Archbishop Elpidophoros of America focused on the historical path, the achievements and the love of our Homogeneity in the USA for the motherland Greece during his speech at the 94th Graduation Ceremony of the final students of Athens College and Psychiko College which took place late yesterday afternoon at facilities of the two schools in Paleo Psychiko.

Archbishop Elpidophoros, who was also the keynote speaker, framed his particularly moving and patriotic speech with two videos from this year’s parade, under torrential rain, for the national anniversary of 1821, on New York’s 5th Avenue and from this year’s event for Greek Independence at the White House, with the dominant presence of American President Joe Biden.

The Archbishop expressed his great joy for his presence at the graduation ceremony of the male and female students of one of the leading schools in Greece, which was born to highlight the ties of the Homogenia with the motherland.

“Almost a century ago,” he noted, “Emmanouil Benakis with Stefanos Delta and other American Philhellenes envisioned an educational institution that would combine the best elements of the Greek and American educational systems, a jewel institution,” as he described it, ” a real offer for our country”.

Focusing on our Homogeneity in America, Archbishop Elpidophoros emphasized that “there are few things that so clearly capture the strength, enthusiasm, multi-color and love of the Greek-American community for our homeland, as well as its relationship with the Orthodox Our Church, like the annual highlight of the expatriate parades for the Revolution of 1821, not only in New York, but in many other American cities as well.”

Additionally, he detailed the presence of Hellenism from the 19th century. until today in America and in the creation by our Ecumenical Patriarchate of the first pan-American organizational structure, namely the Holy Archdiocese of America. “The Greeks”, he emphasized, “create their communities and immediately after our churches which are their point of reference, the worship center and the meeting place of Greek men and women. The churches, with their Greek schools, are the living connection to the motherland and to the mother tongue and are the places where our expatriates celebrate our customs, learn our traditional dances, get married, baptize their children and say goodbye to their parents at their last residence”.

The Archbishop of America made, in fact, a special reference to the great Archbishop of America Iakovos, a huge personality of our Church and our Community, with an emphasis on his meeting in 1965, in the city of Selma, in the State of Alabama, with the human rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King and the demonstration alongside him for people’s freedom and the elimination of racial discrimination, but also in his first entry, in 1987, into the Oval Office, leading a group of leading expatriates as an official guest of then President Ronald Reagan, from which essentially started the tradition of celebrating the national anniversary at the White House.

In addition, he made special reference to our expatriates who are distinguished in the arts and sciences and, above all, to those who are elected senators, representatives in the House of Representatives and State Parliaments, governors of States and ambassadors all over the world, but also in Greece such as current ambassador George Tsounis. “They are the ones,” he emphasized, “who defend the rights of Hellenism over time, constantly and persistently demand the removal of the Turkish occupying troops from our Cyprus and remind the governments of America of the importance of defending our Ecumenical Patriarchate and our Homogeneity in Constantinople , in Imbro and Tenedo”.

In the presence of the Minister of State and representative of the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Stavros Papastavros, the MPs Doras Bakoyannis and Pavlos Geroulanos, the Metropolitan of Laodicea Theodoritos, director of the representative office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Athens and representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the members of the Board of Directors and the union and the board of trustees of the Greek-American educational institution, as well as the members of the educational, administrative and technical staff of the two schools, the Archbishop of America addressed the graduating students and noted that “today marks a new beginning for them”. “I wish,” he said, “that this beginning with the provisions you have received from this wonderful school will be blessed, fruitful and rich in success and happiness, especially today when it is considered improbable because of the rapid developments in science and technology that the line of life to be a smooth straight line’.

With special reference to the wonderful poem “Ithaca” by the favorite poet of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Constantinos Cavafy, the Archbishop wished the final students “a journey full of adventures and knowledge”, while he invited all those who will study in American universities to visit its offices Archdiocese, where he will be waiting to welcome them and support them on their way.

Finally, Archbishop Elpidophoros reserved a special mention for the president of the College of Athens, academician and professor, Kostas Synolakis, for whom he emphasized that he serves with absolute dedication, loyalty, amazing efficiency and consistency the principles, values ​​and vision of its founders top school.

He pointed out, in fact, that “Kostas Synolakis worked and works with passion, always with innovative initiatives and reforming actions, for a school of excellence and values, beyond and outside of any distinction, a school open to all and to all, regardless of of their social status and economic power, a school of virtue and morals, in which everyone would like to attend”.

The 94th Graduation Ceremony was opened, earlier, with her greeting by the president of the board of the Greek-American educational institution, Annika Papantoniou, who praised the work and initiatives of president Kostas Synolakis, who is completing his three-year term at the school, and wished the graduating students “every success in their lives, with supplies of knowledge, experiences and performances that the school offered them”.

Speech by the president of Athens College, Kostas Synolakis

This was followed by the speech of the president, academician and professor, Kostas Synolakis, who declared “extremely proud of the tireless spirit of the students, the exceptional professionalism and the ability of the teachers to provide quality teaching, which led to amazing achievements, as the class of 2023 performed exceptionally well in the exams for Greek and foreign universities, with the best results of at least a five-year period”. In fact, he particularly mentioned the final student Filippos Foufa, who achieved absolute excellence in the national exams with four twenties, but also the final student Sofronia Voudouris who achieved the absolute performance in the International Baccalaureate exams, with 45 out of 45, 0.2 worldwide.

President Synolakis underlined that the principle that governs all the actions of Athens College and Psychiko College is that each child is unique, but all children are equal. He noted that “in the last three years we have turned the page and made the DNA of the school more modern with the aim of always excellence, but also universal participation in social welfare and solidarity actions”. In addition, he emphasized that “this excellence has been strengthened by the establishment of scholarships for the admission of gifted students both academically, and in music, and in the visual arts, and in sports, and the rapid increase of regional scholarships, so that the best can attend the school from the whole country”. “Enhancing the diversity of the student body has been further reformed, as three unaccompanied refugee children, following examinations, and two children with special needs and severe mobility difficulties have been admitted to the school in the last three years,” he said.

“My vision,” he emphasized, “is for the college to become a classless school of excellence always at the forefront of education in Greece, with an emphasis on individualization and reducing the number of students.” Also, president Synolakis pointed out that “over the last three years, donations were made to the school, at least 30 million euros, an amount four times greater than the average of the last two decades, while the Arts building, donated by Dimitris Daskalopoulos, which responded to the proposal of, are already in the phase of issuing building permits”. Besides, he announced that the Board of Directors, the union and the board of commissioners, based on his proposal and initial study, approved the creation of a new school in Elliniko, which will decongest Psychiko’s facilities.

In addition, he invited the graduates to create “a more peaceful and more humane world, with dedication to progress, with emotional intelligence, with a critical spirit and with a readiness to take on new challenges with courage and determination.” “It takes a lot of hard work,” he said, “to improve yourselves and the world at a time when humanity is facing enormous problems, such as social and economic inequalities, poverty and climate change.”

“Address yourself to high ideals if you want to stand out and become the captains of your own life, because a complete life without risks, without struggle and your own truths, and your own beliefs, does not exist,” urged the final students, Kostas Synolakis.

Finally, the president especially thanked Archbishop Elpidophoros of America for accepting his invitation to be the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony.

“You are a cleric,” he emphasized, “who with his integrity, morals, determination, creativity and emotional and cerebral intelligence honors our Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and of course the longest-lived and one of the most important Ecumenical Patriarchs, Bartholomew. I dare to say that it was a genius thought of the Ecumenical Patriarch to propose your election to the position of Archbishop of America, to the position of the natural leader of our Homogeneity in the largest province of the Ecumenical Throne. A native of the martyr Phanarios, a totally devoted spiritual child of the Ecumenical Patriarch, you come from far away and based on the Orthodox tradition and teaching you follow in the footsteps of the leading Archbishop of America Iakovos. Bold and innovative, you defend in the best possible way both our national interests and the interests of our Ecumenical Patriarchate in the most powerful and free country in the world, constantly fighting for the protection of religious minorities in Turkey, for the reopening of the Theological School of Chalkis and for the restoration of Agia Sophia to its previous status. At the same time, you embrace the weakest and the less privileged and become a daily preacher of the defense of human rights.”

Finally, Kostas Synolakis awarded the president’s award to the former chairman of the board of the Greek-American educational institution and an emblematic member of the college family, Nikolaos Tsavliris, but also for the first time to an educator of the school, the former co-director and current management consultant Polyanthi Tsigou.

The graduation ceremony closed with the awarding of prizes, commendations and graduation diplomas to the students by the co-principal and director of the Lyceum of Athens College, Christos Konstantopoulos, and by the coordinator and director of the Lyceum of Psychikos College, Panagiotis Giannoulatos.