New Greek TV's featured Greek of the Week is United States Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, who previously served in Hungary.
Ambassador Kounalakis reigns as the first female U.S. Ambassador of Greek heritage. NGTV President Yanna Darilis had the opportunity to speak to the Greek-American diplomat during her recent lecture in the Hamptons, which was hosted by the Johnides Family Foundation. The on-air segment between the two can be viewed by scrolling to the very bottom of this article.
During the event, Ambassador Kounalakis discussed her new book, "Madame Ambassador," that chronicles her experiences as the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, which concluded in July 2013. Prior to accepting President Obama's nomination to serve, the mother-of-two presided as AKT Development Corporation President, which is one of the biggest land development agencies in California.
The Greek-American Ambassador attended Dartmouth College for her undergraduate studies, and received an MBA from the Hass School of Business, before gaining an Honorary Doctorate Law degree from the American College of Greece. The academic has founded two Hellenic Studies university chairs at Stanford and Georgetown University, along with her husband.
In addition, Kounalakis served as a World Council of Religions for Peace Trustee for almost ten years, and was awarded with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America's highest honor bestowed upon a layperson, the medal of St. Paul.
In her comments below, Ambassador Kounalakis states her quest for promoting democracy around the world, ambassadorial experiences, and efforts in Hungary, which can be viewed on-air at the very bottom of this page.
Eleni Kounalakis: We have this peculiarity to the system of the U.S. foreign service, where most of our ambassadors are career foreign service officers that make their way up the ranks, but we also have these slots that are allocated to people from outside of the State Department to come and serve.
I was very honored and privileged to become a U.S. Ambassador and I had to look to the things that I could bring to the experience, as I worked to lead the Embassy in Budapest as effectively as I could.
Eleni Kounalakis: Bringing democracy to the world is a slow painstaking process and not one that can not be forced upon nations. But America, despite all her faults and falling, all her tragic mistakes, is still the largest force for the advancement of freedom and democracy and the most powerful force for good, that exists in the world.
Eleni Kounalakis: It was a very difficult country [Hungary]; twenty-five years ago it was behind the Iron Curtain, so a lot changed and there were some extraordinary leaps forward, with their transition to democracy after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. There are still a lot of things that need to be worked toward in a democracy that is really only twenty-five years old.
Eleni Kounalakis: One year into my ambassadorship, I was more convinced than ever that there was indeed a battle between good and evil that raged in the world. I didn't think of this blessing strictly in religious terms; my years of work promoting interfaith understanding had made me respectful and embracing of all the world's religions. To me it was about the rule of law, democracy and freedom.
(Photo Source: U.S. State Department)
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