Gus Bilirakis has won a major victory in the U.S. Elections of November 7. He was elected to the U.S. Congress, capturing 56% of the vote in his Florida district. On this occasion the Voice of America produced a video profile of the Congressman-elect, appropriately named “The Gus Bilirakis Story”, which aired as part of an election night special presentation for affiliates in Greece and Cyprus. The program, presented in Greek, was entitled “Elections 2006: Greek-Americans Reaching for The Dream”.
Following is the English text of “The Gus Bilirakis Story” segment of the program, including the Anchorman’s introduction and lead out comments.
MR. BISTIS: We now return to the American South. Gus Bilirakis is seeking to capture the Congressional seat now held by his father, Michael Bilirakis, in the State of Florida.
“THE GUS BILIRAKIS STORY” VIDEO SEGMENT
MR. BISTIS: Costas, as some of his Greek friends in the Hellenic-American community call Gus Billirakis, was born in Florida. But his roots are from another, also very beautiful place, an Aegean Sea island.
MR. GUS BILIRALIS: My father’s family came from Kalymnos, in the island complex of Dodecanese. My mother’s family also came from Kalymnos, in the Dodecanese. They came to Tarpon Springs and got involved in the sponge harvesting business that flourished here back then. I grew up in Tarpon Spring, where I learned the Greek language. My family and I have been very close to our Greek-Orthodox church and we maintain all Greek customs and traditions at our home.
MR. BISTIS: Nikitas Bilirakis, the great grandfather of Gus, came to America by boat in 1905 just as the country was about to enter the era of air transportation. When he later sent for his family to join him in the New World, Tarpon Springs was a small and quiet fishing village on the Florida’s Gulf side. But the divers that came primarily from the Greek islands of Kalymnos and Syros soon turned it into the capital of the U.S. sponge industry. Tarpon Springs held this title for many years until the development of the synthetic sponge, which ended the reign of the sponge diving vessels and permanently docked them in the harbor.
Both parents of Gus Bilirakis were born in Tarpon Springs. His father, Michael Bilirakis, is a U.S. Congressman, representing this area in Washington for the last 24 years. Since he will be retiring at the end of the year from the House of Representatives, Michael is now helping his son Gus to succeed him in the seat he will vacate. We met Michael in Tarpon Springs.
CONGRESSMAN MICHAEL BILIRAKIS: Gus is a great son. He never gave us any trouble. He is a terrific Greek-American. He speaks the Greek language well. He dances and sings all the Greek songs. He knows a lot of Greek poems. He is a native of this area. He was born in Gainesville, Florida, when I was in Law School there, but he has lived here the rest of his life. He is intelligent. He has served in the State Legislature for eight years, so he is very, very experienced, and I know he feels every bid of strong, if not stronger than I do, about the matters involving Kypro (Cyprus) and Ellada (Greece).
MR. BISTIS: Gus Bilirakis is a candidate that gives a great emphasis on family and moral values. In fact, instead of hiring actors, Gus has utilized his own children to introduce him to the voters. Following is his 30-second TV campaign message featuring the 4 adorable Bilirakis kids.
CAMPAIGN MESSAGE (Bilirakis children alternating): We’d like you to meet our dad. Gus Bilirakis. He is running for Congress. And he gets things done. In the State House he fought to improve education and increase job training. Delivered tax credits to help our seniors and our veterans. And he wrote legislation to ban off shore oil drilling along Florida’s continental shelf. Best of all he is a great dad. And he will be a great Congressman. Your turn, dad.
Gus Bilirakis: I am Gus Bilirakis and I approved this message.
Bilirakis’ youngest son: I hope it doesn’t go to his head.
MR. BISTIS: Gus Bilirakis, like his parents and many other Greek-Americans of second and third generation, seem to have two countries in their heart. One is of course America that they love as their country of birth and the other is Greece, where their families started.
MR. GUS BILIRAKIS: I am looking forward to go to Greece and work closely with the people and the government of Greece. I intend to have several Greek-American young professionals work with me in Washington D.C. Some will probably come from our Greek community here in Tarpon Springs. Things look up right now for my campaign. My race for the U.S. Congress is unquestionably tough, but I am confident that after everything is said and done, we will win the election. I want to go to Washington because there are so many things that I would like to do for the good of America as well as the good of Greece and Cyprus, our beloved Cyprus.
END OF VIDEO SEGMENT – RETURN TO VOA STUDIO
MR. BISTIS: Once again the apple fell under the apple tree. Gus Bilirakis won the election and will succeed his father in the U.S. Congress.