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Dr. Alex Pattakos: The golden age of Greece is coming

08 September 2010 / 13:09:37  GRReporter
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The business, the name of the model, the product, the logo is called the OPA day. You know everybody say “opa-opa” in Greece. This is not just a word which doesn’t have an exact translation but a word that means a lot of different things. It is inspiring. It raises people. It’s a nice word. It gets people to dance. We are using it is as acronym. In English the O stands for others. It’s focusing on others rather than yourself, caring for others. It could be your family, your community, the country, the co-workers. So, it’s all about others. The P is about purpose. It links to the meaning idea. It means having a purpose in your life, having a purpose of taking care of your family, taking care of your customers on the job, taking care of the kids if you are teacher, taking care of your neighbourhood, your community. And the A stands for attitude. So, to have a can-do positive attitude that will get you through the stresses of life. OPA is the word but is also the concept.

We are first creating an online village; it is most like facebook, but it will be called the OPA Village. People can join for free. There will be videos, audios, blog, and place for the people to communicate with each other. There will be a section called All Things Greek and it’s going to have philosophy. Our target is non-Greeks. These are the people who don’t understand that Greece has made many contributions to their language, their architecture, to arts, to medicine, to science. And we want to help bring this to the surface, because many people use expressions that are coming from the Greek and they don’t even know what it is about. That is part of the initiative.

The other thing is that we want to celebrate the Greek culture in a positive way, because right now we hear negative things. We go back to Greece many times so we know it’s not as bad. The country is struggling. We want to help tourism; we want to help the business. So, we are ready to launch a new holiday. Every September 15 will be OPA day. We are launching it in Rethymno in Crete for the first time.  Then it will go outside. We want September 15 to be OPA day every year. We will start promoting it to the media to go to Toronto, Chicago, Santa Fe, Melbourne, Sidney, and London. Greek restaurants will celebrate OPA day on September 15, 2011. And instead of the green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, we will have blue beer. I received an e-mail from a Greek brewery. We will make celebration.

But it’s different than the Greek festivals. I’m Greek orthodox, I grew up in a Greek orthodox family and I know the Greek festivals are basically fund raising for the church. And we will have nothing to do with religion. Pardon me, Father! We want this to be something that people can celebrate. Universities may have parties on September 15. We chose September 15 because the United Nations declared September 15 World Democracy Day. But the UN says nothing about where did the democracy start - it started in Greece. We want that day to be a celebration of democracy, science, art…but also a day for fun. It’s not religious.  Anybody, any culture, people in Asia can celebrate it.

How did you settle yourself in America?

I am second generation American. My father was a Greek citizen. My family is from Crete, a very proud Cretаn family that immigrated here in early 1920s. And when they were ready to leave the planet and die they went back. So, they are buried back in Greece. My father and his brother were Greek Americans, but they were Greek citizens and went back many, many times. I was the oldest kid in the family and my father wanted me to be a successful American. And when I was growing up it was very difficult to have a last name like Pattakos. It was funny. It’s not like today. Today you can have more pride in your ethnicity. When I was very young it was very difficult to have a family with an accent, a dialect, because your friends would come over and my friend’s name is Billy Jones – good American name. America is changing now because of multiculturism. Mostly Americans were referred to as WASPs – White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

If you had a family that is Greek orthodox, it was as if you were from the twilight zone. They were unfamiliar with it. Your family had a very strong accent; it was very loud and boisterous. And a lot of people say “Is this your family? You are like savages.” And I was a little kid. I remember people mispronounced my name. Instead of saying Pattakos they would say Patakos, Pajakos, Pokahonas, Potatoes. They made fun of me while I was at school. They wouldn’t do that now. First of all I am going to sue them. Those kinds of names, because they do not come from the Anglo-Saxon part of the world, and I was growing up outside the New York City and outside New York, in New Jersey, they were much unknown. They weren’t accepted. But I still realized that I didn’t have the same problem as my father, my grandparents, because I didn’t face that kind of discrimination. I was a morph, they made fun of me. And I remember telling my dad I wish my name would have been different. I wished it to be Patterson instead of Pattakos. Some of the members of my family did change their names when they immigrated here. The changed it to Peters, in short of their dad’s name. My godfather’s name was Despopoulos and he changed to Despo to sound more English. Nowadays you don’t have to do that.

Why did you choose Santa Fe?

My father was an engineer many, many years ago and he worked in New Mexico. I came back here when I was in the army and I went to school here. I went to university in Albuquerque. I was at the university in Albuquerque, then in Illinois. So, it’s always been like this. Not Albuquerque but this Santa Fe area has always been a place of peace and spirituality, health and wellness. It reminds me a lot of Crete.

Tags: Alex PattakosPrisoners of Our ThoughtsMaria S. TopalovaInterview
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