New York.- “Let us all unite together. Free men we live, better in one hour of freedom than forty years as a slave. This is the meaning of the Ballad of Rigas Feraios,” stated with conviction Dr. Christos P. Ioannides. “Rigas was the apostle of the Greek Revolution. He lived through the French Revolution and was a visionary ahead of his time. The Ottoman rule in the Balkans was oppressive to Greek and Turks alike. The revolutionary dreamt of a Balkan Federation similar to the United States.
His Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen is similar to the United States Declaration of Independence. Rigas believed that religion should not be obstructed by government.” This dynamic address was presented on Tuesday evening, March 3rd, at the Fifth Annual Greek Independence Day Celebration of Modern Greek Language and Literature Program of the Languages and Literatures Department of St. Johnʼs University in Council Hall.
Over two hundred persons attended with standing room only. A dance performance by the Panchiaki Korais Dance Group under the supervision of Evangelia Klidas projected the very best in Greek folk dancing. Scholarships were given and prominent persons were recognized. Program Moderators included: Haritomeni Scoufaras, Andy Kokkinos and Bridget Fotiou Barry. The event was a joint effort of the SJU Modern Greek Language and Literature Program, the Greek Club, SJU ROTC and Panchiaki Korais Society and Dance Group.
“Adamantios Korais and Rigas Feraios inspired American Phil-Hellenism in the 1820ʼs,” said Dr. Ioannides. “A wave of Hellenism swept across the United States. The first American volunteer in the Greek Revolution of 1821 was a New Yorker. George Jarvis, son of a New York merchant, went to Greece in 1822. He learned the Greek language and wore a Greek foustanella (white kilted skirt). Jarvis joined the kleftes (Greek guerilla fighters), participating in many battles, where he was repeatedly wounded. He died in 1828 at Argos. The New Yorker inspired Americans to give aid and participate in the first uprising of enslaved persons in the Ottoman Empire. March 25th is the 4th of July to Greek-Americans.” The audience was primarily 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Greek-Americans and their friends.
An electrifying evening followed commemorating the courage of Greek, Greek-Americans and Phil-Hellenes from the 1821 Greek Revolution to the Iraq War. The Program opened with the Presentation of the American Flag by an ROTC color guard under the supervision of Master Sergeant (MSG) Elizabeth Simmons. SJU Modern Greek alumni scholars Captain Andrew Lyons III, Captain James Simmons and Lt. Col. Andrew Lyons II, Associate Director of the SJU Freshman Center, who served in the Iraq War, were honored. “Captain Andrew Lyons III completed two years of Modern Greek Language and Literature studies with excellence from 2002 through 2004,”aid MSG Simmons. “He was the recipient of the 2004 Greek American Homeowners Association Scholarship for excellence in Modern Greek. Captain Lyons served in Iraq for several years. He began a humanitatian program to supply clothing, school supplies and articles to help the children of Iraq.”
WWI, WWII and Korean War late heroes were remembered with a moment of salience. They included: Staff Sargeant George Vlassios Tsounis; Vlassios Tsounis; George Panagiotis Siolas; Vasilios Tsounis; Tom Tsounis; Staff Sargeant Chris Christofis; Staff Sergeant George Aneson; Titos Traiantaffilou; and Akila Couloumbis.Service Awards were given to Haritomeni Scoufaras, andy Kokkinos and Julia Kourkoumelis. The following students were awarded: 2009 In Memory of George Vlassios Tsounis, scholar Michael Walker Jr., presented by MSG Elizabeth Simmons; 2009 Panchiaki Korais Scholarships, Soterios Tsevdos and Anna Papamichael, presented by Captain Stelios Tatsis; 2009 In Memory of Dr. Panagiotis Kokolis, Crissa Kostadaras, presenter Mrs. Athanasia Nancy Biska; and the 2009 New York Physical Therapy Sports Rehabilitation Scholarship, presented by Kostas Koutsoubis.
Recognition for outstanding services to Hellenism included: Nashia Wittenberg; Florence Leung; Dr. John N. Spiridakis; Maria Georgiadis; Catherine Fotiou Barry; Angeliki Pagoulatos and Spiros Kourkoumelis. Dr. Herbert Pierson, Chairman of the Languages and Literatures Department said, “I tell Asians they must learn Greek culture that is the basis of Western Civilization. During the Christmas break, I went to Israel and the Holy Land. In Israel, there were strong influences of Greek Orthodox chapels and civilization. The Holy sites in Jerusalem are supported by the Greek Orthodox Church.”
Student Moderator Haritomeni Scoufaras presented an award of appreciation to the Panchiaki Korais Society for their unique support of the Modern Greek Language and Literature Program to representative Captain Stelios Tatsis.“They were the founders of our scholarship program in 2000. Panchiaki Korais has awarded twenty scholarships through the years amounting to $10,000.”
Special appreciation is extended to the following persons and organizations: ROTC Color Guard of MSG Elizabeth Simmons, Cadet Miguel Caicedo, Cadet Anthony Grajales, Cadet James Steinberg, Cadet Shaynan Jenkins; Panchiaki Korais Society; Panchiaki Society Dance Group; Photographers Marcos Papadatos, Eleni Hatzinicolaou and Valerie Sotiriou; the Parents and Students and Benefactors of the Modern Greek Literature Program; Eleni Catechis; Christina Kostaras; Maria Catechis; Anastasios Boubalos; Peter Dilis; Sotirios Tsevdos, Patricia Stylianou; Elizabeth Stylianou; Patricia Stylianou; Cyxa Cubi; Johanna Cubi; Vivian Vescovacci; Brenda Padro; Wanda Gibson; Lisa Jones,; Christos Kalaritis; Donald Fletcher and others.
Dr. Herbert Pierson is the Chairman of the Languages and Literatures Program. Prof. Millard Yoder is Coordinator of the Languages without a Minor Concentration. Prof. Catherine Tsounis, adjunct instructor, and Dr. John G. Siolas instruct the Modern Greek Language and Literature Program.