35th Congressional Banquet poised to honor America


By Andrew Kaffes


WASHINGTON - The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the largest and oldest association of Americans of Greek heritage and Philhellenes, will hold its 35th Biennial Congressional Banquet, on Monday, March 25, 2002, at the Hilton Washington, 7 p.m., announced Supreme President Andrew T. Banis. The theme for the time-honored gala affair that began in 1932 is "We Honor America."

 "From the outset, our aspiration has been to honor America by capturing the patriotic spirit of our nation in one event," said Banis. "I'm confident our program will exceed our expectations."

According to the supreme president, the banquet program will include a salute in recognition of New York City and Washington, DC area firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, port authority officers, and active duty military personnel.

"We expect to have nearly twenty representatives and their family members in attendance," said Banis, referring to the brave men and women who put their lives in harm's way to ensure the safety of their fellow citizens. "I think it will be an emotional evening and a golden opportunity for us to say thank you."

The banquet will culminate with a Keynote Address to be given by New York University Associate Professor of Fine Arts Joan Breton Connelly. According to Banis, her moving February 19, 2002, article in The Wall Street Journal titled, "The Athenian Response to Terror" will set the perfect tone for the evening.

"I am deeply honored and welcome the opportunity to address your distinguished membership and guests," said Professor Connelly in her acceptance letter In her article, Professor Connelly writes, “The firefighters, police officers, transit workers and rescue teams in New York City manifest before our eyes the very heart and soul of Athenian democratic altruism."

In addition, this year's invited honorees are: President George W. Bush, U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Spain George L. Argyros, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and Broadcast Journalist John Defterios.

"At this point, Ambassador Argyros and Mr. Defterios have confirmed their attendance and we are grateful that they have accepted our invitation," said Banis. "We are patiently awaiting responses from the other invitees."

Ambassador Argyros will receive the Aristotle Award, an accolade given to a Hellene who has achieved national recognition and displays excellence in one's respective field of endeavor. Mr. Defterios will receive the Demosthenes Award, an honor afforded to a Hellene who excels as a media professional.  Washington DC Attorney Michael Anestos will be the Master of Ceremonies for the event. Our prominent Greek-American members of Congress are the Honorary Chairs for the banquet. They include: Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Olympia J. Snowe and Reps. Shelley Berkley, Michael Bilirakis, and George W. Gekas.

"Of course we will also celebrate the 181st anniversary of Greek Independence with government officials of the United States, Greece, and Cyprus," concluded Banis.