WASHINGTON, DC—The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the leading membership-based association for the nation’s millions American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes, and its affiliated women’s organization, the Daughters of Penelope, brought their public policy priorities to the attention of Capitol Hill legislators and their staffs, May 3, 2017, during their annual Capitol Hill Day. The AHEPA Family’s Capitol Hill Day has become an annual event since 2006.
"Our mission guides our public policy priorities," Supreme President Andrew C. Zachariades said. “As such, we have a diverse set of legislative interests, both foreign and domestic, that reflect our programs and initiatives that serve our mission and community.”
He added, “We sincerely thank all our volunteer members who unselfishly took the time out of their busy schedules to fulfill their commitment to civic responsibility. We had representation stretching from the West Coast and Southwest, to the Mountain West and Midwest, and of course, New England and mid-Atlantic region. The diverse geographic composition of our grassroots is our strength, and it is crucial that we bring it to Capitol Hill to convey a strong message in support of our policy priorities.”
According to Zachariades, AHEPA family members who participated at the organization’s annual Capitol Hill Day discussed issues that included: Greece's importance to United States defense and security interests in Europe and the importance of strong U.S. – Greece relations as Greece endures two crises; religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, ending the division of Cyprus, efforts to support a review of World War II Veteran James “Maggie” Megellas Medal of Honor case, and ensuring cost-effective, job creating, and lifesaving domestic programs are preserved and maintained in the federal budget. Domestic programs of interest to the AHEPA family include: affordable housing for the elderly, medical research at NIH, and domestic violence. In addition, the participants’ objective was to help to grow the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues as well as other congressional caucuses of interest.
“Our aim is to grow the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, helping it to return to the record-setting number we achieved in previous congresses,” Zachariades said. “We are encouraged by the positive responses we received by members of Congress, and their staffs, who are not members of the Caucus, to join it.”
Parthenon Marbles Resolution Introduced
The day’s events included a morning reception where the AHEPA family received remarks from U.S.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus and Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance; and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), who now serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), co-founder and co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus, addressed the AHEPA family members during a group photo she helped to arrange on the U.S. Capitol steps. There, Congresswoman Maloney announced the introduction of a congressional concurrent resolution, H.Con.Res.51, to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. U.S. Reps. Bilirakis and Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ) are original co-sponsors of the resolution.
“We appreciate the strong show of support from the champions of Greek American issues and thank them for their participation, which helped to make the day a success,” Zachariades said. “We pledge to garner support for the Parthenon Marbles resolution and ask for the community's help. We look forward to working with our champions to achieve all our shared policy goals and objectives.”
Capitol Hill Reception Honors Excellence in Public Service
To conclude the day, AHEPA Family members and friends gathered to honor excellence in public service at a reception to salute excellence in public service held at the Capitol Visitors Center. The honorees, who were each awarded the 2017 AHEPA Pericles Award, were:
Presenters included: U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), AHEPA Cyprus and Hellenic Affairs Chairman Savas Tsivicos, and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), who accepted the award on behalf of Congressman Diaz-Balart. (The congressman could not attend due to discussions on the healthcare bill.) In acceptance, each of the honorees lauded Pericles, commended AHEPA’s commitment to civic responsibility over its 95 years, and spoke to the issues of importance to the American Hellenic community. Additionally, U.S. Rep. John Gottheimer (D-NJ), who is in his first term; Supreme President Zachariades, reception Co-chairs Supreme Secretary Carl Hollister and Supreme Counselor George Horiates; Executive Director Basil Mossaidis, all addressed the audience.
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Founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia, on the principles that undergirded its fight for civil rights and against discrimination, bigotry, and hatred felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, and Europe.
AHEPA's mission is to promote the ancient Greek ideals of Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence through community service and volunteerism.
For more information, please visit www.ahepa.org.