Opening Ceremonies

On October 10, 2000 the American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture (AFGLC) inaugurated its Center of Greece at the Zappeion Megaron in a celebratory atmosphere and with the participation of hundreds of dignitaries and other Greeks. The leadership of the AFGLC was represented by Dr. Chris P. Tsokos, President, Dr. John U. Balis, Vice-President, and Dr. Demetrios G. Halkias, Treasurer, all of whom traveled to Greece especially for this event. The following addresses are a testimony to the interest and enthusiasm with which the opening of the Center as well as the mission of the AFGLC were met in Greece. The addresses appear according to the order of their presentation at the ceremonies.

Address of
Dr. N. K. Artemiadis
President of the Academy of Athens

Mr. Minister,
Members of the Academy of Athens,
Mr. Mayor,
Mr. President
of the AFGLC, First of all, I would like to thank the President of the AFGLC as well as his colleagues for their invitation to me to address this audience during the inauguration ceremonies of the Center of Greece/Athens. My joy was great when on January 23, 2000 the President of the Foundation, Dr. Chris P. Tsokos, on behalf of the Executive Committee, invited me to the opening ceremonies of the Interdisciplinary Center for Hellenic Studies at the University of South Florida. Unfortunately, for technical reasons it was impossible for me to join them. When I learned about the creation of the AFGLC I was overjoyed, and from this place here I would like to extend warm congratulations to all individuals involved for their initiative and generous efforts towards the realization of their plans. I am willing --and at this point I am sure that I am expressing the view of all members of the Academy of Athens-- to help the AFGLC in its efforts as much I can. I totally agree with the motto of the Foundation, "history will not forgive us if we do not succeed in the rejuvenation and preservation of Hellenism in the Americas" for one additional reason: I lived and taught in various Universities of the United States of America for twenty years, and I am confident that the seeds sown by the Foundation will bear fruit because times are ripe. Concerning the aims of the Foundation, I would also like to add the following: I do not think that the crisis in education is strictly a Greek phenomenon. In my opinion, a major factor contributing to this crisis is the fact that classical education has been marginalized. Classical education, very much a Greek kind of education, has as its purpose to shape the soul and mind of the young generation through understanding of the classical works of antiquity, to teach man to "know thyself", to make him reach the kernel of his being. "Technological education" brings the spirit outwards and calls it to take control of material things and natural forces. But it is self-evident that man, in order to control his environment without becoming arrogant and hybristic, (and he is in danger of becoming these today) must first of all master himself, and this can be achieved through classical education. Technological education without some courses in classics can transform man into a computer-like mechanism. As a historic people, we have the obligation to develop in depth the meaning of classical education, which we invented. The problem therefore is how to combine these two kinds of education, technological and classical, both of which are necessary: the idealism through which Hellenism created the ideas about the life of man, and the realism through which man ought never lose his connection with reality. I am certain that the Foundation can offer great services in this direction, using simply the virtues of our nation. I am optimistic that the AFGLC is ready to accomplish a positive task. From the bottom of my heart I wish you good luck.

Address of
Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos
Mayor of Athens

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure I have come to the opening ceremonies of the AFGLC-Center of Greece/Athens. I am confident that the Center comes to accomplish an important national mission. From the earliest time in their history the Greeks have been a migratory people. Perhaps this is so because their thought has always been ecumenical. A fundamental factor in the shaping of our thought, just as it is with every culture, is our language. It is a fact that frequently the third generation of immigrants, no matter how strongly it remains Greek in its heart, due to a variety of reasons has lost the divine Greek language. And this loss is regrettable because it is the language which can express the Greek experience in its totality. I know from personal experience that the Greek communities of the Diaspora try hard to maintain our language and traditions, often under difficult circumstances, while they cope with everyday realities. Their heart is always in Greece, but this should not be understood as if they do not love the country in which they prosper. They need help and support, however, and these come primarily from the Church and, unfortunately, only in an auxiliary manner from the State. The initiative of individuals plays a fundamental role; this initiative starts with the family, this most important social cell, and reaches up to the levels of non-governmental organizations, like the American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture. Your aim to put the Greek language in the curricula of Institutions of Higher Learning in the United States of America is well thought of because it targets the highest levels of education, which produce those who eventually will be in power. Taking into account the leading role of the United States in the world today, we can understand the significance of your task. The City of Athens is very sensitive towards culture and the traditions of Hellenism and, through its cultural branches, has taken important initiatives for the support of the Greek language in South Italy, the European Union, and elsewhere. We will support you in any possible way, and I am confident that your efforts will be crowned with success.

Address of
Dr. Angeliki Laiou
Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs with portfolio for the Greeks of the Diaspora and cultural policy abroad, I would like to extend cordial greetings. I am sorry that, due to my absence from Greece, I am not present at the opening ceremonies of the Center of Greece/Athens. Today we are inaugurating the Center of Greece/Athens and with it its mission: the preservation and rejuvenation of the Greek language and culture in the United States of America. We live in a world which is being transformed at a fast pace. The rapid developments in global communications offer new opportunities, but also present new challenges. In order for them to become useful, they must be based upon strong foundations of humanistic and cultural values, which place man on the highest pedestal. Greece is a country with a glorious past, the cradle of western civilization, but also a modern state, a dynamic society with great achievements in our days, the will and ability to participate in the creation of a future characterized by peace, social justice, economic development and reinforcement of our cultural identity. The recent great success of our athletes in the Olympics underlines this Greece of optimism and progress. The preservation of our Greek conscience and identity as well as the cultivation of our language should be the concern of all of us, so that it becomes a carrier of our culture in the countries in which the Greeks of the Diaspora live and prosper. But together with the preservation of our cultural heritage let us not forget modern Greece, modern Greek language, modern art and culture, which can offer as much as our tradition. It is important that people who live outside our borders know about modern Greece, its life and activities, and also the challenges and opportunities we have ahead of us in the European Union. I am extremely happy I find myself among people from the Arts and Letters as well as from the business world of Greece and the United States, new homeland to thousands of Greeks. The Greeks of the Diaspora are a valuable part of Greece. We are proud of all of you who are so far away and, at the same time, so close to our hearts and thoughts. I hope that today’s opening ceremonies are the beginning of even more intense activity, which eventually will spread all over the world. I wish you good luck.

Address of
Mr. Kostas Karamanlis
President of N. D.

Mr. President,
The activities of the American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture, with its Interdisciplinary Centers for Hellenic Studies, come at a crucial moment in which some major issues are at stake regarding our language and cultural identity. The globalization of the economy, communications, transportation of people and ideas creates cultural phenomena. Thousands of languages are expected to disappear in the forthcoming years, while the assimilating tendencies which develop undermine the substance and meaning of a multi-cultural society. We the Greeks speak a language which has a strong cultural background. In its long journey it has evolved into an instrument rich in content and possibilities, even by the standards of techno-communications. This language is an element and expression of our cultural uniqueness. Use of the same language satisfies a strong precondition for the connection between the Diaspora and the motherland, Greece, and contributes to the preservation of our cultural and national identity. The spread of the Greek language requires coordinated efforts by the state, foundations, and organizations. It requires, above all, that Greece reclaim its historic role as a center for education and culture in the wider geographical area, overcoming the socialist stiffness; the goal is the creation of a new generation of Greeks "who partake in our education." In this and other ways our homeland can offer its vision and contribute to today’s world, which is in a state of perplexity and confusion concerning culture and everlasting values. We all are called, therefore, to activate our refractive sense of ecumenism. I congratulate you on your initiative and wish you every success in your work, which is useful in many ways.

Address of
Chris P. Tsokos PhD
AFGLC President

Your Honor,
the Mayor of Athens,
Mr. Ambassador of the United States of America,
distinguished President of the Academy of Athens,
distinguished guests,
ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening -- kalespera sas. On behalf of the American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture (AFGLC), I wish to express our sincere thanks to the Greek people for their enthusiastic and supportive reception that we have received in establishing a center of our educational foundation here in Greece. We would especially like to thank the new administrative committee of our center in Greece for their outstanding effort for these activities. The fundamental mission of the American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture is to assist in the preservation and enhancement of our rich Greek culture and language in the United States. To achieve this noble mission, we have developed a dynamic plan, which is academically outstanding and economically feasible. This plan is establishing Interdisciplinary Centers for Hellenic Studies at public and private academic institutions throughout the United States. This educational concept can do justice to the complex and beautiful meaning of Hellenism. This intellectual process carries all the essential elements to develop a strong nation. When the founding fathers gathered in Philadelphia, they were well aware of the fact that cultural and ethnic diversity would be an asset for the newly created United States. But they also realized that the new State needed some reliable and trustworthy foundations, and therefore they turned their attention to the most respected fountain of wisdom: the ancient Greek political theory. It is a well known fact, for example, that Thomas Jefferson could read ancient Greek and also that his personal library contained more than 800 volumes in Greek. All this Greek knowledge found its way into the most fundamental documents of the American State. The Hellenic contribution to the development of America has been exponentially decaying over the years and we strongly believe that it is our responsibility to educate the Americans, never to forget, who the Greeks are and what we have contributed. We must educate the leaders of tomorrow about the significant importance of Hellenism as they proceed with their mission to structure policies that affect the world in which we live. I have often been asked the question, "Why establish a center of the American Foundation for Greek Language and Culture in Greece?" My friends and patriots, the noble mission of this public educational foundation is the RESPONSIBILITY of not only us immigrants and our friends that live in America, but all Greeks around the globe. The Greek government, the business community, both private and public, academic institutions and various philanthropic organizations should join in this responsibility. The returns and benefits of this effort are astronomical. Our task is difficult and challenging; however, it is essential. We believe and we are very optimistic that if we all work together we shall overcome. We have an outstanding beginning and we see a bright light in the depth of the tunnel. My friends, being a "Greek" is a very rich, beautiful and unique identification. But it also carries with it a certain responsibility to tell the world who we are and the importance of Hellenism. The American people are good people. They are understanding and hard working, but we must educate them as to who we Greeks are and the significant contribution we have made in the structuring of the United States and thus WE ARE ALL GREEKS. My friends and fellow Greeks, "if we do not succeed in the rejuvenation and enhancement of Hellenism in the Americas, history will not forgive us." That is why we must cooperate in a well-orchestrated effort: from both sides of the Atlantic and with a deep sense of our heritage and our contributions to humanity we will work together to put Greece in its rightful place of honor. Bringing Greece to prominence not only will make our children and us even more proud to be Greeks, but also will result in a better understanding of our institutions and our world in general. Together we will succeed. Thank you, sas euxaristo.

Address of
Dr. John U. Balis
Vice-President of AFGLC

Your Grace,
Mr. Member of the Cabinet,
Mr. American Ambassador to Greece,
Mr. Mayor of Athens,
Mr. President of Academy of Athens,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
The Mission of AFGLC is to assist in the preservation and enhancement of Greek culture and language through the American Universities. The guiding concept is based on the fact that the roots of the American democracy and civilization need in perpetuity communication with the constituents of Greek culture. The Aims and Objectives of AFGLC will be accomplished with a multifaceted plan, which has as a basic approach the establishment of Interdisciplinary Centers of Hellenic Studies (ICHS) in strategically selected American Universities. The first ICHS has been recently established by the AFGLC at the USF (University of South Florida). This pioneer Center consists of five endowed professorships, which cover the most important areas of Greek Studies including Language and Literature, History, Philosophy, Culture and Orthodox Religion. The Board of Directors of USF-ICHS consists of the Center's Director, three members of the AFGLC Executive Committee and the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Therefore, the presence and contribution of the AFGLC for the function and direction of the Center is essential, and has been ratified in perpetuity by the University. We anticipate that the future ICHS in other universities will function in a similar manner and with the same organization. The programs, accomplishments and future plans of the ICHS are presented at the annual Educational Forum of AFGLC, which takes place early in March at the USF. This annual forum has contributed significantly in spreading the central idea of AFGLC that the establishment of ICHS in American Universities is a goal of great importance, because it represents the key to open the rich fountains of Greek culture for the American people and enhance the identity of the Greek community in this country. We believe that this ambitious endeavor can and should be accomplished with a plan that incorporates the following premises:
(1) Close collaboration between the AFGLC and ICHS with the academic and administrative leadership of the selected American Universities.
(2) Creative interaction between AFGLC and ICHS with Greek institutions of higher learning, and
(3) Close collaboration between AFGLC and its Center in Greece with the Business Community in Greece and United States, as well as with the Greek and American Media, and Greek, Greek-American and Philhellenic Communities.
The opening of the AFGLC-Center of Greece is a historical first step in our long Journey to foster transatlantic collaboration with focus on the promotion of Greek letters in American Universities and the enhancement of Greek identity in America. Thank you.

Address of
Dr. Demetrios G. Halkias
Treasurer of AFGLC

Mr. Secretary of Education,
Mr. Mayor of Athens,
Mr. U.S. Ambassador Mr. President of the Academy of Athens,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very happy that I am with you today after 50 years of residing in the United States of America to talk to you about the AFGLC. A few Greek academicians at the University of South Florida recognizing the importance in maintaining the Greek Language and the return of the classics at centers of higher learning in USA we started working with the goal to develop a center of excellence with sponsored professorships that will help in the realization of our goals. As many of you know, this interdisciplinary center of excellence became reality on March 2000 after a number of years of diligent and concentrated efforts by the members of AFGLC. The success of the development of the interdisciplinary center is due to the following: Voluntary service and financial assistance by the organizers of AFGLC. [The organizers have no personal interests.] Development of a detailed constitution and by-laws to meet the requirements of the State of Florida Keeping all Greek communities in Florida informed about the goals and objectives of the Foundation by personal presentations Developing a membership base by all who believe in the goals and objectives of the foundation [AFGLC] Recognition of those who sponsored a professorship or made major contribution Developing the necessary documents for obtaining a tax free status from the Internal Revenue Service Developing annual academic forums to exchange views and to promote the goals and objectives of AFGLC and having an annual Gala Continuous communication and collaboration with the University of South Florida The AFGLC has developed such an interdisciplinary center which is economical and is very unique because it includes all professorships we considered important and it is the first such center which includes a sponsored professorship for the teaching of Orthodox religion and Byzantine history. Since the AFGLC has been recognized by centers of higher education as unique, we have informed all the Greek organizations in USA about the goals and objectives of AFGLC, we have made available the constitution and by-laws of AFGLC, our expertise and our voluntary assistance in the event they are interested in financing the development of centers such as the interdisciplinary center of AFGLC in various universities in the USA. As of now we are focusing in the development of such centers in St. Louis, Mo, Pittsburgh, Pa, Southern New England, etc. I am very delighted that today we are celebrating the opening of the AFGLC center of Greece in Athens. I believe that the administration of the center is in capable hands and the president Mr. Evangelos Soroggas is surrounded by dedicated young men and women who believe in the goals and objectives of AFGLC and I am certain that with their enthusiasm and their voluntary work the center will succeed. I also believe that all of us should be proud that we have such young men and women who are ready to follow our footsteps. In addition, I would like to believe that many of you who are interested in the maintenance and promotion of the Greek Language and culture will join and become active members of AFGLC because only with the help of many we will succeed. We can promise that all of us at the Headquarters of AFGLC will keep close communication and cooperation with the AFGLC Center of Greece in Athens and that we will participate every year in their cultural and social events. In closing allow me to thank and to congratulate the president Mr. Evangelos Soroggas and his team members together with the responsible for international cooperation Mrs. Fotini Priniotakis for their untiring efforts and diligent work for the presentation of this beautiful evening. Thank you.