Outgoing US President Barack Obama chose to deliver an address to the world from Athens, not only for the sake of his legacy but possibly to indicate what kind of role he intends to play from here on out. The core of the “Obama vision” is, one might say, globalization with a humane character, globalization as a driving force for the unification of peoples, cultures and religions in a common purpose of individual fulfillment and prosperity.
The highlight of Obama’s two-day trip to the Greek capital was his visit to the Acropolis, with television cameras struggling to catch a good shot of the American leader from a distance as he explored the ancient citadel, guided by the site’s chief archaeologist, who walked by his side and provided him with all the information he needed and answered all of his questions. What the news directors were trying to do was capture a hidden moment, because while a camera crew would obviously not have posed a threat to Obama’s safety, it would have broadcast picture postcard images of the American president, as though he were just one among the millions of tourists who visit this symbol of Western civilization – something his hosts obviously didn’t want.
The US president spoke at length about the Athenian democracy and made reference to Leonidas of Rhodes, the legendary runner of the Olympic Games in the 2nd century BC. Hearing Obama talk about ancient Athens, I was unwittingly reminded of Alcibiades, the general who defected to the Spartans when his fellow Athenians charged him with treason.
This, of course, has nothing to do with Obama, who in no way suffers from the Alcibiades syndrome.
Barack Obama is a brilliant graduate of Harvard University, yet this was not the quality that got him elected to power. What got him elected was his humanism, his ideological core, which was not shaped by the thinkers of classical Athens, but by Martin Luther King Jr (whom Obama quoted in his speech) and his dramatic “I Have a Dream” speech.
While this is all well and good, we should not forget who’s waiting at the gates of the White House: the old man Donald Trump, who’s been shaped not just by his enormous wealth, but also by his formative years in Queens, New York. Dinners organized by his father Fred were for rough-edged businessmen, police chiefs and vociferous union leaders – the opposite of the people who voted for Obama and benefited while he was in office.
This may have seemed an unorthodox way to comment on the US president’s visit, but I admit that I was somewhat dazzled.