Democrat Photo by Dan Hust
NATIVES BOTH: Previous ADL Americanism award winner Alan Gerry of Liberty, left, hands this yearâs version to AIG Chair and CEO Maurice ãHankä Greenberg, a former resident of Swan Lake.
ADL Honors Two
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO ÷ September 12, 2000 ö In the 1940s, tired of walking four and a half miles to Liberty High School every day while a war was going on across two oceans, 17-year-old Maurice ãHankä Green-berg ran away from his Swan Lake home and joined the U.S. Army.
More than 50 years later, Greenberg returned home this past Sunday, this time not on foot but via helicopter ö only to find that the memories of his youth have mostly been claimed by weeds and time.
ãGrowing up in Swan Lake was a great experience,ä he recalled later that Sunday evening to a crowd of about 300 people. ãBut going back today . . . was very hard. Itâs best leaving memories as they were.ä
Those memories included being chased out of the Swan Lake synagogue (Greenberg admitted he was always in trouble) and caddying at Grossingerâs, and they were bolstered that evening by the many familiar faces of old high school buddies that dotted the main dining room of Kutsherâs Country Club in Monticello ö like Danny Yeager and Barry Berman.
His old chums were there, though, to do more than reminisce. They had showed up to join with hundreds of others in congratulating Greenberg for winning the Anti-Defamation Leagueâs (ADL) prestigious Americanism Award.
Recalling a meeting he had with Greenberg and Monticello native Robert Benmosche, the CEO of MetLife insurance company, Granite Associates head Alan Gerry ö himself a lifelong Liberty resident ö said his first impression of Greenberg was a strong one.
ãHere was a genuine guy, a hardworking individual,ä said Gerry. ãBut heâs not just a regular guy. Heâs a very accomplished man. He is a legend in the world of finance . . . and in Swan Lake.ä
Calling him a ãsuperstarä in the insurance business (Greenberg was even featured in Tom Brokawâs book, ãThe Greatest Generationä), Gerry presented Greenberg with his award in recognition of his leadership efforts in multiple areas. The chairman and CEO of the countryâs largest insurance company, American International Group (AIG), accepted it with a smile that hinted at humble pleasure.
Greenberg, who landed on Omaha Beach in the Normandy invasion of World War II and also served in the Korean War (along with ö more recently ö regularly flying to China on business/diplomatic missions with Henry Kissinger), said in his post-award remarks that his travels have shown him the power of change through the ADL.
ãWe see very little anti-Semitism wherever my wife and I travel in the world today,ä he said. ãBut you still have to be vigilant, because it is a disease that can spread again.ä
The other award winner of the night, Raymond Kelly, agreed.
ãI have seen firsthand what hate and bigotry can do,ä said Kelly, the commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service. ãAnd yes, the world remains a dangerous place.ä
Kelly, the NYC police commissioner during the World Trade Center bombing, explained his role in protecting Americaâs borders through Customs, which has become a high-tech effort (employees wear radiation ãpagersä nowadays) to prevent terrorism and process those wishing to enter the country.
ãOne of our most important allies is the ADL,ä Kelly said. ãYou have a very proud legacy . . . and Iâm very proud to stand with you tonight.ä
Calling him a ãcopâs copä and a ãman of impeccable integrity,ä Gerry presented the ADLâs William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award to Kelly in honor of his efforts. (The anti-hate institute is named after Gerryâs late parents.)
Gerry was followed by federal representatives Ben Gilman and Maurice Hinchey, who presented both men with Congressional certificates. (In the accompanying journal, such political figures as Governor George Pataki and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan also sent their regards through letters.)
ãThis country continues to be a magnificent experience,ä said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. ã[We] salute two extraordinary men who play outstanding roles in our nation and who contribute so remarkably to its greatness.ä
Agreed tribute dinner co-chair Irving Shapiro of Liberty: ãThis has been an extraordinary evening with extraordinary people.ä