Wednesday, October 7, 2015

DC Advocates Stand by Greece (mostly)...

Mulling over the take-aways from the "Stand by Greece" Summit held a few days ago at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington DC -- and I have mixed emotions
The bipartisan event was organized by the 136-member Hellenic Caucus co-chaired‎ by Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and assisted by the Hellenic-American Leadership Council (HALC). Intense Congressional commitment to Greece was inspiring. I simply couldn't be prouder of Congressman Bilirakis! (And who knew that Chris Van Hollen [D-MD] was married in the Greek Orthodox Church?)
3 panels covered needed administrative/business reforms, reality on the ground (including a report by Metropolitan Gabriel on what Apostoli, the humanitarian arm of the Church of Greece has been doing bolstered by significant contributions from the IOCC/International Orthodox Christian Charities), and the geopolitical strategic issues/concerns.‎ The last underscored the damnable damage done to Greece for too many years primarily because of location, location, location... 
Contributions and initiatives were announced and applauded -- especially the generosity of HALC founder Nikos Mouyiaris of Mana Products, who will also walk the talk by building a factory in the Thebes area. A letter was initiated to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, requesting technical assistance to be provided to Greece in connection with the current refugees crisis; we lobbied several reps in their offices. And a next project with SOS-Children's Villages (Greek website) for individual child sponsorship was also introduced -- following the $260,000 already raised for their Greek programs through HALC.
Standing by Greece, however, did not seem to include standing by newly re-elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who disappointed (or was it embarrassed?) some with his inability to impress in his interview with President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. 
PM Tsipras -- a relatively young man and not a capitalist by trade or inclination -- made a series of speeches around the UN meetings. It would have been nice if he had hit a couple of home runs, but that was no reason not to stand by him publicly. As the democratically re-elected PM of Greece by the Greek people in tumultuous times, he deserved more than a 10-day honeymoon (especially since others deemed business-minded had 5 years to make things better and did not). Instead some Greek-Americans ridiculed him and his government beyond what might be considered constructive criticism. 
We all want to see the changes needed to rebuild the Greek economy and end the humanitarian crisis as soon as possible. But there will be no overnight miracles. Much will be rightfully decided by the Greek people, not by us -- and in a socio-political environment not like ours.  We really don't know all the facts or understand the mind-set completely. And Greece is not Astoria, Toronto or even Chicago.

Much must indeed change.   On the other hand,  some things about Greece and the Greek people will never change -- thank God!

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