Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Greek Connection

The first time I saw George Stephanopoulos off camera was Easter Week at St.Sophia's Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC. I was living there while working for CBS Radio. It was during the Clinton years when he was still on staff at the White House and frequently photographed as the man about town.

So you can imagine my surprise when I noticed that one of the men assisting the Priest in the Holy Wednesday ceremony was George. I nudged my neighbor standing next to me. Is that who I think it is? He confirmed. Didn't I know that both George's father and grandfather had been priests? No, I only knew that he was Clinton's Communications Director and like me, George was Greek.

Greeks tend to be proud people and boastful of fellow Greeks. Just being Greek denotes you are somehow connected. In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the character, Gus Portokalos asks to take a word, any word and he will show you that the root of that word is Greek. I grew up listening to my father point out every famous Greek , as if merely by being Greek, meant they were a little bit better than everyone else.

I preferred to keep my distance from my ethnicity as a kid. Being Greek was odd in the Queens neighborhood I grew up in. There everyone was of the Jewish faith or Catholic. Being Greek meant celebrating Easter at a different time than everyone else and enduring last names that were cumbersome and difficult to spell. I didn't think there was anything cool about being Greek.

I've changed. I love that I come from a rich heritage and unusual tradition. It gave me all the material for my first, not yet published, novel. Now, like my father I take note when someone who is catching headlines is Greek and share the same guilty pleasure watching them rise to celebrity.

Which brings me back to George. I had a swell of pride when he started hosting This Week. I enjoyed watching him grow into what is now becoming a rare quality in a network anchor. To be informed, to report on facts, to understand the difference between news and commentary and to foster healthy debate as opposed to the inciting of rage that has become so pervasive.

So when I heard today that he would be replacing Diane Sawyer as co host of Good Morning America, I couldn't help but blog my congratulations. Not only was a talented, deserving broadcast journalist being recognized but as my father would say, a Greek, to boot!

I didn't expect that later this morning after writing most of this post and on my way to take a park break I would get to congratulate him in person. Yes, as I turned the corner onto CPW, not too far from the ABC studios, there was George.

I did a double take, took out the ear buds from my IPhone and stopped. I told him I had just blogged about him. As if he knew me. He must have been as surprised as I because he didn't put his head down and pretend he didn't hear me. He extended his hand, asked me my name and thanked me graciously when I congratulated him on his new gig. I told him to look for my blog.

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