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Meeting of Greek American Community Leaders hosted by Ambassador of Greece H.E. Vassilis Kaskarelis
Newly-arrived to Washington Ambassador of Greece, Vassilis Kaskarelis, hosted and chaired a meeting of more than 45 leading members of the Greek American community from around the country, coordinated by the USA Region of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE). The meeting was an opportunity for members of the community to meet the new Ambassador. It also provided a venue for dialogue regarding the aspirations of the community and the need for a more unified message and better coordination of its activities.
In his welcoming remarks, Ambassador Kaskarelis expressed the hope that this gathering constituted just a first step in an outreach program of inclusiveness, which he plans to conduct, bringing together as many organizations, societies and associations as possible.
Recognizing Americans of Greek origin as a dynamic force within mainstream America, the Greek Ambassador believes that the community has not reached its full potential in making its voice heard. He underlined that the community’s dedication to the issues of Cyprus, Macedonia and the Aegean is of catalytic importance, thanking the participants for their continuous and constructive contribution.
The Ambassador also stressed the importance of widening the agenda of the Greek American community so that it includes issues relevant to its members’ everyday lives and to the broader community in which they live. This would bolster the community’s impact on all issues, enhance their status and credibility as involved citizens, making Greek American institutions more relevant, particularly to younger generations who may otherwise feel alienated.
Furthermore, Ambassador Kaskarelis noted that while the large number of Greek American institutions and their diversity of views are testament to the community’s vitality, it would more be effective if their message is unified, consistent and coordinated. To this end, he discussed the advantages of communication and blogging channels in maintaining a dialogue within the community, especially with and among its younger members, asking for their contributions and specific proposals.
At the request of participants, Ambassador Kaskarelis briefly analyzed Greece’s pending foreign policy issues, as well as developments in the visa waiver program, which he said, was in the homestretch stage and expected to be finalized after the upcoming Greek elections.
While emphasizing that there is absolutely no intention on the part of the Greek Government or himself to impose views or direct the actions of the Greek American community, the Ambassador offered to be at the community’s disposal to discuss concerns and provide assistance.
Many of the participants subscribed to the views expressed by Ambassador Kaskarelis, noting the lack of coordination of their activities, while others voiced concerns over assimilation and loss of cultural heritage and identity, particularly regarding preservation of the Greek language, and asking for a follow up meeting. On the other hand, 2nd and 3rd generation participants asked that the English language be the language of communication in such meetings, as their level of the Greek language does not allow them to be equal participants and express their own needs and aspirations. On behalf of all participants, the Ambassador accepted the valid suggestion, recommending that follow-up meetings be in both languages.
Participants concluded that all in all, the meeting was positive, constructive and informative. The Ambassador stated his intent to call a second meeting on a broader and more inclusive scale early next year in New York.