Home Community Platanos Society Honors Ambassador George James Tsunis 

Platanos Society Honors Ambassador George James Tsunis 

Photo: Sophia Niarchos

By Sophia A. Niarchos

Oyster Bay, N.Y. – The Benevolent Society of Platanos Naupaktias honored newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Greece Mr. George J. Tsunis at an event held at the Swan Club on Sunday, May 1.

After leading those gathered in singing Christos Anesti, Fr. Panteleimon Papadopoulos, proistamenos of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Resurrection, emphasized the words, “the small village of Platanos”, spoken by emcee Vicki Vlantis, noting that “since that village produced a great ambassador to Greece, we will no longer refer to it as small….” He credited the ambassador’s parents for “instilling in him the ideals and principles that every young man growing up should have”, and called on him to do those things that inevitably will help improve human life for everyone. 

Alphonse D’Amato, former U.S. Senator from New York said, “Platanos should be very, very pleased to see what the community has achieved. 

“Would Mr. or Mrs. Tsunis have ever imagined that their son would become a representative of the United States, an ambassador, to Greece? This is what this country is about.”

Consul-General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, speaking in Greek, first addressed Mr. Tsunis’ mother, saying how proud Greece is of her son because he has the best strong relationships at the highest level in Greece and adding that George’s love of family and his ancestral village were what made Mr. Koutras most proud.

“When I went to his and his wife Olga’s home, do you know what George first showed me? Photographs of the village, photographs of his father, who is no longer with us, his mother…in the most prominent places of their house…. We don’t need to ask him for anything. All the things you would ask of him he has in his heart. We must protect him so that he will be successful in the career in which we are sure he will triumph. And may God grant that we marvel at his accomplishments at even higher levels.”

James Costaras enumerated the qualities of “patience, courage, strength, faith, and great objectivity” that Tsunis would need and the particular issues he wanted him to remember: 

“Don’t forget the threats of our neighbors; don’t forget Cyprus; don’t forget Thraki, Giorgho; don’t forget Aghia Sophia,” he said.

Society President Georgia Pougiouklidis recalled Ambassador Tsunis’ father James’ tenure as the Society’s president during which two scholarship funds were established.

“It is clear that George emulates many of his father’s attributes including his generosity and philanthropic involvement in the Hellenic community demonstrated by the many generous scholarship funds he and his wife Olga gifted,” she said.

She gave Tsunis an icon of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of Platonos, entreating the saint to always guide and protect him.

Taking to the podium, Ambassador Tsunis attributed his past successes to the tremendous support of the Greek-American community and especially the Platanos society. He recognized the journey their ancestors took coming from Greece, “many penniless, many not proficient in the language.

“I think about the courage that it took to take that journey to come here; and when I think about the bravery it took, I’m awestruck when my mother says to me, ‘prosekseh, prosekseh,’ (‘be careful’)! 

He spoke of the quality of filotimo, having a sense of honor, that is part of the Greek ethos.

“When we do good, we don’t look to be complimented, because we feel it is an obligation. It is a bare minimum.”

“I am committed to strengthening the U.S.-Greece bilateral relationship in my new role,” he said, noting the positive role Greece is playing in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Balkans, and in global affairs, with relations between the U.S. and Greece being at a historic high. “What happens in Greece matters, not just for Greece, but for the Eastern Mediterranean region, for NATO, the European Union, and the United States.”

He reminded those present of the Greek prime minister’s arrival in the coming weeks when he will meet with the president in the Oval Office.

“There are not a lot of bilateral meetings in the Oval Office these days; Greece is given tremendous geostrategic importance. They matter because Greece is always on the right side of history….”

The prime minister will also speak before a joint session of Congress at the invitation of the speaker and majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate.

“It is the first time that Greece has been elevated and recognized to give such a speech and speaks about how far our relationship has come with Greece.”

Natives of the small village spoke about the qualities Mr. Tsunis brings to the position and their hopes for his diplomatic work.

“George is a child of immigrants…. I knew his family well. His father and mother passed on to him the values and ideals our countries share,” said Christos Saltos, who, with Nick Barakos and their wives, traveled four hours from York, Penn., to honor George. 

“My hope for George’s tenure is that he brings peace to the area because we have all these problems with [Turkey’s President] Erdogan,” Mr. Barakos said.

Antonios Vlantios, M.D., Tsunis’ cousin through marriage, said he felt Tsunis “brings an insight to that position that other diplomats might not…. I feel he will be a successful ambassador to the benefit of both the United States and Greece due to the common values they share.”