The University of West Attica, one of Athens’ premiere educational institutions, offered an honorary doctorate to Greek-American Congressman Gus Bilirakis at a ceremony in the Greek capital on Tuesday.
“It was a tremendous honor to get the honorary doctorate. It is a dream come true,” Rep. Bilirakis told Greek Reporter after the event.
The U.S. Representative for Florida’s 12th congressional district since 2013 said that “Greece means everything in the world to me. My ancestors are from here. My roots are here. I am identified, and I am proud of it, as a Greek-American in Congress and all over the country.
“The Greek-Americans have a tremendous name and that is because our forefathers, were hardworking, diligent, and honest and they emphasized education, which is very important for us. That’s why the honorary doctorate is so important for me.”
A member of the Republican Party, Bilirakis first entered Congress in 2007, where he succeeded his father Michael Bilirakis, representing Florida’s 9th congressional district until redistricting took place. His district includes much of the northern portion of the Tampa Bay area. Bilirakis previously served as the Florida State Representative for the 48th district from 1998 to 2006.
Bilirakis a “champion of Greek culture and language in the US”
Panagiotis Kaldis, the Rector of the University of West Attica, who presented the honorary doctorate to Bilirakis, said that the second-generation Greek American Congressman is a “champion of Greek culture and language in the US.”
The University of West Attica was founded in March 2018 from the merging of the former Technological Educational Institute of Athens and the Piraeus University of Applied Sciences. In 2019, the National School of Public Health joined the newly-established university.
It operates with high educational and research standards, striving to respond to the ever-increasing demands of a modern society for the creation of executives that have attained a solid scientific and technological background.
David Burger, Deputy Chief of Missions at the US Embassy, said at the ceremony that Rep. Bilirakis is not only a long-time friend of Greece, but more importantly, he is a real supporter of the US-Greece relationship.
Minister for Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis told Greek Reporter that Bilirakis is his role model for a politician.
“I have been following Bilirakis over the years and I am really impressed with how he helps Greek causes and the Greek-American relations through his work in Congress. Bilirakis is a role model of a politician for us. On a more personal level, I have to say I adore him!”
John Chrysoulakis, MFA Secretary General for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy, who offered a plaque to Bilirakis, said: “Bilirakis has been honoring Greece for many years and has brought the US and Greece closer together. We owe him our gratitude and affection, which in any case he has from all the Greek Diaspora in the US which has helped him get elected in Congress for so many years.”
Champion of Greek causes in Congress
In May 2021, Bilirakis was named Florida’s most bipartisan Congressman. The honor comes at a time when US politics are particularly divided, and bipartisan agreement on many issues seems nearly impossible.
He has been the champion of Greece and Cyprus’ causes in Congress and a staunch critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his policies in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Greeks in the US and all over the word care about Hellas. I want them to continue voice their concerns with regard, for example, Turkey violating Greece’s sovereignty and with regard to Cyprus and the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” Rep. Bilirakis says.
“As the co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus and co-chair of the Hellenic-Israel Alliance Caucus I am trying to let people in Congress now that these are important issues for us that we are concerned we cannot forget the people here in Greece.”
In the summer of 2020, Bilirakis slammed Erdogan’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque. “In a clear demonstration of arrogance and inhumanity, Erdogan has turned his back on the international community,” Bilirakis said at the time.
Nowadays, the relationship between the US and Greece is very strong, he told Greek Reporter.
“I don’t think it has been better. The government has been very pro-American and the US realized now more than ever that this is a very tough neighborhood and they have a strong and dependable allies in Greece and Cyprus.”
He vows to continue advocating for Greek-related issues in Congress. “The relationship is strong, but it can be stronger. I will never stop advocating on behalf of Hellas. It’s good for Greece, and for me representing the US, it’s good for the US. There is no conflict here. Advocating for Greece is in the best interests of the US.”