Recently I was able to listen in on a very interesting conversation that took place between an exceptional individual and some young people. The discussion radiated a sense of hope that perhaps, after the economic, health and identity crises we have faced, we can forge a way forward and create a better Greece, built upon strong foundations, utilizing its advantages.
The conversation with the youngsters was about school, sports, future studies, and, more broadly, their outlook.
Having studied at top universities in Chicago and Connecticut, the protagonist of this informative discussion was both humorous and friendly, and he was also very much on point. He had a tone of voice that won his listeners over, but most importantly, he expressed a selfless love for Greece at every opportunity. I watched in awe as he spoke to the young people he had just met with devotion and genuine interest. He is a Greek of the world, raised in different countries because of his father’s job, who loves Greece more than – I dare say – many who have spent their entire lives here.
“Be the best you can, follow your dreams, go abroad, to America if you can, and after you succeed, after you create, do not forget your homeland,” he told them. The latter point was the most important that I hope resonated with the young people.
He recognized that what he was telling them was not easy, as the higher earnings one finds abroad understandably make the potential decision to return more difficult. Nevertheless, he insisted, “Still, try to do it, if not at the top of your career, maybe a bit later, because this land needs the best and the brightest, the right people who will take it one step further.”
This encouraging experience was in my mind combined with another hopeful event. On Tuesday, the president of the Hellenic Republic welcomed a team of Greek-American students who were visiting Athens in the context of the program organized by the Hellenic American Institute Foundation. These are young American citizens who have been taught by their parents to maintain their bond with their motherland, the homeland of their parents and grandparents. It is not easy. However, there are many who succeed in doing it.
“We expect you to promote the Greek spirit in a strong democracy like the US, and become the best ambassadors for this country, strengthening the Greek-American friendship,” President Katerina Sakellaropoulou told the group of students.
President Sakellaropoulou welcomed them to “your second home” and expressed the hope that they had formed “a good idea of the values that our country represents in the world.” She also highlighted that their visit coincided with the bicentennial of the Greek Revolution, and stressed that it provided a chance “to realize what we have accomplished and reflect on what we hope for our country.”
The bridge with Greeks abroad is long and very important. A huge advantage that few peoples have to such an extent, and crucial in the effort to build a better Greece. In order to create the country we aspire to and correct the many deficiencies of the past, we need the proper materials and ingredients, which are none other than those young people.
The reciprocal relationship between the Greeks who live in Greece and those in other countries and the permanent or periodic return to their homeland of those who have excelled abroad can act as an extraordinary source of strength, for the people themselves, as well as – and more importantly – for Greece.