MR. BISTIS’INTRO: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Tuesday’s elections in the United States have already become one of the top news stories around the world this Wednesday morning. Everybody wonders what direction America would take and whether our country’s foreign and domestic policies would in any way change after January 2007, when the newly elected Congress will come into session.
As analysts attempt to give answers to these questions we are going to focus on another aspect of the elections, which I believe is of particular interest to you, our listeners and viewers in Greece, Cyprus and the Hellenic Diaspora. We will take a look at the most important races involving candidates of Greek descend. We had an unusually large number of Hellenic-American candidates this year who run for Federal and major State offices across the country, from Florida to Maine and from California to Ohio. We will introduce you to five of them.
Let us start from the South, where Charlie Crist is Florida’s Republican Gubernatorial candidate.
“THE CHARLIE CRIST STORY” VIDEO SEGMENT
MR. BISTIS: Charlie Crist was born in St. Petersburg, Florida. He already holds one of the State’s top offices. Both he and the Greek-American community are very proud for his service to the Sunshine State.
MR. CHARLIE CRIST: I am humbled by it. To be the Attorney General, which I am right now in the State of Florida, is a very humbling experience. I am the grandson of a Greek immigrant, you are right he was Adam Christodoulou, who came here in 1914 from the island of Cyprus. It is very important I think to always remember your roots and always do what’s right. That’s what my grandfather instilled in all of us.
MR. BISTIS: Charlie Crist’s father is a medical doctor still practicing in St. Petersburg. We visited him at his office. We figured that since the late Adam Christodoulou had raised him, Dr. Charles Crist would more likely be the person most familiar with this fascinating immigrant from the island of Aphrodite and could help us complete the portrait of the man he once called “dad”.
DR. CHARLES CRIST: My father Adam came to the United States about 1915. He was around 14 or 15 years old. He came from Cyprus. He couldn’t speak the language. He had no money. I think he had an English 5 Shilling gold piece. That’s all that he had in his pocket. He arrived in New York City, at Ellis Island and he was told that they were hiring shoeshine boys in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He went to Altoona and worked for Mr. Fotopoulos there. He made five dollars a month.
MR. BISTIS: The first years in the New World were filled with hardships. But Adam’s struggles were not made in vein. They served as an inspiration for the next two generations of his family.
MR. CHARLIE CRIST: Absolutely, he really impressed upon us the importance of hard work and doing what’s right. My grandfather when he first came here shined shoes for a living, which is obviously not a glamorous job but it is good honest work. And he really instilled that in each and every one of his children and his grandchildren and its lived with me till today.
MR. BISTIS: Adam became a U.S. citizen by joining the Army in World War One. After the war he came back to Pennsylvania but not to return to the shoeshine parlor of Mr. Fotopoulos. This time he opened a hat cleaning business and started saving his money in order to help his children get a good education, so that they would someday experience the American dream. By the time the family settled in Florida, his three daughters had started careers in education and his two sons became, the one a pharmacist and the other, a medical doctor. All Greek immigrants in those days were investing in their children’s education.
DR. CHARLES CRIST: If you look now to the second and third generations they are all very successful and they are all very involved in education. Education seems to be a hallmark of all of them. It is very, very important to them. We are all very proud of our heritage.
MR. BISTIS: When Adam came to America he had a sign posted on his chest giving his name and other personal information required by the immigration authorities for he could not say any of that in English. Yet, this underprivileged man shortly afterwards joined the Republican Party, which was not the typical choice of blue color workers of his day. We wondered why.
DR. CHARLES CRIST: I asked him that because most immigrants, not only Greeks but most of the immigrants were in the Democratic Party. And he said, “well I am a businessman and that’s why I want to join the Republican Party”. So, he had that idea right from the very beginning.
MR. BISTIS: For the voters of Florida the question that matters the most right now is why Adam’s grandson, Charlie, is running for Governor of their State. Here are some of the reasons as he articulates them in a pre-election campaign message:
MR. CHARLIE CRIST: I am running to be the people’s Governor. The people would have a choice. Would Florida continue to prosper? Before willing to grade 5 and 6-year-old children we aught to be willing to grade the schools that are supposed to perform for these children. Would Florida continue to be a national leader in educational reform? Or will we go back to the days that have failed us in the past? I want to lower your property taxes and your homeowner’s insurance needs to go down. (Cheers and applause.)
MR. BISTIS: We met the candidate in the city of St. Augustine at the end of last week as he was winding down his election campaign. I asked him: If you had the opportunity to speak today to our viewers in Greece and Cyprus, what would you say to them? He smiled like a kid who had been offered candy and then said:
MR. CHARLIE CRIST: Well, I would say to them if they know anybody in Florida and they see them before Tuesday, please tell them to go vote.
END OF VIDEO SEGMENT – RETURN TO VOA STUDIO
MR. BISTIS: Charlie Crist scored an impressive election victory and he will be the next Governor of Florida, the fourth largest state of America. This is a historic development. No other American of Greek-Cypriot extraction has ever become Governor of any state in our Union. Charlie Crist will be the first.