Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Costis Stephanopoulos: The nation above all else

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics, Obituary

One Friday evening I was informed that former president Costis Stephanopoulos was trying to contact me. I was told that he had telephoned in person and wanted to speak to me urgently. I got back to him on the landline number that he had left and he requested that we publish an appeal for the formation of a truly all-party government with a long-term program to lead the country out of the quagmire. It was December 2011, the political cauldron was boiling over and the country was sinking in crisis.

I went to his home – a ground-floor apartment in Psychico, a northern suburb of Athens. His granddaughter was watching television, while, he, laconic as always, gave me his handwritten comment. “I would like it to be published because I am anxious as to where this is all leading,” he said modestly. At that moment I thought of how much respect we owed this man. He was 85 years old and not in good health. But he could see where things were going and, because he did not stop showing interest in the country’s well-being, took the initiative on his own to propose something that at the time was not all popular among a large part of the political spectrum. Of course he belonged to a generation that had been through much and did not play with our future, with the country’s future.

As I drove back to the newspaper offices I felt anxious and sad at the same time. I was thinking that there were few people with Stephanopoulos’s experience and sense of responsibility. We changed the front page, putting Stephanopoulos’s appeal at the top. The blender of cynicism and pettiness chewed this up, too, amid conspiracy theories along the lines of “What he was aiming at?” and “Whose game is he playing?” Who among them would have thought that there was nothing behind it besides the concern of a veteran politician who was worried about where his country was heading? 

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