Veras Communications


Speakers Bureau

October 2004

How Greek American Professionals Can Help Each Other

Thank you for having me here tonight ... I have had the pleasure and opportunity of speaking for many years to many gathering like this one and it is always wonderful to my surrounded by my extended family…As the Greek-American actor Billy Zane once said to me ... "Greekness is my weakness ... I was proud of the great upbringing that I had the privilege to receive from my parents, my extended family, my Church, America and my Greek culture I believed that I had been given the best of both worlds and that those worlds, American and Greek, were intertwined in such a way that they were meant for each other. The American world of efficiency and getting the job done combined with the warmth and connectiveness of the Greek world is the reason believe that as a vast majority, we as Greek-Americans have been so successful at some many different levels ... not just money, status and power,but combined with family, church and giving.

This balance is very Hellenic and very much a part of what makes us special.

I think that it is recognizing this talent that we have and understanding its strength that will help In our dealings not only with people around us, but with other Greek-American professionals ... let give you a recent example ... Last year I directed a weekly college football game ... we had difficulty fulfilling one position ... I put the word out through my normal TV connections ... I received a call back about one day later from a friend of mine who said "There is a good Greek working at a NY TV station" ... Now, those words were not one of paternalism ... my referring party knew that my first requirement would be that the person involved would have to be a professional, technical fit ... above ... but in my business, if you don't have to personal relationship ability to convey your professional and technical capabilities, then you might as well stay home ... I also knew, that if I couldn't completely evaluate all the technical skills, that I least I would at least be able to completely understand the Greek side …I spoke with the candidate on the phone and could tell that he had all the attributes ... hard working, driven, wanting to be the best and wanting to be liked ... I also understood he had that some strong mindedness that had brought him to his level of success and that we would clash over certain points ... I hired him and all that did come true ... I would say that it took us a while to get past some of the clashes, but when time came around for me to hire this position again for the Athens 2004 Olympics, I can tell you that not only did my hiree perform well, he was spectacular ... because like most of us in this room, we have been taught to do it all, do it well and to be right on target, no exceptions ... this training does not always make for the most flexible, but we are smart enough to take a step back and realize in the end what can work and what cannot.

More than just getting the job done, there was also that extra sense of friendship and comraderie that is rare in the work environment ... I have been fortunate to experience that joy over and over again, most recently for the last decade with the Greek born musician Yanni ... This again was another situation where I was recommended to him through another professional, who prefaced his remarks by saying "George is one of the best producers at using your music and he is Greek, so you probably will understand each other" ... I would say that beyond the TV productions of our shows in Greece, India and China, my Greek connection with Yanni has served me well in understanding how the producer side in Yanni ... when you are working together on a project with a three million dollar risk, a contract as a piece of paper is not nearly as comforting as your feeling about the person you are dealing with ... at least not for me I want to take a moment to show you some of these TV creatives ... and then , when you see them ... you will understand why and how having that extra edge as helped ... (DVD).

Of course, Yanni Live at the Acropolis is one of the greatest promotions for Greece ever brought to the American small screen. Today, when you are given a tour of the Acropolis, the tour guides point down to the Herrod Atticus Theatre and say "that is where they filmed Live at the Acropolis" This summer I heard that statement made to a group of Japanese tourists, who nodded approvingly. Now, we didn't do the show saying that going into the show. But, both Yanni and I did realize that we owed a great responsibility to use our respective talents to best present some of the world's greatest treasures ... .I mean, if we did a lousy job, what do you think it would have been like facing our families!

The way that Greek-Americans supported that show on PBS is why today you have had four documentaries on the Greek-Americans, dare I say, the immense success of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? What I have done in my efforts to perpetuate Hellenism has come to me naturally. I have asked many others to join in this effort, and heard a variety of responses. In the past, many of the responses were lukewarm at best, with people citing the normal demands of working, raising their families and living their lives just taking up too much of their time. But I have noticed something that has turned this response more positive in the late 90's. Not just that many people realize that their heritage is one of the most important parts of their legacy which they can leave behind to their families, but that this Greek heritage that we have can be so enriching in the way that we live our lives ... .with passion, drive, respect for self, respect for the past and striving for excellence in everything that we do. That it is not only worth the effort, it is actually life's sustenance, like eating or sleeping. I hope that you agree. Thank you again for having me with you this evening.

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