New Greek TV's featured "Greek of the Week" is retired U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg and practicing attorney Clay Constantinou.
Constantinou was born in the United States to Greek-Cypriot parents and was raised in Cyprus. As he explains, "My formative years in Cyprus were instrumental in forging a strong bond with the country and with the greater Hellenic heritage and culture."
The Greek-Cypriot-American's father moved his family back to Cyprus when Constantinou was two, after the passing of his mother. The international leader describes, "I had a very happy childhood with a loving and caring father, and extended family, at a time when the Cyprus conflict was dormant. I completed grade school and high school in Cyprus. I attended the American Academy in Larnaca, Cyprus, a 100 plus year old international boarding school. The environment was at times strict but it fostered great traditions and values, high academic standards and encouraged sports competition."
The retired Ambassador moved back to the United States to complete his higher education studies, where he received a B.A. in Political Science from New Jersey City University, a J.D. from Seton Hall University, and a L.L.M. from NYU's School of Law. In addition to his impressive academic credentials, Constantinou was inducted in New Jersey City University's Athletic Hall of Fame.
A self-described idealist with a great amount of energy and determination, Constantinou embarked on an extremely monumental political career after gaining his law degree. The distinguished attorney describes, "My active civic service and interest in Greek-American issues drew me to national politics and presidential campaigns, where I eventually served as a National Finance Co-Chairman, and New Jersey Chairman and Delegate for the presidential campaigns of then Governor Michael Dukakis, Governor Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator John Kerry."
Constantinou's career highlights include; serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg for nearly 5 years and acting as the founding Dean of the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, for its first six years. When asked about his favorite professional moments, he comments, "Of particular note were my many official meetings in the Oval Office with President Clinton, winning significant legal cases on behalf of clients, and bringing international leaders to the School of Diplomacy."
The retired Ambassador's strong analytical and problem solving skills helped him achieve great successes. He states of his diplomatic, law and international achievements, "Working directly with President Clinton in promoting U.S. political and economic interests in Luxembourg and the European Union; representing ordinary citizens against major entities and winning important cases, putting the School of Diplomacy at Seton Hall University on the global and national stage by bringing international leaders to the School including President Mikhail Gorbachev, President Shimon Perez, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and others."
The father of two has always been a strong delegator of Greek, Cypriot and Greek-American issues on the international political arena, and has made monumental strides for all three communities. As he explains, "I persuaded President Clinton during a trip with him on Airforce One, to convene a conference at the White House to discuss pressing Greek-American issues including Cyprus. At his direction, I helped to organize it and invited Greek-American community members to meet with him and Vice President Gore. I participated at an intimate White House working luncheon during the U.S.-EU Summit with President Clinton and the European leaders, and received President Clinton's approval to speak about the need for Cyprus to join the EU."
When questioned about how his ethnicity influences his own daily life, the global premier states, "In my personal view and experience the aspect of ethnicity is intertwined, among other things, with one's heritage, ethics, upbringing, values and culture. I am therefore driven by those attributes and often view and deal with issues from that particular perspective. At the same time, I find the American values of independence, freedom, and environment to pursue the 'American Dream' consistent and compatible with my Hellenic ethnicity characteristics. My 40 years plus in the United States have certainly instilled in me an American ethnicity as well and consider myself fortunate to have both attributes."
The Hellenic advocate travels to Greece and Cyprus at least two to three times per year, and particularly enjoys visiting the cultural and archaeological sites, picturesque regions and seascapes. Additionally he explains, "I also very much enjoy dinners and outings with friends and family especially outdoors in garden type environment or by the sea."
Constantinou's best recommendation for someone wishing to fulfill their dream? "My advice is the advice Sir Winston Churchill gave to his high school during commencement, after he distinguished himself as a statesman and great public speaker. When he was presented to the podium and everyone, students, parents and teachers, sat back with great anticipation to listen to his words of wisdom, he walked to the podium looked down to the audience and uttered only 5 words. 'Never, never, never give up' and then sat down." The Greek, Greek-Cypriot and Greek-American communities are very lucky to call former U.S. Ambassador and practicing attorney Clay Constantinou their own.