Athens, 9 September 2020

The President of the Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, conferred the Grand Cross of the Order of Beneficence on UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyannis.

The President of the Republic delivered the following address:

Marianna Vardinoyannis had the opportunity in her life to make safer and more personal choices. However, she chose the path of giving, focusing initially on children, and then on the crucial matter of human rights. I would like, in particular, to underscore her work with the ELPIDA Foundation for children’s cancer, which has already been operating for 30 years. As a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, she supports action programmes for equal access to education, the protection of women and girls in deprived communities, the eradication of discrimination, the protection of vulnerable people around us, and climate change. The Marianna Vardinoyannis Foundation, in cooperation with the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation for human rights, recently presented the ‘Speak Truth to Power’ Programme, aiming to familiarise the teaching community with the protection of human rights.

All these actions promote the ideals of solidarity and volunteering, and they encourage people – especially young people – around the world to fight for and defend the rights and principles of social justice, for a world of freedom, democracy and equality.

In recognition of her important humanitarian work, she was recently awarded the Nelson Mandela Prize by the UN.

I was very pleased to accept the Foreign Minister’s recommendation that Marianna Vardinoyannis be awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Beneficence in recognition of her work.

Marianna Vardinoyannis made the following acceptance speech.

Your Excellency Madam President of the Hellenic Republic,

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind words!

It is with great emotion, a sense of responsibility, and love of our homeland, Greece, that I accept this supreme distinction. I am deeply honoured to be receiving this award, and I can’t find the words to humbly express my enormous gratitude. I would like to thank the United Nations and each of the Member-States for honouring me with the Nelson Mandela Prize. It is a distinction I never thought I would achieve in life. Because this award does not belong to me; it belongs to our Greece and the Greek people. The President of the UN General Assembly charged me with continuing the work of Nelson Mandela, and I will try to live up to his expectations. I feel fortunate to have met him through the UNESCO family. Because Nelson Mandela was a charismatic leader and visionary who impacted my life and inspired me to dedicate myself to human rights and people in need. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my husband Vardis and our beloved children and grandchildren, because without their support I would not have succeeded in this work.

Your Excellency Madam President,

During these trying times for our planet, I hope that Greece can remain a steadfast guardian of our eternal values and that all peoples can work together for the good of humanity. I wish you every success in your important national mission for Greece and in achieving your noble goals.

With deep appreciation, thank you very much!