George D. Behrakis, Chairman of Leadership 100, joined by Archbishop Demetrios of America, and Vice Chairman Stephen G. Yeonas presented the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Award for Excellence to two of its most prominent and long-time members, Mr. Theodore P. Angelopoulos and Ambassador Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, for their accomplishments in business, public service and philanthropy. The Award was presented at the Grand Banquet of the Leadership 100 17th Annual Conference in Palm Desert, California, on February 16, 2008, concluding the four-day gathering.
The couple is credited with Athens’ successful bid and hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games. Heading Greece’s bid to host the Olympics in 1996, Gianna was appointed Ambassador-at-Large in 1998 for her talents and service to Greece. She was asked to take the presidency of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games in 2000 when slow progress put Athens in danger of losing the Olympic Games. Under her leadership, Athens made up for lost time and gave the world what IOC President Jacques Rogge called: “an unforgettable, dream Games,” logistically flawless, visually stunning and with the Organizing Committee’s unprecedented financial surplus of 130.6 million Euros.
Throughout, Theodore Angelopoulos, who is from one of the most prominent families in Greece and a leading industrialist and entrepreneur with international businesses interests and activities, played a pivotal role.
In introducing the couple and a film on the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Behrakis asked the more than 300 members and guests to reflect on the situation prior to the Games. “The media questioned the ability of the Greek Government to put together a successful venue for the Olympic Games. Everything was going wrong,” he said. “Then came the opening ceremonies and the adrenaline was flowing in our veins as the most spectacular opening ceremonies in Olympic history passed before our eyes. The Games went on and Greece made all of us proud, proud of our history, of our heritage, of our Hellenic roots.”
Ambassador Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who was Member of Parliament in Greece, in accepting the Award, told the gathering, “People didn’t believe Greece could do it, but we achieved it because of the talents you find in Greeks everywhere,” citing the accomplishments of Greek Americans in Leadership 100. Theodore Angelopoulos said the couple was living abroad when the challenge came to take the leadership of the Games, after having organized the successful bid. He, too, spoke of the scepticism that Greeks could work together, the so-called “Greek paradox”. “Yet, we achieved it just as Leadership 100 will achieve its goals.”
Archbishop Demetrios spoke of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games as giving confidence and belief in their heritage to a fifth generation of Greeks from America and demonstrating the universal Greek element which is unique in human history,
At the conclusion of the evening, Behrakis, who stepped down as Chairman at the conference, spoke of the 25th Anniversary Fund and goals to reach 1,000 members and $100 million in endowment funds from the current 755 members. “The momentum is there. Now, is the time to recruit the next 250 members. But to do this, it is essential to have the support of all our members and, most especially, the enthusiasm and commitment of our Board of Trustees. Our future is the next generation. In just four years, they will be the new faces of the Board. They need to be mentored and challenged, and motivated and activated to believe in Leadership 100 and work to fulfill its promise.” He acknowledged his successor as Chairman, Stephen G. Yeonas, the new Vice Chairman, Constantine G. Caras, as well as Treasurer, George E. Safiol and Secretary, Mark D. Stavropoulos.
He also acknowledged his predecessors and founding members: the first Chairman and Co-Chairman, Andrew Athens and George Chimples, second chairman and founding member, George Kokalis, who just celebrated his 98th birthday, his immediate predecessors, founding member Arthur Anton and John Payiavlas and founding members Peter Dion and Michael Jaharis.
The Award of Excellence recognizes outstanding Greek Orthodox, Greek American, and other outstanding leaders who have excelled in their vocation and are committed to advancing the values of Orthodoxy and Hellenism in their lives and activities. Other recipients have included George J. Tenet, John D. Negroponte, Senators Paul S. Sarbanes and Olympia J. Snowe, Dimitis L. Avramopoulos, Melina Kanakaredes and Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Leadership 100 is the largest Greek American membership and charitable organization in the United States, holding more than $84 million in assets. It has distributed more than $25 million in grants advancing Orthodoxy and Hellenism since its inception in 1984.