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National Hellenic Museum Virtual Exhibitions

Introduction

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The National Hellenic Society: Portraits in Excellence

"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.” —Plato

Αρετη, most often translated as excellence, was a foundational principle of ancient Greek thought. In the most fundamental, ancient sense, αρετη meant the fulfillment of a person’s purpose. Philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle would expound upon this idea, arguing that to possess αρετη a person would have to first cultivate other virtues such as justice, moderation, generosity, and wisdom. Always, however, the manifestation of αρετη was focused not on the self, but on service to the community.

The National Hellenic Society’s Ariston Award for Excellence seeks to acknowledge and honor αρετη in Greek Americans who have achieved at the highest levels. This award recognizes the ways in which the best of our ancestors lives on in Greek Americans today.

In the same way, the National Hellenic Museum is interested in preserving the legacy of Greek and Greek American αρετη, past and present.

That is why we are so excited to bring you this exhibition as a special partnership between the National Hellenic Society and National Hellenic Museum—a celebration of αρετη in the Greek American community.