Dr. Anthony Papadimitriou, President of the Onassis Foundation
IN 2015, THE ONASSIS FOUNDATION CELEBRATES ITS 40 YEARS. ITS FORTHCOMING 40 YEARS.
The Onassis Foundation complies with the wishes of Aristotle Onassis, a businessman of great foresight but mostly, of special insight. He was a symbol of wealth, yet thanks to the foundation he bequeathed, he is now also associated with access to spiritual wealth in the form of education, culture and social solidarity. Education and Culture considered as a means to achieve social coherence; this is the Onassis Foundation’s mission. Defined as our obligation 40 years ago, our efforts aim to offer access to those gifts to as many people as possible and to support Greece by unleashing its people’s potential.
In times like these, we, the private sector, have an obligation to provide assistance and to collaborate with each other as well as with the Greek State. There are sectors that the Greek State must be able to sustain. Unrestricted access for all citizens to public education, health and culture is an established right for which Europe has fought hard over the years. What we stand for, is our will to stand by the public sector so that more plans are implemented, both large and small-scale; so that more people spread their wings and fly, much further than originally defined by their financial and social origins.
In 2015, we decide against any festivities for our 40-year anniversary. We wish to neither highlight our achievements, nor to organize self-glorifying fiestas. Our reflection process makes us more specific on things we’ve learned during our history.
When we speak about the Foundation, we must think of 6,500 scholarship recipients, more than 1,000 of which are artists; scholars that have earned a passport to reach their dream through meritocracy. We must think of 600,000 patients that have been hospitalized at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center and another 1,420,000 patients that have received care at its outpatient department; of more than 5,000 grants to Cultural Associations, Museums, Chairs and Departments of Hellenic Studies in Universities all over the world – from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Haifa in Israel and from Tirana, Albania to Boston in the United States; of more than 1,300 public schools and special education centers all over Greece that have been offered educational and technical material or educational programs for the academic development of the instructors they employ.
And we must of course think of the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens, our Stegi, which in just five years of existence, has already made its mark on Greece’s cultural map, though its artistic and educational activities.
Our activities extend to New York City through the Onassis Cultural Center in the U.S.A., in the heart of Manhattan. We have been there too, for 15 years. Anyone walking on 5th Avenue can see the Greek flag waving on 52nd street. The American Onassis Cultural Center, acting as an embassy for Greek cultural heritage, now supports contemporary Greek creation as well, bringing together Greek and foreign artists and thinkers, collaborates with many of the most important American cultural organizations such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, incorporates new people that can strengthen Greece’s presence beyond its borders through their knowledge and expertise, develops its relations even more with neighborhoods and schools all over the American continent through educational programs on Greek Culture. The Onassis Cultural Center in New York chose Narcissus as its 2015 Festival’s main theme, from the myth itself all the way through psychoanalysis and selfies. Making the most of our presence in this great metropolis, we try to highlight Greece’s strongest assets. It sounds grand, yet all things great, are people-made. Our highest aim is to help Greece be what Greece deserves to be; to become and to project the Greece we want.
Ultimately, 40 years later, the Foundation’s “children” are many. People are familiar with different ones, depending on their particular experiences along the way. Anyone who has ever been a patient at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center thinks of the hospital; anyone who has ever visited the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens thinks of theatrical shows, concerts, exhibitions and educational programs; anyone getting acquainted with the Cavafy Archive makes a mental link between the Foundation and the poet; a scholarship recipient thinks of scholarship opportunities while a teacher in the far end of the country or in downgraded areas of Athens, thinks of the Foundation as a supporter of the field of education.
All of these children comprise the Onassis Group family; yet this family has a side that the people of the arts rarely get to see and that is its maritime branch. This Foundation’s existence depends on seafaring; it depends on investments. So the people of the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens belong to the same family as the seafarers that may right this moment be on a super tanker somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. It may be worth reminding that, according to the Aristotle Onassis will, 40% of the business activity profit is reinvested in public benefit ventures.
Common benefit increases exponentially when the right collaborations and coalitions are formed. For this purpose, we join forces with cultural organizations in Greece and all over the world: with the National Theatre of Greece, becoming major sponsor for the period 2015-2016; with the Benaki Museum, where in the fall of 2015 we supported one of its largest exhibitions, Tassos Vrettos’ “Wor(th)ship”; with various musical ensembles, which you can enjoy not only at the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens but in musical halls all over Greece.
And even beyond Greek borders, with Almeida Theatre in London, where the “Oresteia” and “Medea” theatrical plays have been presented through the Foundation’s support.
At the Onassis Foundation, we say that we are celebrating 40 years. Yes. The 40 years ahead. We keep moving forward and constantly look ahead, being socially involved while enjoying the inevitable cost of freedom: your evaluation of our performance.
This has been the Foundation’s mission: to release potential.
This mission remains unchanged, staying in tune with the requirements of the times, the needs and the wishes of the people.
Dr. Anthony S. Papadimitriou President of the Board of Directors