The Youth Network, Education/Paedeia, Culture and National Issues were the main topics of discussion at the Biennial Regional Convention of SAE USA that was held November 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Chicago, with the participation of 158 delegates and more than 30 observers. Most impressive, it was commonly accepted, was by the presentations by representatives of the newly founded regional Youth Network.
“Our young adults literally stole the show,” declared Theodore G. Spyropoulos,
Coordinator of SAE USA. “They showed us that through the use of new technologies and proper allocation of tasks they can bridge distances and operate as a group. The goal was to accomplish the immediate and substantive participation of the network in S.A.E. Not only did we fulfill this goal, but they have become a model to imitate as they work democratically and harmoniously. We were also impressed by the fact that they knew the issues under discussion and were fully prepared to answer every question posed to them.”
Convention participants demonstrated their appreciation of Youth group in practical terms by donating over $30,000 to the Network fund and the additional offer of 70,000 in scholarships by Elias Tomazos, president of “Paedia” organization. Υouth Network delegates also drew high praise from representatives of the Hellenic State and from SAE President Stefanos Tamvakis who stated that a youth representative will participate in the December SAE Presidium meeting with the prospect of a permanent position on the Presidium.
The convention was attended by the Consul General of Greece in Chicago Anastasios Petrovas; the alternate Chief of Mission of Cyprus to the U.S. Yiannis Michaelidis. Participants from Greece were the president of the Greek Parliament’s Special Permanent Committee for Greeks Abroad, Nikos Tsiartsionis; and Parliament Members Eva Kaili (PASOK) and Spyridon-Adonis Georgiadis (LAOS); from the General Secretariat for Hellenes Abroad Director Ioannis Kyparissidis, the head of the Americas Δesk Vassiliki Zotou; and Expert Christos Dimitriou, liaison with the Foreign Ministry. Dimitris Dollis represented the president of PASOK, and a group from Ktimatologio A.E., the new land registry, was headed by its President Christo Goula.
The president of Education Committee of SAE USA, Stella Kokolis, in a written report described the group’s activities and announced new programs including: Contest on Greek Language entitled “My Greek words…my roots.” Participants in this contest, undertaken by SAE worldwide, are students 14 to18 years old who attend Greek language programs anywhere and who have attended a school in the country where they live at least during the past 5 years.
The founders and presidents of two Hellenic Charter Schools, Dr. George Kafkoulis of Archemedian Academy and Larry Peroulas of Socrates Academy, reported on their experience and progress. On January 15-17, SAE USA organizes in Miami, Florida, the conference “Charter Schools: Achievements and Prospects Following Nine Years of Operations.”
Theodore Spyropoulos, SAE USA Coordinator, reported on the activities of “Plant Your Roots In Greece,” and the president of Hellenic Heritage Institute and Museum in San Jose, California, reported on the importance of Hellenic museums and cultural centers in the U.S. and the plan to coordinate their activities in America. The newly created Women’s Network and Academicians and Scientists Network of SAE USA also outlined their plans.
The convention gave special gravity to National Issues. The Patriarchate, its needs and the contributions of the Patriarch were discussed by Bishop Vikentios of Apameia and Theofanis Economidis, president of the Metropolitan Council of San Francisco. The necessity of achieving a just and workable resolution to the Cyprus conflict was presented by the President of the International Coordinating Committee for Cyprus (PSEKA), Philip Christopher. AHEPA representative Dr. Ioannis Grossomanides spoke on the Visa Waiver Program of the State Department. Stefanos Tamvakis addressed the issue of voting in Greek national elections by Hellenes Abroad, and Nina Gatsoulis, President of the PanMacedonian Assn., spoke on the Macedonian issue. Fotis Galitsis, President of the PanEperotic Federation, presented the issues in connection with Northern Epirus, and the Genocide of Pontian Greeks was presented by the delegate of Pan Pontian Federation Yiorgos Mavropoulos.
The following resolutions were adopted unanimously:
As proposed by PSEKA: Americans of Hellenic heritage should encourage their U.S. House Representatives to pressure Ankara to a) withdraw Turkish forces from Cyprus, and b) demonstrate the political will to achieve a just and workable solution to the conflict and to avoid making any statements that undermine the present framework of negotiations between the two communities on the island.
Proposed by the Federation of Hellenic American Teachers: “Listen to the voice, and support the positions and the efforts undertaken by the Federation of Hellenic American Teachers that are aimed at spreading the use of Greek language, Greek culture and Hellenism in general among Omogeneia children. We also support the “hot” issues for pensions and health care for Omegeneis teachers. We urge the Greek Ministry of Education to continue transferring teachers to our schools until the problem of finding teachers here is solved. Finally, we ask that teachers from the U.S. are invited to the Greek Parliament on the day honoring Hellenes Abroad.”
Proposed by the PanEperotic Federation of America: “The path Albania takes to the European Union passes through the complete restitution of Human Rights for North Eperotans and generally for Greeks who live there and the return of properties to the real heirs.
Proposed by the PanMacedonian Assn. of USA: We support the continuing existence of the small state located on Greece’s northern border under the temporary name FYROM. We will support its efforts to become a member of NATO and the European Union only if its official name does not contain the term “Macedonia” or a derivative of that name.
Additionally, we do not maintain resentment or any bad will against its citizens or those in the diaspora. However, we demand respect for human rights for all persons of Hellenic heritage in this country and in Albania.
Proposed by the PanMacedonian Assn. of USA: We demand that the World Council of Hellenes Abroad shall express the views of Hellenism, and its position on issues shall adhere to those of its member organizations.
Proposed by the educational program “DIAS” (credit summer courses for Hellenes and other foreign students): Official state recognition and funding of the program in the implementation of its national work.
On the first day of the convention, the majority of the Regional Coordinating Council issued a statement contesting the legality of the convention. Specifically, they alleged violations of law 3480/2006 in relation to organizing the assembly and the acceptance of certain organizations as members of SAE USA. The Director of Secretariat General for Hellenes Abroad (GGAE) declared that the convention is fully legal. In connection with the acceptance of new members in the region, he confirmed that the Regional Council proposes but approval is granted by GGAE. According to the law, it was pointed out, “the Coordinator who is elected directly by the assembly of members is the head of the Regional Council, and the Council is a support group to the Coordinator.”
On the second day of the convention the same members of the Coordinating Council objected to the rules proposed for its operation. The set of bylaws proposed by the Coordinator was created by the World Council of Hellenes legal advisors for common adoption by all regions of the organization and has been accepted by the other six regions. Finally, the rules were accepted unanimously with the provision that they be reviewed at the next regional convention of SAE USA.
“It is a fact,” states SAE USA’s Coordinator, “as I mentioned in my own report on the past two years, that law 3480 covering among others the organization, operations and authority of SAE, has certain weaknesses and requires further explanation and review. The objections expressed are due to differences in interpretation of the law. Also, the set of operation rules presented by certain members of the Regional Council was in disagreement with the law. It was up to me to propose the set of rules prepared by S.A.E.’s legal advisors. But I am certain that the differences will be overcome and we will all work together to render SAE a substantive organization in practice. All Regional Council members are valuable and experienced and have the intention to contribute.”
A detailed presentation about Greece’s new land and property registration laws, that require registration of all property owned in Greece, was made by the Ktimatologio President Goulas and his staff.
At various times during the convention, the Regional Council honored the past vice president of S.A.E. and U.S.A. Coordinator Chris Tomaras; the president of “Paedeia” Elias Tomazos; the president of Greek Parliament’s Special Permanent Committee for Hellenes Abroad Nikos Tsiartsionis; Parliament Member Adonis Georgiadis; G.G.A.E. Director Ioannis Kyparissidis; former G.G.A.E. Secretary Dimitris Dollis; and Hellenic Charter Schools pioneers Dr. George Kafkoulis and Larry Peroulas.