Actions - Initiatives
Greek Language, Education and Culture
Greek Language, Education and Culture constitute absolute priorities of the Omogenia, for their preservation safeguards the continuation of Greek identity and consciousness in the USA.
SAE, USA’s intention and objective is to harmoniously cooperate with all involved carriers of Greek Education in USA, competent ministries in Greece, offices of Educational Coordinators as well as the Holy Archdiocese and all educational and cultural organizations of the Omogenia for the preservation and further promotion of Greek Education and Culture.
ACTIONS – INITIATIVES 2006-2008:
► The Educational Committee of SAE, USA, issued two directories, which it distributed to interested carriers in USA and Greece:
1) “Directory of Greek-American Schools in USA”. On this directory one can find listed contact info of Educational carriers in USA and Greece, Parochial and Charter Schools of Greek interest.
2) “Directory of Greek-American Academics and Scientists”. On this directory one can find listed contact info of Academics and Scientists of Greek origin, Greek programs, Chairs and Centers in American Universities as well as Institutions that offer scholarships to Greek-Americans.
These two directories will be updated and enriched at regular time intervals. This action that was undertaken aims at the historic recording of our presence in the educational sector and the accommodation of interested parties desiring better communication and collaboration with one another.
SAE, USA, supported the initiative of the President of the Organization “Paedia”, Mr. Elias Tomazos, and coordinated the presentation of performances of the play “Vacchae” of Euripides, of director Leonidas Loizidis, in 18 US states. The warm reception of the play by the Omogenia and philhellenes proves the need for the organization of quality cultural events.
► “The Dynamics of Greek Language” at the Capitol
The event that the Federation of Greek-American Educators organized in a room of the Capitol was of historic importance with respect to the promotion of the Greek Language. The event was under the auspices of SAE, US Region, and Ambassador of Greece to Washington, DC, Alexandros Mallias, this past June. In the event participated Senator Robert Menendez, Dylan Williams, collaborator of Senator Olympia Snowe and representatives Carolyn Maloney and Gus Bilirakis.
► We convened a meeting between the Educational Committee of SAE, USA, and the Federation of Greek-American Educators, on February 23, 2008, in New York, in order to coordinate our actions regarding educational issues. The meeting attended representatives of the Holy Archdiocese, Coordinators of Education of the Greek Ministry, officials of organizations of the Omogenia and numerous educators. Participants issued resolutions, which were submitted in a relevant memorandum to competent officials of the Education Ministry of Greece. Demands were related to:
- The retirement of educators of the Omogenia in USA, the hiring of qualified educators of the Omogenia with work contracts of full time employment in day schools (as is the case in Germany nowadays) and the hiring of educators with work contracts of part time employment and proportional wages working in afternoon schools.
- The extension from three to five years for the J1 visa to educators detached from Greece, the organization of training/cultural programs for educators of the Omogenia and the organization of intensive post-training programs for new teachers of the Omogenia in Greece.
- The formation of a committee for the evaluation of instructional books and educational materials and the submission of suggestions regarding the improvement of the books of the University of Crete or the Ministry of Education or the writing of new ones.
- The task involving the recognition by the Ministry of Education of Greece of all schools, day or afternoon, parochial or private, which teach the Greek language, history and culture and are housed in parochial buildings or institutes and have complete curriculums.
► SAE, USA, was represented in the two international conventions dealing with the Greek-speaking Education Abroad that the Intercultural and Emigrational Workshop (Ε.ΔΙΑ.Μ.ΜΕ) organizes, at the university of Crete in the summers of 2007 and 2008 by the president of the Educational Committee of SAE, USA, Mrs. Stela Kokolis.
► The Educational Committee of SAE, USA, organized, participated and supported a series of events in different areas of USA and convened a series of meetings with representatives of the Greek State.
It is emphasized that the overwhelming majority of above events and activities were funded by individual donations and not moneys from the State of Greece to SAE, USA.
Competition on the Greek Language
The Council of Hellenes Abroad adopted the proposal of SAE, USA, and announces an international student competition for students of abroad of Greek origin, with the subject: “My words Greek … my roots”.
Participation: Students between 14-18 years old who attend a program of Greek language in any type of school and of any vehicle and have studied for at least the 5 last years at schools of their place of residence, can participate in the competition.
Competition object: Participants will be asked to prove their knowledge on the Greek language and especially on the part where they have to “recognize” it within the vocabulary of the language of the country they reside in. They will be given texts in the language of their country of residence, within which there will be a large number of words with Greek roots, which they will have to recognize, write them in Greek, define derivatives and synonyms, use them in sentences, etc. The overall evaluation of students will aim at the evaluation of their ability to comprehend a text that is replete with words of Greek origin, to respond to questions regarding this text and to produce a simple text or sentences with the use of these words.
How to participate:
a. Five (5) students from each Greek school, which attend a Greek program will be recommended by their respective school, after internal competition.
b. Students that either learned on their own or have attended Greek school in the past, apply directly through the office of the local Educational Coordinator.
Place of competition:
The competition will take place in each country and at a place that will be designated by the Educational Coordinator of each country.
Date: The competition will take place in the month of May between the 10 and the 20 of the month; the exact date will be designated by the Coordinating office of each region.
Competition material: With the cooperation of all Educational Coordinators from each country (i.e. Germany) or continent (i.e. America), exam subjects will be defined, which will be printed on “exam booklets”. Contents and abilities examined through the subjects will be patterned identically and determined by the Coordinating Committee.
The International Coordinating Committee will be responsible to oversee the competition internationally and to organize a relevant ceremony for the conferment of awards in Greece.
Awards: Each region can determine its own awards or we can establish common ones. The conferment of awards will be done by country and by office of Coordinator of Education. There will be pronounced three (3) winners of the competition per office of Coordinator of Education, which will receive awards in a special ceremony.
We propose that winners should be hosted in Greece by the General Secretariat of Hellenes Abroad and the General Secretariat of New Generation. We recommend that the conferment of awards take place in Athens in an event to be organized by both the two above Secretariats and SAE.
Establishing Convention of Network of SAE Youth, US Region
“Milestone in the History of Young people of America”
The foundation stone for national networking and cooperation between our young people has been laid during the establishing convention of the Youth on October 10 and 11, 2008, at “Intercontinental Chicago O’ Hare” hotel in Chicago. The convention was perfectly organized; it gathered and showed off the talented new representatives of organizations – members of SAE, USA, but also of states far away from Hellenism such as Montana, New Hampshire, Utah, Alabama, Maryland, Minnesota, DC, Virginia and Colorado.
“We laid the foundation stone for an unprecedented initiative in the history of Greek American communities” stated the newly elected president of the Youth Network, Maurice Gritzalis. “ This initiative will help us approach all youth organizations within the USA, to form a communication channel and support their activities. Conditions to embrace all new ideas and initiatives but also form close ties with all Greek communities and the Greek Media are in place”.
The elections for the appointment of the five-member Regional Youth Network Coordinating Committee were conducted on Saturday, October 11, 2008. The election committee was comprised of Bobby Kakoliris, Tracy Stefanitsisa and Stacy Koumbis. As members of the Coordinating Committee were elected: Coordinator: Maurice Gritzalis, representative of the Pan-Messinian Federation of America and financial consultant of a large organization of New York.
Secretary: Alice Souklas, attorney of Maryland
Treasurer: Andonis Papadopoulos, attorney of New York
Members: Sophia Koustas, Professional in the field of Public Relations of New Hampshire and Stavroula Kotrotsios, college student of Philadelphia.
The convention elected also ten representatives, which along with the five-member committee participate in the regional convention of SAE, USA, representing the Youth Network. These are: Penny Habilomatis – Chicago, Eleni Hioureas – California, Jordan Elrod – Florida, Eleni Sopasis – New York, Ioannis Tomazos – Connecticut, Christos Sarris – Alabama, Kiki Kyriakopoulos – New York, Lambrini Melegos Papadopoulos – Chicago, Demetra Adams – Indiana and Lazaros Giannos – Massachusetts.
The newly established network formed committees and subcommittees covering, thus, the entire spectrum of interests of young people:
Social Committee: Giannis Koroneos, representative of New York, head of the Committee, together with Liza Kazakos of North Carolina, undertook the task to collect data so that the Youth throughout America would be informed about events relating to Hellenism through the formation of a “social calendar”. The Youth Network through these events will aim at its cooperation with Networks of other regions of SAE, and the promotion of the idea and value of volunteerism in the undertaking of initiatives and events. The Social Committee includes the sub-committee “Trip to Greece”. The head of the sub-committee Lisa Kazakos, emphasized that the objective of the program will be the education and induction of our young into the history and culture of Greece. In the context of the program, the effort will be made for young people to meet with members of the Greek parliament and government, for visits to archaeological and historic sites, museums and worthwhile sites as well as to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Also the participants in the program will offer volunteer work in Greece through the environmental program “ Plant Your Roots in Greece”.
Cultural committee: The committee includes the subcommittees of National Issues, Education, Dance and Music (dance teaching). The objective of this committee will be the support and promotion of our national issues, Greek education, language, dance and music in order to unite the younger generations in the effort to preserve our cultural heritage. The heads of the committee Demetrios Varsanidis of Chicago (National Issues and Education) and Iordanis Elrod of Florida (Dance and Music) pointed out that the members of the committee discussed short- and long-term goals such as the safekeeping of the name Macedonia, the recognition of the Genocide of Greeks from Asia Minor (Pontos), the promotion of the program for the instruction of the Greek language ‘Odyssey’ as well as the instruction of traditional dances”. The Youth adopted unanimously a resolution with respect to the Macedonian issue according to which they do not accept the name Macedonia or any derivatives of it as part of the new name of F.Y.RO.M. Penny Habilomatis presented the resolution on behalf of the Pan-Macedonian of USA. They also adopted unanimously a resolution with respect to the Pontian Genocide, which was presented by Demetris Varsanidis of the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA and Canada. The Youth of SAE, USA, decided to deal with all the national issues in the near future and to inform the greater public about its deliberations.
Steve Livaditis, took on the chair of the Communication Committee with the goal to construct a portal for the direct communication of Youth members but also for each and every interested young person in USA and abroad. “Our first priority is the construction of our website”, says Steve, “with the goal to have the initial network up and running by the end of October. Our website will contain a type of facebook which will allow direct communication and mutual notification. We could exchange photos, videos and messages instantly”. Demetrios Tzortzis of Colorado took on the reins of Technology.
Environmental Committee: Michalis Kaseris of Massachusetts became chair of the committee: “As Greek-Americans we have to realize that respect toward nature and the environment are components of our cultural identity”, declared representatives of the committee. “Issues dealing with environment are of central importance in our everyday lives and all of us bear the responsibility for the protection of the planet. We will attempt to join forces with environmental organizations and we will produce relevant informative materials in order to mobilize the public and contribute to the creation of an environmental conscience for Greece”.
Professional Orientation Committee: According to the head of the committee, Bobby Kakoliris, of New York, the committee was formed with the mission to create a network of Greek-American mentors and consultants which will guide and support the young people of the Greek-American community who are embarking on their careers. “We will create consultative programs for the appointment of leaders in all areas but also in the area of personal development, we will create a relevant network on the Internet as well as a program for the collection of money for scholarships and opportunities search”.
Financial Committee: The Committee was created with the objective to secure the financial viability and examine relevant requests with respect to attempts undertaken by the Youth Network of SAE, USA. The Committee, in conjunction with the regional Council of SAE, will oversee, take initiatives and manage the attempts for the collection of financial resources. Also, it will lay the conditions and evaluate relevant requests made by either individual interested parties or committees of Youth.
► The first serious and responsible approach of representatives of the younger generations of the Greek-American community occurred at the symposium of the subject “Responding to the needs of young adults of the Greek-American Community: Prospects and opportunities in USA and Greece”, which took place in November 16-18, 2007, at the University Georgetown of Washington, DC.
The Symposium was embraced by the Ambassador of Greece to Washington, DC, Mr. Alexandros Mallias, who placed it under his auspices with the help of both the Hellenic American National Council and the American Hellenic Institute. The symposium attended representatives of the Archdiocese of America, AHEPA and other organizations of the Greek Omogenia.
The participation of distinguished celebrities from Greece and USA secured the quality of the deliberation that was initiated by a group of young adults, which participated actively in the symposium with pointed questions and interventions.
Within the context of the dialogue between the young people and the speakers the following subjects were discussed:
- The importance of participation of young people in the political life of USA, – The difference of the cultural identity of younger generations of Hellenism in USA compared to the cultural identity of immigrants, – The importance of Greek education, Greek language and Greek cultural heritage, in general, in the course and evolution of the life of young people, – How does one become a leader in the American society and what are the elements that characterize him/her?, – Possibilities of employment in Greece.
SAE, USA, participated and supported with private resources the successful organization of the 2nd and 3rd Annual Greek Soccer Tournaments in 2007 and 2008 in the competition for the “Amateur title of North America” in Chicago with the participation of Greek teams from USA and Canada.
► We convened three meetings between leaders and celebrities of the Greek community under the auspices of the Ambassador of Greece Alexandros Mallias with the objective to coordinate actions in the promotion of our national issues:
- The first took place on February 7, 2008 at the Greek embassy in Washington which aimed at the mobilization of Greeks of the Omogenia in order for them to contact representatives and senators of their areas and ask them to support the Resolution of the Senate SR300 and the Resolution of the House of Representatives HR 356 regarding the Macedonian issue. At the meeting there where ways explored for politicians to be informed before the critical Summit Session of NATO in Bucharest where the Greek government vetoed the accession of F.Y.RO.M into NATO.
- On May 19, 2008 another meeting was convened between leaders and celebrities of the Greek community at the Greek embassy in Washington; the objective was the continuation of coordinated actions regarding our national issues.
- The third meeting occurred in New York on May 31, 2008.
► We supported the positions and initiatives and we participated in the conventions of member organizations of the Council of Hellenes Abroad regarding our national issues such as of PSEKA, the Pan-Macedonian Association of USA, the Pan-Pontian Federation, the Pan-Epirotic Federation and of every organization that promotes our common positions on national issues. In conjunction with the National Council, we contributed to advertisements regarding the Macedonian issue in the American Press. We responded with letters to the provocations of the special mediator of the U.N. regarding the Macedonian issue Mr. Matthew Nimitz and members of the government of Skopje.
We support the activities of American Hellenic Institute, the American Hellenic Council of California, the leading American Congress; we contributed to the establishment of the Greek-American Political Action Committee.
We supported the reelection of American politicians friendly toward Hellenism and American politicians of Greek descent.
Of very special importance was a discussion that was organized in the context of the first symposium about the youth in Washington in which – first time – participated all lobbyist organizations and celebrities such as Nick Larigakis (Executive Director, AHI), Dinos Andrianos (President, American Hellenic Council of California), Mike Manatos (lobbyist, Vice President of Manatos & Manatos), Laoura M. Maratou (University of Maryland, Hellenic Students Association), George Sifakis (President, CEO and founder of Axela Government Relations, LLC), Ted Laliotis (President, Laliotis & Associates), John Sitilides (Principal, Trilogy Advisors), Mark J. Tavlarides (Vice President, Van Scoyoc Associates, INC.)
Any financial support for the above came from private resources and not state help through SAE.
Environment – Plant Your Roots in Greece
The environmental program “ Plant Your Roots in Greece” has been adopted by the world SAE at the initiative of our region.
The Institution “ Plant Your Roots in Greece” continuing its offering of many years intensifies the effort for the sensitization of the Greek community and also the American community since August 2007 after the huge catastrophic fires in the homeland. To our efforts contributed our members as well as American companies and private parties. The Greek-American Institute “American Hellenic Council of California” contributed with the amount of $45,775, the Pan-Cretan Association of USA with $28,000, the American Company “Langan Engineering & Environmental Services” with $25,000, the organization “ American Hellenic Congress” with $20,000 and the Pan-Messinian Federation of USA with $18,000.
► We donated two water vehicles, a fire truck valued at $35,000 and an agrarian vehicle valued at $25,000 to the Organization “Friends of Taigetos”. The vehicles are at the disposal of the Fire Brigade of Kalamata and will be used also for irrigation needs.
► We donated $45,775 to the municipality Kalyvia, Attica, for expenses related to reservoirs, pipe networks and various watering systems that are required for relevant irrigation works.
► We contributed the amount of $10,000 for tree planting on Penteli. We completed the second phase of tree planting at the archaeological park of Dion, Pieria ($10,000), created a park in the municipality of Serres ($10,000). We offered $20,000 to the prefecture of Thessaloniki for the reforestation of burnt wooded areas in Assiros. We are in the process of organizing tree-planting events in Diakofto and Egio of Achaia, in Volos, in Ancient Olympia, in Samos, in the Municipalities of Mandra, Kalyvia, at Taigetos and in Achinos, Serres. In conjunction with the Aristotelian University we are organizing tree planting at the archaeological site of Vergina and in Kassandra, Chalkidiki.
► We created teams of volunteers from USA and Greece for the tree-planting events.
► We participated in the meeting of USAID for the development of public and private cooperation for the relief or fire victims which was convened in Washington under the presidency of Henrietta H. Fore, official in charge of American Foreign Aid and Stephen Jordan, Vice President of Business Civic Leadership Center. Andrew Natsios participated in the meeting; he is an advisor to President Bush and special delegate to Sudan. We took part in a relevant meeting convened by Archbishop Demetrios of America on September 24 at the Holy Archdiocese in New York.
► Successful was the first meeting between Greek carriers of the Omogenia, representative members of the American parliament with ambassador Alexandros Mallias at the embassy in Washington in September. In the meeting participated the Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of State Mr. Matthew Bryza, while the President of the Assistance Fund for Fire Victims and former Foreign Minister Mr. Petros Molyviatis made a phone intervention. The meeting was convened at the initiative of SAE, US Region.
In conclusion: Suggestions for the operation of SAE
Dear fellow countrymen and countrywomen,
In the past, I was very critical with respect to the institution of the Council of Hellenes Abroad; I had also presented suggestions for the institution to become meaningful and useful for Hellenism.
Being inside the institution now, I will not hesitate to engage in self-criticism. As I mentioned in my introduction, law no. 3480 about the “Organization, function and scope of responsibilities of the Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) and other regulations”, presents weaknesses. I believe that the clarification and revision of certain of its regulations must become our priority.
The roles of “consultative, advisory, demanding and at the same time supportive to the Greek State of the instrument” are not clear. There might be cases where the will of the Greeks of the Omogenia may not coincide with that of the government. In this case, which of the roles prevails? We must remember that SAE was established to freely express the will of the Omogenia.
I will refer to the positive outcome of the ability to submit, based on Article 6, Par. 9, of Law 3480/06, the Report of SAE, where presented appear suggestions of regions to the Greek State with respect to issues concerning the Omogenia.
Our first report (2007) was discussed in a special agenda in a plenary session of the Parliament in June 2008. However, we have not seen yet the response of the Greek State to our demands. A new report of SAE will be delivered in 2009, which will include suggestions and conclusions of SAE’s Regional Conventions. I look forward to everyone’s cooperation in the drafting of these suggestions so that we can actively, based on legislation, demand their satisfaction.
Perhaps, a way to circumvent delays and bureaucracy would be for every region to promote its demands through the General Secretariat of Hellenes Abroad to competent ministries and agencies in Greece.
We suggested repeatedly the financial independence of SAE from the Greek State. Our region proposes the cooperation of all regional heads with the Greek State TV and competent State authorities for the establishment of two annual TV marathons, for the period of five years, in order to gather money for the programs of SAE. Resources may originate from regions where Hellenism is financially developed and devoted to common programs of all regions.
Also, since for the time being the financial support of USA comes from the State, there must be absolute transparency with respect to financial management by all of us.
I will need to inform you that the SAE of our Region, as a legal entity in USA, is a Non- Profit Organization, a fact that allows it to also receive moneys from other local and international financing, developmental organizations if that was to be pursued.
Internal Regulations & Communication
The relevant law does not clarify the roles of the members of the chair of the world SAE nor of members of the regional council. It provides for the drafting of internal regulations in both cases. The internal regulation regarding the operation of regions, which we are presenting to this convention, was drawn up by legal councils of the world SAE.
The structure of communication through the regional and international conventions every two and four years, respectively, is not effective. If we take into consideration the – sometimes – annual change of leadership of organization-members of every region, the cooperation and coordination on common programs and actions is impossible. We propose, thus, the appointment of representatives of organizations members of SAE for 4 years regardless the change of their leadership. Representatives will be obligated to inform members of their organization with respect to the matters of SAE.
We suggest and urge the organization-members to appoint as representatives to SAE young men and women.
We have to work hard for the democratic representation of the Omogenia at SAE. Especially, in the case of USA, the geographical factor must be considered, for Hellenism of many states stays out of SAE.
The role of regional SAE’s in the States where these operate with respect to the advancement of national issues is unclear and undefined. We suggest regular update and communication – as we already have started – with the Greek Embassy in Washington, so that there will be coordination in the advancement of our positions on issues of Greek interest. This communication must assume statutory character (establishment of committee on national issues), to express the will of the majority of the Omogenia so that isolated private or group initiatives that cause confusion to the American Government will be avoided.
Also, special care must be given to the protection of human rights of our brothers and sisters in Northern Epirus, Turkey, Imvros, Tenedos, the states of the former Soviet Union, Skopje and anywhere they may live.
Right to vote and be voted
The Greek government was committed to giving the Omogenia the right to vote and be voted. The last plenary session of SAE, US Region, had voted down the relevant proposal. Facts, intentions and conditions have changed, however. Representatives of the Greek parliament will inform us on latest developments. We ask again that the collective view of SAE, US Region, as well as other regions of SAE be heard before the draft of the relevant bill. Initially, a Mixed Probing Committee should be formed, as was agreed in the beginning, which should be comprised of members of SAE’s Chair, people in the legal field, celebrities of the Omogenia in order to offer its view to legislators.
Recording of Hellenism of Abroad – Scientists / business people
We recommend the systematic recording of Hellenes Abroad with the cooperation of every region of the Council of Hellenes Abroad with the Greek State and a university of either Greece or with a Greek program in every region.
The philoxenia of celebrities and also American philhellenes from USA in the context of the world council of SAE remains ineffective. Strategic planning aiming at the anticipated result must be done in advance. A closer communication and cooperation between scientists and business people abroad of Greek origin must be pursued.
Cooperation with Embassy & Consulates
The advisory character of SAE to the Greek State sometimes is canceled as its responsibilities are fulfilled by local consulates.
More specifically, mutual coverage refers to communication with organizations -members of SAE and their financing by the Greek State. Relations of regional SAE’s with the embassy and consulates of each country should be clarified and upgraded.
ΟΛΟΜΜΕ & Celebrities of Letters & the Arts
We delayed the re-activation of ΟΛΟΜΜΕ (Federation of Officers of Media of the Omogenia). SAE, USA, has suggested its activation since December 2007. Also, we need to support the people of the Omogenia in the fields of Letters and the Arts. We hope that the Cultural Committee of SAE will work toward this direction.
National strategic politics for SAE
Dear fellow countrymen and countrywomen, our time, time of globalization renders the role of Hellenism Abroad even more important. Given the great number of Greeks abroad, we suggest the creation of a Ministry of Hellenism Abroad (step up to the existing sub-ministry). Greeks abroad constitute a great asset for Greece and humanity, as they are carriers of the Greek conscience, education and values.
The Greek State and all political parties in cooperation should map out a common national strategy for Hellenism abroad.
Despite the fact that it has been 13 years since the establishment of the Council of Hellenes Abroad, this has not yet attained the operative form that will embrace and represent the Omogenia. I will be among the first to admit that from 2006 through today, SAE has not gained the trust of the Omogenia. I will admit that none of SAE’s long-standing demands have been fulfilled.
The truth is that much time was consumed since the assumption of our responsibilities for re-organization, following the application of Law no. 3480/2006. This does not clear us off of our responsibilities. As chair of SAE, we should become more coercive with respect to our demands.
SAE, however, is not only its president and regional heads. The Council of Hellenes Abroad was established for all Hellenes Abroad as a vision. We all share the responsibility regarding its future course. I believe we only want a strong SAE, a loud voice for Hellenism. We must work with unity and harmony to bring about the changes we pursue. We should push aside personal, partisan or other interests and with union of hearts and forces and greater consent contribute to the evolution of the institution in the world reality. Expressing the wish the Council of Hellenes Abroad to become a place of reference and joining of Hellenes everywhere, I ask for everybody’s cooperation.
SAE Coordinator, USA Region