“Excellence (αρετη) is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice.
We do not act rightly because we are excellent,
we achieve excellence by acting rightly.”
Αρετη (excellence) was an important virtue to the ancient Greeks, who saw it as the culmination of other important qualities. From Homer to Plato to the New Testament to the Byzantine fathers, we find evidence of the Hellenic call to seek excellence in all things. Significantly, αρετη is never described as something someone is by virtue of birth, wealth, or rank; rather, it is the cumulative effect of what a person does. The pursuit of excellence is, therefore, from ancient times, a primary ambition and aim of those who embrace Hellenic values.
The National Hellenic Museum is proud to present a special online exhibition in collaboration with the National Hellenic Society. National Hellenic Society: Portraits in Excellence serves to celebrate the achievements of Greek Americans who have excelled at the highest levels. Most of the portraits featured in the exhibition are of individuals who have won the National Hellenic Society’s Ariston Award for Excellence. This annual honor is given to those that the Society deems to be exemplars of accomplished Greek American men and women.
Aristotle said that by examining the lives of people who had obtained αρετη, we could learn how to find it in our own lives. In this exhibition, you will find the portraits and stories of Greek Americans who have achieved excellence. What can we learn from their stories?