Are You Ready To Make A Difference?
by Nick Larigakis
July 23, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed by AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis was published in The National Herald 8-6-10, The Hellenic Voice 8-4-10, and The Hellenic News of America 7-25-10.
In a few weeks the Congress will recess for the traditional August recess. They will not return until September 14. The House is scheduled to begin its recess on August 7 and the Senate on August 9. However, there are indications that they might break earlier as lawmakers are very eager to get back to their districts to get an early jump on the final campaign stretch run. After all, the November election will be coming into focus. Up for re-election are all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate seats.
This election promises to produce many new faces in Congress next year because 20 Representatives and 10 Senators are retiring. And when you look at some other factors, there could be as many as 62 new faces in Congress and that doesn’t include any incumbents who might lose, and they will.
What does all this mean for our issues and the Greek American community?
Well…frankly nothing. Unless, of course, Greek Americans choose to become active and reach out to these candidates, incumbents and challengers alike, to not only educate them about our issues, but force them to go on the record with their positions on our issues.
To assist in this endeavor the American Hellenic Institute will be preparing a “Congressional Questionnaire” on issues of importance to the Greek American community. We will be sending this questionnaire to all the incumbents and challengers asking them to respond. However, for this process to be effective it is critically important that Greek American constituents begin reaching out to their members of Congress from now to alert them that this will be forthcoming in early September. In addition, this will give our community members a good reason to reach out to these candidates.
I strongly believe that as Greek Americans, we have a vested interest in advocating and promoting a strong U.S. relationship with Greece and Cyprus. This also serves, first and foremost, the multifaceted national interests of the U.S. To this extent, we should be more vigilant as to the consequences of U.S. policy towards Greece and Cyprus because it has the potential to affect us as Americans and the national security interests of the U.S.
Furthermore, during the last three months before the election, candidates will be furiously looking to raise as much money as possible for their campaigns. This provides the Greek American community with another good vehicle to be able to seek commitments and positive statements by candidates on our issues.
However, we have an option that we can exercise with our hard-earned money and how we spend it in support of congressional candidates. Therefore, as I stated before in this column, in a year where political fundraising is at a premium and every candidate will be looking to reach out to as many ethnic groups as possible to be able to get that edge—let’s all be smart with our contributions. Let us all make sure that we get a commitment from the candidates that we are supporting so that we can make our contribution count. If we don’t like what we hear, let’s support the candidate that will support our issues. Let’s make our political contributions count!
So, the next time you are approached to host a fundraiser or give money, first ask the candidate some very poignant questions. For example:
The window of opportunity to advance our issues is immense. The midterm elections provide us with a good chance to make noise and to secure firm commitments on our issues.
The question is, how many of us will reach out and try to affect this change with our elected officials? While some of us ponder this, let us be reminded that our political system has its roots in one of the most fundamental principles inherited from Greek tradition—namely that in a democracy it is the responsibility of the citizen to be active in the life of the nation.
Therefore, it is absolutely incumbent on us as American citizens to become active in the life of our nation. All it takes is a little effort to make the commitment to be involved and to understand the issues as they affect us.
The opportunity is there. AHI is willing to help. Will you reach out to your elected representatives and make the difference?
For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.
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