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Greek CommunityCommunity OrganizationsShipowner George Economou Honored at the 72nd Annual Hellenic American Chamber of...

Shipowner George Economou Honored at the 72nd Annual Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce Gala

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By Fotis Kaliambakos – Special to the Hellenic News of America

The annual gala of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce (HACC) gathers its business members from both sides of the Atlantic each year in the heart of New York City. This multifaceted event, which also addresses the children of the Greek community, includes the recognition of notable entrepreneurs and a cultural program, making it one of the most significant and prominent annual events of the Greek community. Additionally, it is one of the most historic events, as the Chamber’s activities date back many years. This year’s event marked the 72nd annual gala of the Chamber and took place on Friday evening at the luxurious CASA Cipriani event hall at the southern tip of Manhattan. During the reception of the main event’s guests, there was a wonderful children’s event in an adjacent hall, which included performances by the children’s choir under the direction of Alyson Spina. At the most heartwarming moment of the event, the temporary walls separating the two spaces were removed, allowing parents of the choir children to join them while holding lanterns, to listen to the remaining songs and take photos together.

Maria Tzompanaki

As always, the event attracted many high-profile guests, including representatives of the Greek government such as the Permanent Representative of Greece to the United Nations, Ambassador George Sekeris, and the Consul General of Greece in New York, Ambassador Konstantinos Konstantinou. Among the representatives of the business world and Greek American professional associations in New York were Nancy Papaioannou from ALMA BANK, Olga and Nikos Bornosis from Capital Link, Kondylia Parisi and Kostas Kellas from HABA, and the president of the Greek American Lawyers Association George Zapantis, among many other distinguished Greek Americans.

The event was coordinated by Brian Devine, while Bishop Athenagoras of Nazianzus represented Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, who could not attend as he was out of New York. During the customary prayer, Bishop Athenagoras invited all guests to chant “Christ is Risen” together.

The Chamber’s presidents then took the floor. Mr. Clay Maitland spoke about the continuity of the Chamber, praised the work of its Executive Director Alexandra Spyrou Mitsakis, and humorously “complained” that since he was honored with the award fifteen years ago, the level of the events has further improved with excellent venue selections. Next, the chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, Mr. Markos Drakotos, emphasized the importance of the institution and its contribution to its members in times full of challenges for Greek American entrepreneurship. Mr. Drakotos made a special mention of the outgoing Consul General of Greece in New York as a farewell, noting that Ambassador Konstantinou, who will leave the New York Consulate after the summer for his next career post, opened the consulate to new generations with a series of actions and initiatives, especially in the arts, supported by the HACC in an unprecedented manner. He jokingly asked if anyone in the audience had good connections to keep Ambassador Konstantinou in the New York Consulate!

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Mr. Drakotos then spoke about the history and role of the Chamber, thanked the HACC members for organizing the event in the packed hall, and warmly spoke about the evening’s honoree, shipowner George Economou.

Former HACC president Ioannis Stratakis presented Mr. Economou, highlighting his career and achievements, particularly noting that he reached the top of the shipping world without coming from a shipping family. Mr. Economou, in an emotional speech, thanked the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce for the honor and spoke warmly, perhaps with some nostalgia, about his student years in America, where he studied at the renowned MIT. He humorously recounted his first job offer and emphasized that young people should believe in themselves, not give up on their efforts and dreams, as hard work, focus, and optimism are ultimately rewarded, acknowledging perhaps the role of luck at the start of a career.

Mr. Economou then received the award to applause and warmly conversed and took photos with many attendees.

One of the Chamber’s important initiatives is its support for the New York Greek Film Festival, a significant institution bringing modern Greek cinematic creations to audiences. The festival will return to New York theaters this year after a pandemic-induced hiatus, and its president, actress Maria Tzompanaki, took the stage. Ms. Tzompanaki spoke about the institution’s history and the desire to present Greek cinema, both old and new, to the Greek American community and international audiences in a city known for its prominence in the Seventh Art. She also spoke about the role of culture in maintaining Greek identity.

EvangeliaAfter the speeches and dinner, the event turned into a lively party with music and dancing. The musical program had two parts. Initially, Greek American singer Evangelia, who has Cretan roots, performed with two dancers, singing popular Greek songs that had the audience dancing along with her choreography. She proudly spoke about her heritage and dual artistic identity, presenting some international repertoire pieces adapted in Greek.

Demy
Demy

Next, Greek singer Demy (Dimitra Papadea) took the stage, performing a series of Greek songs, both old and contemporary, with great energy and excellent stage presence, spreading the joy and atmosphere of the upcoming Greek summer throughout the hall.

Demy, the organizers, and the audience ended the night on a high note, as her interaction with the audience and overall experience far exceeded her expectations, concluding a very successful and atmospheric event.

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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