WASHINGTON - The National Hellenic Society was founded by a group of successful Greek American business leaders who wished to leverage their skills and resources in order to bolster Greek American Orthodox Christians and remind them of their important heritage. According to chairman and cofounder George Marcus, “Our parents and grandparents came to America, the bastion of opportunity, with the dream of a better life for their children. They were heroes. They faced unimaginable odds: uneducated, poor, and non-conversant in English. Yet they established businesses, built churches and cultural organizations, educated us, and did what they could to keep our Hellenic heritage a part of our lives. Their values, work ethic, and philotimo were passed on to us. As stewards of this legacy, we owe it to them and to our children to honor their sacrifices by reclaiming our birthright and passing on our relevant, and inspiring heritage.” There is an entire generation of highly successful individuals who have been yearning for a way to reconnect with their heritage and their ancestors, and thus NHS was founded. To advance their important mission, the non-profit National Hellenic Society has developed programs and initiatives including its signature program, Heritage Greece, modeled after Birthright Israel.
This program brings a group of 60 highly qualified Greek American undergraduate and graduate students to Greece to experience a two-week educational and cultural immersion experience with a peer group from The American College of Greece, where the program is hosted.
Heritage Greece aims to reconnects Greek American students with their Hellenic identity and heritage while forging life-long relationships. The Program’s success is corroborated by scientific research undertaken since its inception, which confirms the Program’s impact as a catalyst of dramatic change in the students’ connection with their Hellenic heritage, roots, and identity.
The students themselves have described this shared experience as life changing.
The Greek American story is also the great American story. It incorporates values and ideas from the ancient Greeks to the modern day. America has inherited many things from the ancient Greeks: a system of government, an education structure, and even basic principles of medicine. Even if an American is not geographically from Greece, the value of being Greek is in their head and in their heart, and the National Hellenic Society’s mission is to prove it.
Other programs developed by the NHS to support its mission include Heritage America, Hellenic Career Center, partnerships with the National Hellenic Museum and National Geographic, sponsorships of museum exhibits, establishing an alumni network and developing social media networks.