This special features actors Olympia Dukakis, John Stamos and Billy Zane; former presidential advisor George Stephanopoulos; actor and former football player Alex Karras; sportscaster Bob Costas; tennis champion Pete Sampras; author Arianna Huffington; prima ballerina Helene Alexopoulos; CIA Director George Tenet; business leaders and many others sharing their personal stories of Greek life in America.
According to Dukakis, the Greek-American experience can be defined by their “appetite for life,” and Huffington confirms that to be Greek is “to really live life to the fullest.”
THE GREEK AMERICANS tells the fantastic story of the men and women broadcast journalist Ike Pappas describes in the program as “modern Greek heroes” — immigrants who came to the United States with little more than their optimism for life in a new land and found the ultimate culmination of their ancestors’ ideals of democracy. In many American cities, Greek immigrants organized communities that kept alive their native language, culture and religion. Closely bound by the rich traditions they shared, even friends became family. Greeks changed the physical landscape of America with the rounded domes and distinctive crosses of the Greek Orthodox Church and the cultural landscape with accomplishments in the arts, politics and education that echoed the glorious past of ancient Greece.
As Stephanopoulos explains, “if you’re Greek, you have to be good at what you do,” and this expected excellence was fulfilled with what Dukakis calls the Greeks’ “entrepreneurial spirit.” THE GREEK AMERICANS demonstrates that whatever the ultimate goal — a successful neighborhood restaurant or America’s highest government offices — the endeavor is approached with a zest and dedication that is, as many in the program describe it, uniquely Greek.
To this effect, many individuals in the program speak of a desire to preserve their cultural pride by maintaining undeniably Greek names like “Pappas” and “Stephanopoulos” despite their prominent positions in American mainstream culture. The program includes a tribute to the man who achieved this with an unprecedented impact, the late actor Telly Savalas, who paved the way for many Greek-Americans in Hollywood with his uncompromising portrayals of Greek-American roles like Detective Theo Kojak.