Events as Templates for Leadership
The last couple of months I had the opportunity to attend a number of high level Greek American events, some of them recurring annually, others taking place for the first time. After so many years in the business of covering our community’s public and social life a kind of fatigue naturally ensues and cynicism often replaces patience and humor when it comes to bearing with the staleness and rancidness that some functions have acquired. Unlike wine and cheese, older doesn’t necessarily means better in this case, especially as certain things–and by than I’m referring to people–refuse to change or leave the stage all together, opening the way to the so much sought-after freshness that everybody is talking and only talking about. But that’s another aspect of the same story and going there wasn’t my intent, in fact I was about to make some positive and constructive remarks, leaving criticism for the after-Christmas period when we won’t have much to talk about, although primaries will officially open along with the hoses of mediocrity that threaten to wash us all clean with pre-election tar!
Starting in September I was invited to the Cyprus Federation of America gala, then on to The Hellenic Initiative’s inaugural banquet, the Archon’s Awards dinner followed, then HANAC’s with its cosmopolitan flare, after that off to Washington DC for the OXI Foundation function and last but not least the out of this …community Elios Society Charity Ball in San Francisco which happens every two years! (Some of the events already appeared in NEO, others are included in this very issue and more are coming in our December edition.)
A very busy last two months as you can imagine and that says a lot about the dynamism of this community. As I mentioned in the beginning, these were high-quality events, inclusive and not parochially exclusive, full of people that play important roles in the American society at large. Some of them are real giants in their fields of endeavor, their words and expertise sought-after in the highest echelons of political, academic and business leadership in this country. And yet, they find it in their hearts to participate, underwrite, sponsor, even work in the preparatory phases of those functions, having to go through often times an abundance of imbecility from self-appointed or even elected crooks. Being very successful Americans notwithstanding they know where their roots are and they are in a position to appreciate the direct and indirect role their Hellenism has played in becoming better Americans.
For someone that knows who is who in those functions and has the experience to measure the accumulative value (not just in terms of material wealth) of the participants, the image of an untapped gold mine comes to mind. Each time I’m there, I can’t resist but imagine the extent of greatness to which our community could reach if and only if some kind of a central, albeit not centralized, agenda existed. I can’t help fantasizing in my reverie, with the institutions, the projects, the opportunities, the creativity such a possibility would ensue. One can only think what that would have meant for Hellenism and the US as well!
Such an agenda already exists up to a point. In fact, it seems there is more than one which each entity tries to pursue most of the times independently from the rest. Some produce phenomenal results, others do good, not few just manage to survive using the agenda as a floating device instead of working for it. As a result, our efforts never become synchronized, solid, massive and ultimately effective to the extent that our real power as a community has the potential for. They are scattered attempts at greatness, and although some of them reach high, they lack the collective strategy that would have empowered them even more and made them supportive of one another.
To expect that an organization, even the church, could play such a role in streamlining this enormous human potential, is naïve to put it mildly, for reasons that there is no need to mention here. Such an agenda can only start taking shape by the leaders themselves when they meet at these functions time and again and eventually talk about it. There is no need for many or formalized groups to undertake such a task. The Society of Friends that organized Greece’s liberation from the Ottomans began with three intelligent and committed people. Zionism had about the same number of original members. Even great companies that now are huge multinationals commenced with a couple of people or one individual who had the vision and managed to transmit it to others.
It is my belief that within the framework of events like the ones I mentioned such a possibility remains as realistic as ever. We have come a long way and we have managed to impress ourselves and others with our intelligence and creative prowess. We love the limelight, we have proven that we are great performers; we can roam on every stage and delight all audiences! The time has come to test ourselves in working systematically, tactically and off stage, in harnessing and not necessarily subjecting our egos to the kind of communal effort that would establish and not just position the American Hellenism into the 21st century. It is an illusion perhaps, an autumn night dream (hunted by spirits …of Bourbon, and clouded by cigar smog) but certainly one worth staying awake and getting intoxicated about…