In 1996, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and former Representative Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), who retired from Congress in 2006, founded the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues (CCHI). In 2007, Representative Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL) became a co-chair of the Caucus.
Since its formation in 1996, and by its own definition, the purpose of the bi-partisan CCHI is to foster and improve relations between the United States and Greece. It amplifies this definition in stating that the CCHI serves to bring a renewed congressional focus on key diplomatic, military and human rights issues in a critical part of the world. Members of the CCHI have an interest in introducing legislation, arranging briefings on current events and disseminating information to interested parties. We, at the Hellenic Continuum (HC) believe that the interested parties in this case include the growing population Hellenes and Ethnic Hellenes, as well as Hellenic Americans who have a great interest in the health and welfare of their ancestral homeland, as well as the welfare of the Hellenic diaspora in America.
The CCHI states a particular focus on specific important topics, that include:
(1) U.S. Aid to Greece and Cyprus;
(2) the conflict in Cyprus;
(3) U.S. relations with the Former Republic of Macedonia;
(4) the status of the Ecumenical Patriarch; and
(5) developments in the Aegean.
In theory, the symbiosis between the CCHI and the Hellenic American community is obvious. In theory, by virtue of their membership in the caucus, members have an interest in accomplishing CCHI’s stated goals. Our research shows however, that most Hellenic Americans erroneously conclude that their contribution to the relationship consists solely of voting for the caucus members in their district. What they don’t realize is that the CCHI, like all other Congressional Membership Organizations is not permitted to use any government funds to support their operating expenses. That support must come from interested parties outside of government. Is it any wonder that the CCHI record of accomplishments has been less-than stellar since its formation?
As part of its own mission, the Hellenic Continuum intends to educate and influence Hellenic Americans to become proactive in their efforts to arm the CCHI with the tools it needs to accomplish its initiatives. In recent years, the membership of CCHI has dwindled as a likely consequence of Greece’s financial difficulties within the European Union. Since most members of the CCHI are not of Hellenic descent, they are not familiar with the true nature of the Hellenic peoples and it is understandable that they would shy away from what the media paints as ‘malcontents seeking a free ride.’ It is our responsibility to influence members of Congress to join our caucus and represent us in our mission.
In their current circumstance, the people of Greece are not able to rescue themselves from the predicament that others have placed them in. It is our responsibility as Hellenic Americans to rescue our compatriots. Our race has three thousand years of exceptionalism bred into it. It is now our time to step up and give back to the homeland whose Hellenic principles inspired our own Constitution.