serve the HANC, the Diaspora and Hellenism with pure patriotism and love for everything Greek. We participated and we represented the HANC meetings under Archbishop Demetrios, at meetings of our member organizations, in events of the Greek American community, at national parades and Diaspora concentrations, and also through our contacts with representatives of the American government. We co-organized events for the Greek Language Education and the Greek culture. We undertook initiatives on our national issues and reacted with our letters to all the major issues of Hellenism to US politicians and representatives of successive Greek governments, and our relevant letters and all the activities and mail will be delivered to the archive of the HANC.
For all of us, the members of the Bureau 2010-2015, it was a great honor to serve the HANC. We will continue to serve in any position, as volunteers, and we will work with the administration that will emerge from the elections of the 27th General Assembly, for the greater good of the institution of the HANC, the Hellenism of the Diaspora and the Greek-American relations.
PROPOSALS FOR THE RENEWAL OF THE GREEK-AMERICAN NATIONAL COUNCIL
The following proposals have been discussed and voted on during the years 2010-2015:
1) The preordained 10-member Steering Committee (Board of Trustees) will be activated, and will be responsible for keeping the (newly added now) Statute, which will have the capacity to monitor the proper functioning of the latter and in addition, propose topics to members of the National Council. The Commission will be staffed by distinguished personage of the Diaspora, consisting of former presidents and long-contributing members of the Bureau.
2) The predetermined decision for individuals to be instated within the HANC (with annual payment submission) will be activated.
HANC members are individuals and legal entities. Individuals, refer to Greek origin persons residing in the USA. Legal persons are all manner of collective carriers of Hellenism as long as the statutory purposes of said legal entities do not oppose the objectives of the HANC. Members will be tracked in an electronic database register.
During its initial period of operation the Federations members of the HANC, will retain the exclusive right “to vote” and “be voted for”. This right will be gradually acquired by the rest of the Legal and Natural persons joining the HANC, with the guidance of our legal advisors.
3) New technology will be put to good use for the Board members’ meetings of the HANC, as well as its general assemblies, to add the ability of monitoring and participating online.
4) Provision for the appointment of executive director with an annual salary (in the same manner as the AHEPA and AHI)
5) Creation of a new website:
-With ability to register new members online
-With ability to send monthly or ad hoc communication to Members (newsletter)
-With the entire HANC archive, since its inception, posted and updated weekly.
-With the ability to raise money through PayPal
6) Specific programs in the fields of our interests will be developed: Education, National Issues, Culture, Charity etc.
7) The role of the Committees will be set up with strict internal rules in order to be effective.
8) Coordinating Committees will be established by geographic criteria for the coordination of local actions, demonstrations, and programs.
Together, united, with selflessness and pure patriotism we can contribute to creating a better future for all.
On behalf of the members of the HANC Bureau