Yesterday evening, the President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), Stefanos Tamvakis was awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of Public Administration.
In his address, the University Dean, Panagiotis Tsiris emphasized that through Mr. Tamvakis, the university honors the Hellenism of the Diaspora.
Professor Ismene, Kriari – Katrani, then referred to the work and actions of Stefanos Tamvakis, while the Head of the Department, Stavros Perentidis, announced the resolution of the nomination.
The ceremony was concluded with Mr. Tamvakis speech, who referred to the role of Greek language towards the preservation of the Greek identity of Hellenes abroad, stressing that the main characteristic of the Greek Diaspora is that it retained its national identity wherever it settled, preserving Greece within. “It was not alienated, however it was not utterly integrated, it adapted and was incorporated into the new homelands, excelling in all areas”, he stated. He also stressed the need for Greek youth abroad to take further action and mentioned the role and objectives of SAE.
Lastly, he said that the primary goals of SAE are the teaching of Greek language to 3rd and 4th generation of Greeks abroad, the development and deployment of youth in Greek Diaspora issues and the voting rights of Hellenes abroad in the countries they reside.
Source: ANA – MPA
Below you can find the full text of the speech made by the President of SAE, entitled “Diaspora Hellenism and the future challenge”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I feel particularly moved and pleased for this splendid honor of being awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of the Public Administration Department of Panteion University.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Senate of Panteion University, the honorable Dean of the University, Professor Panagiotis Tsiris, as well as the Head of the Department of Public Administration, Professor Stavros Perentidis. Furthermore, I would like to particularly thank the Professors of the Department of Public Administration who took on the initiative to nominate me for this title, the outstanding, Mr. Anastasios Tsamis and my dear Ismene Kriari – Katrani, with whom we had a very constructive collaboration, during her successful term as Special Secretary of Intercultural Education and Education of Greeks Abroad of the Ministry of Education.
Allow me to quote a few words from a historical speech by George Sepheris.
“I belong to a small country. A rocky cape in the Mediterranean Sea, which possesses nothing of any value but the struggle of its people, the sea and the light of the sun. Our place of origin may be a small one, but its tradition is colossal and its most characterizing element is the way it has been handled down to contemporary Greeks without interruption; for Greek never ceased being a spoken language”.
These words, first came into my mind when I was writing those lines, because I, come from this small country, that is the language I speak.
My ancestors set off on their long journey to the country of Nile from the island of Hephestus in Lemnos, and the mountaint of the Centaurs, Pelion. They arrived at the great and luminous Alexandria of Egypt, seeking better days, a better destiny for themselves, their children and grandchildren.
And this small country from which they originated, seemed gigantic in the eyes of the young child I was, and the language of the distant homeland, Greek, was the dominant tool for the child’s expression.
In this language we learned to pray, to whisper words of love and worship, pride for the feats of the past, for the ancestors, the history of the place of origin, our customs and roots. In this language we heard the first children’s stories and sang our joy and sorrow.
The greatness of the Greek language united us, all Greeks worldwide, and still does, in a magical and irrefutable manner.
This, I had the opportunity to experience, in all its glory, from the first year of my involvement in public issues, in the charity foundation “Aeschylus – Arion” and then as President of the Hellenic Community of Alexandria, the old community which bred a fine part of Hellenism, coming from all areas of the homeland. Let’s not forget the first, creative and grand national benefactor, Georgios Averof and the great Greeks who enlightened modern history with their work. Zervoudakis, Benakis, Salvagos, Sivitanidis, Stournaras and Tositsas.
A characteristic of the thirst of the community members which I strongly experienced during my term as President, to come into contact with the Greek letters, was that the community initiative for the publication of a community newspaper “Patrida”, after the unprecedented interruption of Alexandria’s historical newspaper “Tachidromos”, was welcomed with great warmth by our compatriots in Alexandria, who longed to continue reading their very own printed material, in Greek language, their language of thought and emotions.
Until a few years ago, the capabilities of communication technology were limited, Greeks were isolated abroad; not aware of the developments in Greece, the image for the homeland was unchanged and, perhaps for this reason, it was well protected. This “treasure”, was respectfully shared with their compatriots and guarded in the warmest place of their hearts. That is why they managed to retain their identity, in contrast with other people who were incorporated in the societies they lived in. That is why we often hear that “Greeks abroad are twice as Greek”.
This is a characteristic of the Greek Diaspora, its blessing, where we focus all our attention and goals for the continuation of our characteristic feature, to bestow it to the forthcoming generations.
Hellenes were scattered from the area of Greece, Pontus, Asia Minor, Constantinople, Egypt and other homes where they lived, all around the world, seeking a better future. Taking complete advantage of the Greek genius, managed not only to advance in their host countries, but also to achieve great things, in all levels of social, business, commercial, intellectual, artistic and political life.
They were never and nowhere considered as conquerors. They were not alienated, but neither absorbed. They could and still can, even today, live in the societies of their host countries, respecting their customs and tradition, participating in developments, transferring the values of the Greek culture directly or indirectly. They created families, advanced in their work and reached today the 3rd, 4th, even 5th generation, always keeping alive the Greek roots, our identity.
Unquestionably, the Hellenism of the Diaspora, is not what it used to be in the beginning of the last century. It is commonly admitted that it forms a successful, productive part of the host countries, having won their trust and appreciation.
Hence, today, where all of us are in need of partnerships and alliances, Hellenism worldwide from Greece and Cyprus, can play a definitive role towards the resolution of serious issues and a praiseworthy representation of our country.
Any problems of our place of origin, national, financial or others, are a part of the daily lives of Hellenism abroad, they are our problems too. We feel a duty to struggle for those in the international arena. For our national issues, the promotion of our cultural heritage, the attraction of Hellenes and Philhellenes to the homeland, the support of Greece in this critical economic situation that we are currently faced with.
We have the power and will to exert pressure, especially in the continents where decision centers are located, something which is already being successfully carried out, in a more of an organized manner and not individually and can be strengthened through further unification and coordination of Hellenism.
The relation between Greece and Hellenism worldwide, however, is a two-way relationship. The mother homeland is called to provide solutions and approach with sensitivity the problems of its “children”, who are its most worthy ambassadors.
Perhaps the greater challenge of the future for the Hellenism of the Diaspora is, I believe, the attraction of youth and its participation in a modern form of organization of Hellenism worldwide.
I firmly believe that youth may be the spearhead for the continuation of Greek presence all around the world and I think it is our duty, to not only be able to attract, but also approach and embrace our youth, but most importantly make use of their willingness for action and struggle, the pioneer and revolutionary ideas they have and proceed together, as a united and strong team.
We wish and seek their participation in a dialogue, aimed on how they would want the organization of Greeks abroad, what inspires them, which are their needs. I personally see that there is interest on their part, enthusiasm for hospitality programs of the Greek state, good networking among them, and many good ideas, which only have to be implemented.
It is a fact that most organizations of the Greek Diaspora are not up to date with the era of speed, information and the internet. However, with a modernized form, it is certain that they would be able to attract many youths and non-organized Hellenes excelling abroad, such as politicians, financiers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, artists and many more, whose networking and coordinated action would give multiple benefits to Greece but also themselves, as well as their environment. In this manner, a new form of organized Hellenism can emerge.
During my 15 year term at the World Council of Hellenes abroad, since its establishment in 1995, as Coordinator for the Africa and Asia region and then as Alternate President and now as President, I devoted myself to these issues.
SAE, as a coordinating body and being an organization for the promotion of the demands of the Greek Diaspora, responds to the needs and problems accumulated by time and circumstances, issues related to the preservation and strengthening of the Greek identity, language and culture and conveys them to our homeland with a strong and powerful voice.
It does not replace the existing organizations of the Greek Diaspora, where we all come from, but it represents them. It wishes to represent Hellenism worldwide, in a democratic, methodic and assertive manner. With objectives, a plan, zeal and love, directed towards the support and empowerment of Hellenism, not only for all of us living away from our country of origin, but also for the justice of Greece and the values it represents, making sure to convey and express responsibly the views of the Diaspora to the Greek State.
Our basic goal is collaboration, support and unification of the Diaspora in a worldwide level, so that Hellenism will obtain even greater power.
Our vision is aimed towards the solidarity and promotion of Hellenism, so that it becomes an important influential power in the world, in the support of the efforts of Greeks to fulfill their needs and towards the amelioration of their financial, social and political place.
In the inspiration and attraction of Philhellenes around the world, as well as the further development and strengthening of relations between the countries Greeks abroad reside and Greece.
Cultural foreign policy is also of particular value, in societies which nonetheless have a pure love for anything Greek. It is considered necessary to culturally invest in all these countries with a plan, continuity and systematic follow – up. We are all supporters in such efforts which have been decided and successfully launched. I believe that investment in Philhellenism is an investment in Greece.
Unification, dynamics, synchronization, imagination, serious work, a proper promotion of their demands by young thinking people, who have intentions to selflessly contribute, by people who are not affected by their positions and feel the need to implement the vision.
We are trying to solve four very crucial issues, which I consider the challenges of the future for the Greek Diaspora and I will be very proud if solutions are found in the following years.
1. The teaching and learning of Greek language for the younger generation of Greeks abroad, of 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation, through a rational and efficient system, which will respond to the current circumstances, while at the same time preserving our national and cultural heritage.
2. Development, making use, motivation and subsequently engagement of youth with the current affairs of the Diaspora.
3. The issue regarding the right to vote by Greeks abroad in the countries they reside through ballot or postal vote.
4. The preservation of the two – way relationship between the Greek think tank with the homeland for approach, dissemination and resolution through their influence on the international public opinion, of national or other issues of Greece.
This is how we will be walking towards the future, approaching the concerns and stimuli coming from the organizations of Hellenes worldwide; their needs, concerns, hazards, thoughts and so many other elements motivating the Greeks of the Diaspora for their better organization and treatment of their needs.
The challenges of the future inspire and empower us to defend and do our best.
In conclusion, I would like to warmly express my gratitude to my mother, the most sacred person in my life, my family, my good friends and companions who are together with me, all of you, dear professors and students and to assure you that this honorary distinction, strengthens my will even more, for the culmination of my efforts for the promotion and support of Greece and Hellenism.