ATLANTA (AP) _ For Greek-Americans among the Democratic delegates, the nomination of Michael Dukakis was a culmination of their dreams in America as well as a tribute to their heritage in Greece, the place where democracy was born.
″America is my country. But tonight, I’m Greek in my heart,″ said Nick Poulos, who immigrated from Athens in 1955, built his own construction company in New Jersey and, in the last year, raised more than $1 million for Dukakis’ campaign.
Like other delegates and supporters of Greek heritage on the floor of The Omni - some sporting T-shirts exclaiming ″Y’assou,″ or ″Right on 3/8″ - Poulos said his heritage gives him a special bond with Dukakis.
″I worked hard to be a success and tonight I see again that this country gives you the opportunity to be whatever you want to be,″ said Poulos, who left the Republican Party for Dukakis.
Agnes Anthonakes Ricko credits her parents’ dinner-table discussions of civil duty and social responsibility with her interest in politics. It’s a Greek trait, she said.
″Maybe it was because democracy was born in Greece,″ the Massachusetts delegate said. ″He (Dukakis) reflects all of our American values as well as our forefathers’ values.″
Dukakis’ parents immigrated from Greece. His father Panos put himself through college and medical school and became a successful family doctor specializing in obstretics. His mother Euterpe worked in the mills and became a schoolteacher.
As a Massachusetts politician from the comfortable Boston suburb of Brookline, Dukakis rarely mentioned his Greek heritage. He was a candidate who spoke for middle-class suburbanites interested in clean, efficient government, rather than a representative of blue-collar immigrants.
Then in a trip to Greece in 1976, he discovered his roots and slowly he began mentioning his family’s story - the classic tale of uneducated immigrants building successful lives in America.
But in his presidential campaign, Dukakis found that the American dream played well: he rarely failed to mention his parents, especially when campaigning before others relatively new to this country.
When he talks of his roots in speeches, he tells of other immigrant groups as well, of the American immigrant story. He always says something in Spanish when before a Hispanic audience.
But Greek-Americans say he’s talking to them. And as one of their own was nominated for president, they were overwhelmed.
″It’s a feeling you can’t explain,″ said Ohio state Dukakis director Anne Drake, who was born Anastasia Drakopoulos. ″Probably the only other people who can understand that feeling here tonight are the black Baptists with Jesse Jackson. I understand that feeling they have. It’s an awesome feeling.″
Dukakis, she said, ″represents the American dream for us and for every other immigrant group.″
Terre Haute, Ind., Mayor Pete Chalos arrived in the United States from Greece at age 14. He believes Dukakis’ nomination reaffirms the ideals that drew his father across the ocean.
″This is probably the only country where the son of an immigrant can become president,″ Chalos said. ″This tells people that even if your dad came from a foreign country and didn’t speak English that well, that’s not a handicap. You can still accomplish something.″
Leo Condos said as a child he remembered his father wishing there would be a Greek president someday.
″Tonight I get to vote that dream in for him,″ Condos said. ″The Greek immigrant, like most immigrants, wants a better life for his children, and then he wants to turn around and pay the country back.
″Michael Dukakis fulfills that dream for a lot of immigrants,″ Condos said. ″Y’assou 3/8″