11 May 2016, 8:30 pm
Grande Bretagne Hotel
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor for me to be with you, again, for the American Hellenic Institute’s award dinner.
Tonight, not only do we celebrate the accomplishments of two outstanding award recipients, we also celebrate the profound friendship and partnership between Greece and the United States. This enduring relationship with Greece goes back to the earliest days of the Greek struggle for independence.
Our longstanding defense ties with Greece are a critical part of this relationship. Greece has strategic importance for the U.S. and for the rest of Europe. For the past 60 years, it has been our committed NATO ally, helping to provide security and safety in Europe. Souda Bay, Crete is the only deep water port between Norfolk, Virginia and Dubai where a U.S. aircraft carrier can be replenished pier side. Hundreds of vessels pass through Souda and thousands of flights from the U.S. and NATO partners and hosted them every year.
After three years, I can happily say that our relationship as defense allies and friends is as strong as ever. Greece needs allies, and friends, now, perhaps more than ever. I have seen how the Greek people have suffered under the tremendous weight of the economic crisis and the migrant crisis. But, when I see the remarkable generosity of Greeks and Greek-Americans, helping their neighbors and total strangers through this time of crisis, I feel optimistic about the future of the country. It is a true testament to the generosity of spirit, the natural ‘philotimo’, which exists both here in Greece and among the diaspora community.
I would like to personally congratulate tonight’s award recipients, Mr. Denny Plessas Leonidis, and the Fulbright Foundation of Greece.
Denny, thank you for strengthening the strong ties between the American and Greek people. Over 40 years you have advanced the cooperation between our business communities and exemplified corporate social responsibility.
Also, I’d like to congratulate Artemid our Fulbright colleagues on 68 years of extraordinary service, creating educational and cultural exchanges between Greece and the U.S. This makes the Greek Fulbright Foundation the oldest Fulbright Program in Europe and the second-oldest, continuously operating Fulbright Program in the world.
U.S. Senator William Fulbright led the effort to create this program as a way to promote U.S. culture, education, and policies around the world during the Cold War. Since 1948, the Foundation has awarded over 5,000 grants to Greeks for studies and research in the U.S. and to Americans for studies here. These scholars and students have made a big impact on societies. Promoting mutual understanding between our two nations is one of the foremost priorities of the U.S. Mission in Greece and we have no better way of doing that than through the Fulbright program – we are extremely honored to see it recognized here this evening.
Again, my thanks to AHI for this wonderful celebration for Greece, for the United States, and for our enduring friendship. My congratulations to this year’s honorees.