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Athenagoras Human Rights Award bestowed upon Admiral Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, on behalf of U.S. Armed Forces

The Athenagoras Human Rights Award is presented to Admiral James G. Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, on behalf of the heroic U.S. Armed Forces. [L-R] Hon. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, National Secretary John Halecky, Jr., Archbishop Demetrios, National Treasurer James C. Fountas, Admiral Stavridis, Archon George Stephanopoulos, ABC Chief Political Correspondent and Co-Anchor of Good Morning America, and National Commander Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis. (Photos by J. Mindala)


View photos from the Archon Weekend

View a video of the Award Banquet

Archbishop Demetrios of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, together with Archons’ National Commander Dr. Anthony J.  Limberakis presented the Athenagoras Human Rights Award to Admiral James G. Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, who accepted on behalf of the heroic members of the United States Armed Forces. Admiral Stavridis is the highest-ranking Greek American in the history of the United States military. The Award was presented during the annual Human Rights Banquet held at the New York Hilton on October 15, 2011, with over 600 Archons and guests in attendance.

In presenting the Award, Dr. Limberakis paid tribute to Admiral Stavridis and the members of our Armed Forces, stating: “The three million heroes of America’s men and women in uniform who defend our way of life each singularly, and together collectively, share in the 2011 Athenagoras Human Rights Award.

“There are those among who lobby for human rights. There are those among us who pray for human rights.  But no one among us is called upon to lay down their own lives and make the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard those very fundamental human rights, other than the members of our Armed Services, the recipients of the 2011 Athenagoras Human Rights Award.”

Archon George Stephanopoulos, ABC Chief Political Correspondent and Co-Anchor of Good Morning America, was Master of Ceremonies for the Athenagoras Human Rights Award.

Established in 1986, the Athenagoras Human Rights Award is given in honor of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, who served as Archbishop of the Americas for 18 years before being elected Ecumenical Patriarch in 1948. He was universally acknowledged as a visionary leader and worked for peace among Churches and people throughout his life.  As in the past 12 years, National Vice Commander Nicholas J. Bouras again generously served as Banquet Underwriter.

Previous recipients of this prestigious Award have included President Jimmy Carter, President George H.W. Bush, President Mikhail Gorbachev, Elie Wiesel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Demetrios of America, Archbishop Iakovos and last year’s recipient, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick.

In accepting the Award, Admiral Stavridis spoke about his family and the values that were instilled in him and particularly about his father who left Asia Minor in the early 20th Century and conveyed his pride for his Hellenic heritage. Admiral Stavridis also emphasized the humanitarian role of the Armed Forces and highlighted that “it is the duty of the strong to protect those who are weak,” adding that “might does not make right” and explaining that “we live in an imperfect world [in which] human rights sadly are not the norm.”

His Grace Bishop Savas of Troas, assited by Chaplain Fr. Milton Gianulis, at the Orientation Dinner for new Archons.

Admiral Stavridis closed his speech with the valedictory words of Nikos Kazantzakis, the author of Report to Greco and Zorba the Greek, saying, ” ‘I want nothing. I fear nothing.  I am free.’ If we can help create a world without want, a world without fear … we will have created a world where we are free. That is the most important, undeniable, and central human right of all – freedom. Freedom, in the end, is the right to be human.

I thank you for this Award, and I humbly accept it on behalf of the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, volunteers all, who defend our freedom every day.”

Following the Orientation Dinner, National Commander Limberakis extended a surprise birthday tribute to his brother Regional Commander Dr. Cary J. Limberakis.

Archbishop Demetrios, in his response, congratulated “the admirable Admiral” for a “well deserved honor,” and conveyed the blessings of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Order of Saint Andrew, to the honoree and the all those present at the banquet. The Archbishop said that from the days of Marathon and Salamis to the days of World War II and the invasion of Greece by the Axis armies, the Greek example of military conflict is one of people, small in numbers, who resist submitting themselves and their country to much larger foreign threats and occupation. His Eminence also noted that when Admiral Stavridis’ parents were leaving their ancestral land for America they were carrying with them two important and symbolic items: the father, his academic college diploma and the mother, a treasured icon of Saint George, items representative of education and faith.  Archbishop Demetrios added that in Admiral Stavridis, as a person, there is a convergence of the ancient Greek traditions and the Hellenic ideals with the witnessing of Christianity and the Orthodox tradition and martyrdom exemplified by many of our Saints and Martyrs, who served in the military service in their time.

Archon John A. Catsimatidis, Religious Freedom Chairman noted the significant advances that have been realized by the Mother Church in advancing its religious freedom.

The Banquet Program commenced with a welcome from National Secretary John Halecky, Jr. and greetings were offered by Hon. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. ABC Chief Political Correspondent and Co-Anchor of Good Morning America Archon George Stephanopoulos served as Master of Ceremonies and Fox News Chief Congressional Correspondent Archon Mike Emanuel offered the introduction of the dais guests.  Chaplains John Kalantzis and Matthews J. Streett assisted, respectively, in the invocation and benediction. 

Once again, Archon Theodore D. Demetriou superbly coordinated the Archon weekend activities as banquet chairman, assisted by Archon Konstantine L. Vellios, who donated the beautiful patriotic floral arrangements.

Earlier in the weekend, the Annual Archon Weekend commenced with an new Archon orientation dinner held on Friday, Oct. 14 beginning with an invocation by His Grace Bishop Savas of Troas, assisted by Chaplain Fr. Milton Gianulis.  Members of the National Council and Regional Commanders of the Order of Saint Andrew joined Archons-elect and their spouses for an evening of fellowship and introductions.

Dr. Maria Limberakis offered remarks focusing on the “The Archon Family Perspective” during the fellowship luncheon held after the assembly.

Dr. Limberakis extended a warm welcome to all of the Archons and Archon-elect members and offered a dynamic multimedia presentation on the history of The Order, its role as advocate for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the ‘humbling recognition and awesome responsibility’ the Archon-elect members will now assume.  Following his presentation, Dr. Limberakis, extended a surprise birthday tribute to his brother Regional Commander Dr. Cary J. Limberakis who was observing his 60th birthday.

On Saturday morning, the Annual Archon Assembly convened during which the Archon Class of 2011 was formally presented to the Exarch, Archbishop Demetrios of America.  During the course of the meeting, various reports were offered.  Archon Religious Freedom Chairman John A. Catsimatidis noted the significant advances that have been realized by the Mother Church in advancing its religious freedom as the Archons continued their rigorous domestic and international religious freedom initiatives.  A memorial service was also held for departed Archons.

Archon George Tsunis greets Admiral Stavridis following the Award banquet.

The Saturday afternoon luncheon attended by hierarchs, clergy, Archons, Archons-elect and their families was hosted by Dr. Maria A. Limberakis, wife of the National Commander and the wives of the National Council.  Dr. Maria Limberakis offered remarks focusing on the “The Archon Family Perspective” noting that the Archon Offikion is shared by the entire family, along with the serious responsibilities that accompany the oldest honor in Christendom.  Archon Congressman Gus Bilirakis offered the keynote address highlighting his efforts in Congress promoting religious freedom and institutional human rights for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

On Sunday morning, October 16, Archbishop Demetrios presided at the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City with Metropolitans Methodios of Boston, Isaiah of Denver and Evangelos of New Jersey concelebrating. Following the Divine Liturgy the ceremony of investiture of the new Archons took place.  New Archons invested include the following:

The Archon class of 2011.

Mark Adam, Manchester, New Hampshire

Kostandinos M. Arger, M.D., Reno, Nevada

John Avdoulos, Westland, Michigan

Drake G. Behrakis, Watertown, Maine

Jon J. Couchell, Spartanburg, South Carolina

George M. Gazis, Houston Texas

George Gritsonis, Palatine, Illinois

Constantine Kaganis, Bronx, New York

Archon-elects bear candles prior to their investiture in the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

Chris Karamanos, Toms River, New Jersey

Pavlos Kymissis, M.D., Hempstead, New York and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Steven Lukac, Sharon, Pennsylvania

Christopher D. Mandaleris, Greensboro, North Carolina

Markos K. Marinakis, New York, New York

Thomas N. Mitrakos, Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Theo Nicolakis, Orange, Connecticut

Harry Oryhon, D.D.S., Palos Park, Illinois

Paul J. Plumis, Seattle, Washington

Reince Priebus, Racine, Wisconsin

Archbishop Demetrios of America investing Reince Priebus as an Archon.

John C. Rouman, Ph.D., Dover, New Hampshire

John Sakellaris, Jersey City, New Jersey

Dean G. Skelos, Hempstead, New York

Harry W. Spell, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Christopher J. Spilios, Weston, Massachussetts

Gregory J. Stamos, Orange, Connectictut and Ansonia, Connectictut

Thomas M. Suehs, Austin, Texas

George A. Tsougarakis, Tenafly, New Jersey

Argyris Vassiliou, Stamford, Connecticut and Windham, New York

Peter N. Vastures, Columbus, Ohio

George P. Zaharas, Cheyenne, Wyoming

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