A successful presentation at John Hopkins University
By Maria Romas
2/26/12—Baltimore, Maryland–Hellenism is the one thing that draws Greek people together across the world — the concept that sets Greeks and the Greek Diaspora apart from all other cultures. Hellenes will always help each other; the bond that brings them together is so strong that it could move mountains.
HERMES Expo Young Professionals Initiative at Johns Hopkins, put together by Aphrodite Kotrotsios Founder and Executive Director of HYPI, Dr. Christos Christou Chairman of the Board, HYPI’S DC/MD Representatives Sofia Skliros, Minas Zoulis, Anna Zoulis, Dimitris Zoulis, Nikos Kokkinos, Neil Vranis Vice President of JHU Hellenes and of course George Petrocheilos President of JHU Hellenes. Around 50 young professionals gathered in Hodson Hall at JHU from JHU, the University of Maryland, College Park, George Washington University, Loyola University, Towson, Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania. They heard speeches from Aris Melissaratos — senior advisor to the president at JHU, Paul Kotrotsios —president of the Hellenic American National Council, Nick Larigakis —president of the American Hellenic Institute, Elias Carayannis — professor in the Department of Information Systems & Technology Management at George Washington University, Aphrodite Kotrotsios and Dr. Christos Christou — of the HERMES Expo Young Professionals Initiative.
They all spoke to varying degrees on the importance of holding on to and expanding Hellenism, and promoting inclusion in order to preserve and perpetuate the ideals of Hellenism across the globe, and introduced different programs that can lead to this goal.
“HERMES Expo International promotes commerce, communication and being the leading forum between the Southeastern European countries and the United States of America,” Paul Kotrotsios said. “The last 3 years, the younger generation founded the HERMES Expo Young Professionals Initiative, the thing that brought all of you here — all the heads of the different student communities — to work together and communicate. Hellenism brings us together today. We should honor that … It’s all about synergy. When we begin to ask ourselves, ‘what is in it for me?’ is when we fail to understand the mission.” “Anyone that is interested in internships for PR, Marketing, Journalism and the like, please let us know, we are here to help,” Kotrotsios said.
Larigakis shared a story from his childhood, explaining that when he was growing up, he had to strictly negotiate with his mother in order to have the consent forms to play baseball.
“She would always sign it eventually,” he said. “I would say, ‘Ma, you sign the form, I’ll wash the dishes every night after baseball … Then when I would get home, I would be ready to do the dishes, still covered in dirt from playing. She would say, ‘No, stop. You eat, and then we will wash the dishes. I will wash, and you will read to me in Greek.’ She tried to instill in me the concept of Hellenism. This was her way of making sure I kept to this path.”
Melissaratos agreed on how important it is for Hellenes to stay together to help strengthen and build intelligence not only in Greece, but here in the U.S. as well.
“Let me get to you all, and the fact that you demonstrate an interest in getting together, sharing Hellenism,” Melissaratos said. “I applaud you, I admire you and I look at you individually. And here you are: Young kids from Greece, here on your own, in this difficult, difficult country. And you’re making it — you’re doing well. You’re learning from each other, you mentor each other… But it’s about you all —the fact that you all care and are interested, the fact that you care about your culture and your willing to not only strengthen your culture but to contribute to this American culture. At this point, we are the best country on earth here, we have the strongest most mosaic culture in the world, and I think the key here is that we cherish our own culture and blend it into the American culture, and strengthen both cultures.”
Carayannis spoke on the hope he has for the future.
“The Greek people are actually — I am certain — second to none,” he said. “We are a small people that has a presence globally … We are all, in some way, people of privilege. This means responsibility, not arrogance … If you don’t have something actually worth dying for, it’s not worth living. [Eleftherios] Venizelos had a vision of being inclusive. If everyone had not undermined this, Alexander the Great’s vision might be implemented today. We are all children of Alexander and Ulysses … Now is a time of crisis, and we need critical mass coordination and cooperation of the younger generation free of biases, restraint or even egos. I see people like George, and they make me hope. You young people are hope.”
The Greek-American youth present are a part of the greatest generation, as it relates to Hellenism around the world, according to Larigakis.
“My parents didn’t have the actual American dream,” he said. “They did everything for us, so we could have a chance. For our kids, we do it too. You all have a major burden, like it or not. Look at Greece today — your generation has to be the new leaders and visionaries to move the country in the right direction.”
Aphrodite Kotrotsios said during her speech that it is important to preserve our heritage in the Diaspora by educating, communicating and collaborating with each other, in order to strengthen ties within the U.S. and with Greece.
“We need to preserve and perpetuate the ideals of Hellenism not only to our fellow young Hellenes but to the non-Hellenes as well,” she said. “Especially right now, our patrida needs us, and the greatest way we can contribute is by serving as ambassadors of Greece and its principles. I challenge you to be aggressive and active in your community, because when you uplift the community you also uplift yourself. These social and cultural bonds that we have are very unique in America, so lets come together in the promotion of our heritage and our professional success.”
“We have to weave the pieces of knowledge, passion and Hellenism together,” Dr. Christou said. “In the end, it’s one piece of fabric we all identify by.”
“I’m really proud we got all those young people of Greek heritage our age to come to JHU and have an event co-sponsored by my association,” Petrocheilos said.
Ultimately, the speakers and students alike agree that the younger generation needs to step up and work at preserving Hellenism.
We invite you all to attend the third annual “Professional Growth and Mentor Fair” Conference hosted by the Hermes Young Professionals Initiative during the Hermes Expo at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, NJ on March 31st, 2012.
Thank you to all & especially George for what he is doing at JHU.