The active Greek diaspora in the United States is dwindling and this needs to be stopped. Proponents of the generation that played such an important role after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 have either stopped participating actively in public life or have passed away. The generation that matured and acquired clout with the nomination of Mike Dukakis in 1988 has also aged and is no longer as influential as it once was. The number of Greek Americans who still feel connected to Greece is diminishing by the year, as is only natural given how many among the younger generation marry outside the community and how their Greek identity gradually fades.
The Church, meanwhile, seems to be going through a profound crisis that may have unpleasant consequences. Poor choices and autocratic attitudes have sparked reactions that could lead anywhere. And this comes at a time when the number of ceremonies performed by the Greek Orthodox Church is going down and the need to highlight the Church’s Greek identity or even to fly the Greek flag outside churches during ceremonies is often thought unnecessary.
Yet Greece has not planned or pursued a long-term policy to keep Hellenism alive in the United States and to make Greek Americans feel closer to their homeland. Cultivating relationships and networks with influential Greek Americans is vital and it should not be underestimated – but it is not enough.
Sometimes it has the reverse effect. Some of the professional or prominent Greek Americans that gather in the lobbies of central hotels are only there to strike a good deal, but in the manner of the “uncle from America,” who wants everything cheap. They use their influence only to “sell” access to American decision-makers.
We need to move on. Greece in 2023 is much more accessible and popular among the younger generations of Greek Americans, even those from the second or third generation. They love it here. Some are even brave enough to invest. We need to start planning for the future. Like how will the Greek language be preserved among the younger members of the community? How can we build on existing programs so that diaspora youngsters come to Greece to study, to attend summer camps, to intern at a company?
These are not questions that only the state can address. Foundations and the private sector also have a role to play. The results will be astounding once there is a plan and it is implemented.
Greece needs this. It needs it because it needs a little bit of “air” from America, but it also needs a new generation to care deeply and actively for Greece, to understand it and defend it where it needs defending. Not with social gatherings and parties, but professionally and effectively.