By Catherine Tsounis
2023 marks the return of socializing in live. Seeing being, exchanging ideas made the education event held by three Greek education societies. Mrs. Stella Kokolis President of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America, President Vasiliki Filiotis of the Hellenic Paideia of America and President Meropi Kyriakou of Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” held a book, awards presentation and dinner on Sunday afternoon, March 12th at Terrace of the Park Landmark, Flushing Meadows, NY. Greek Revolution hero “James Williams” book was presented by zoom from Greece by Dr. K, Rethemniotakis. The event was free.
The program consisted of: Prayer, Protopresbyter Gregory Stamkopoulos Assistant Director, Department of Greek Education Database Administrator, Department of Information Technology; Welcome Stella Kokolis, President of the American Federation of Greek Educators; Greetings, Panagiotis Passas Director General for International and European Affairs, Vasiliki Filiotis, President of the “Greek Education of America” Association. Eirini Grapsia, Acting Coordinator of Educational Affairs of the Coordinating Office of Greek Education at the Consulate General of Greece in New York; “James Williams” book zoom presentation by Dr. K, Rethemniotakis; Awards Presentation by Greece’s Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs; Closing remarks by President Stella Kokolis; Dinner.
Greece’s Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs granted awards to outstanding Greek Americans. They were recognized and honored by Deputy Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Zeta Makris for their unique contribution to Greek language and culture and transmission of the Greek Orthodox tradition in America. They were recognized in a virtual presentation on February 12, 2023. These awards were given in person on March 12th.The honorees included: Dr. Anastasios Koularmanis; Georgia Alikakou; Sevasti Varitimidou; Panagiota Volikas; Eleni Galidis; Dimitris Georgakopoulos; Maria Gourgouliatou; Tasia Eleftheriadis; Niki Kale; Angeliki Kalmoukou; George Kanelopoulos; Vasiliki Kekela; Katerina Kollarou; Denis Koutsoupas; Tina Koufogazou; Athena Tsokou Kromidas; Michael Kyriakoulis; Maria Litsas; Fofo Mancini; Dr. George Melikokis; Anna Megaris; Aspasia Melis; Kyriakoula Mihas; Stavroula Moutafis; Nikolaos Nikolidakis; Eva Panagi; Ann Petrop; Stavroula Panagiotopoulou; Eleni Papapetrou; Vasiliki Rousakis; Frederika Sagiani Panagiotakis; Emmanuela Sakellis; Pegi Simakou; Dr. John G. Siolas; Rita Syntilas; Christina Tetonis; Vaia Tziona; Prof. Demosthenes Triantafillou; Kalliopi Tsaganou; Dimitra Tsafou; Athanasia Filiou; Adrianna Filiotis; Vasiliki Filiotis and Georgia Filiotis.
“’James Williams’ book on about global freedom,” said author Dr. K. Rethemniotakis in a zoom presentation. “Real heroes are unknown. History must be known. This is why I wrote this book.”
In the case of James Williams, the events swirling around his life, his dreams and his suffering – even God Himself – all conspire to transform a human being, born a chattel slave, into becoming a transcendent hero for the ages. After surviving a hellish existence on a sugarcane plantation near Baltimore, James Williams finds himself escaping to a ship as a stowaway, then becoming a servant under the command of Admiral Stephen Decatur on the way to the naval battles in the Mediterranean Sea called the Barbary Coast Wars. Williams encounters a different environment from the plantation, working as a cook’s helper, but at times a life even harder than the one on the sugar plantation. He distinguishes himself in battle and as a spy, and after laboring on a rug merchant’s boat he becomes shipwrecked and finds himself washed up on a beach near Athens, Greece. He is rescued by monks and taken to Abbot Symeon who provides him shelter as he recuperates. Having learned Greek on board the merchant boat, Williams begins to realize that he has landed in the midst of an uprising – the uprising that quickly becomes the War of Independence for Greeks seeking liberation from the 400 year tyranny under the Ottoman Turks. Along the way, James Williams meets, work with, and struggles with Philhellenes such as Lord George Byron, George Jarvis, and others. He participates in naval battles and the famous Siege of Missolonghi. But this fictionalized historical novel is not just about one man’s adventures, heroic as they might be. It is about an Odyssey of man born a slave who reaches the pinnacle of heroism in a land far away from his roots.1
Eirini Grapsia, Acting Coordinator of Educational Affairs of the Coordinating Office of Greek Education at the Consulate General of Greece in New York said “the James Williams book has important historical facts on Greece and America. At the Greek Education Department, we will work with parochial and charter schools in teaching materials.” Prof. Demosthenes Triantafillou in the question discussion explained “ organizations and persons helped the Greek independence efforttral and did not help so as not to be entangled in European politics.”
“Let us reflect on the admirable work that the teachers have devoted to their students through the decades,” she said. “With courage and perseverance, let us continue to kindle the light of Hellenic education. I commend His Eminence ArchbishopbElpidophoros for his education budget. He is one of the finest intellectuals of or time. For over 50 years, I have funded books, seminars events on Greek Language and culture with Hellenic Paidea President Filiotis and network. Honoree Dr. John G. Siolas has been working with me on education projects for 50 years till 2023.”
In a previous seminar His Eminence. Archbishop Elpidophoros explained “What have we accomplished during my time as “A Council must have economic means to further its work. For this, we established an education Endowment Fund of a million dollars to support Greek schools, Greek language programs and faith in the United States. We, the Archdiocese of America, put our hands in our pocket and gave a dowry for this endowment fund. We encourage all who support Greek education to donate… Under my watch as Archbishop we will build and expand, in the wealthy country of America. No school will close by the grace of God, as long as I am Archbishop of America. We need the will, the desire to keep schools open, and even with three, four or six children as a local school church recently accomplished.”2
President Filiotis believes “Greek is important to the languages and cultures of the world. Greek recorded ancient philosophy and is the basis of languages. Every language contains Greek words. The language spread Christianity. We support Modern Greek language studies and urge all youth to enroll. Mrs. Pandora Spelios provides technical assistance to the Hellenic PAIDEA of America, supporting the organization in various capacities.” A positive, uplifting experience was experienced by all at the Terrace of the Park Landmark with a great dinner, free for all.
1.https://www.amazon.com/FANTASTIC-STORY-JAMES-WILLIAMS-BREATHE-ebook/dp/B093293KYJ and https://www.facebook.com/kostas.rethimniotakis
2. https://www.qgazette.com/articles/100th-anniversary-of-greek-orthodox-archdiocese-of-america-schools-celebration-highlights-strengths/ and https://greekamericanexperience.wordpress.com/2022/11/19/100th-anniversary-of-greek-orthodox-archdiocese-of-america-schools-celebration-highlights-strengths/