It?s funny sometimes how you can begin to doubt whether something you experienced firsthand was just as you remember it. I am referring to the op-ed by former President Costis Stephanopoulos, published in Sunday?s Kathimerini.
I got home late last Friday night, believing Sunday?s edition to be on its way to press. A few minutes later, I got a call from one of the editors of Kathimerini, who told me that the ex-president was looking for me.
I never had a close personal relationship with Stephanopoulos. He had done me the honor once, ahead of US President Bill Clinton?s visit to Greece, of reading me a draft of a speech he would be giving at the official dinner for the American leader. It was, for those who remember it, a hard-hitting speech that set a number of key national issues for Greece on the table and called for US support.
Back to last Friday: I called Stephanopoulos back. He explained, without fuss or frills, that he had an article he wanted published in Sunday?s Kathimerini. ?I?ll send it tomorrow morning,? he said, but I explained that Saturday would be too late. He told me he had no other way of sending it at that time. Journalistic instinct meant that I suggested dropping by his home to pick it up instead. I got there shortly after 11 p.m. to find him with his granddaughter in an unassuming ground-floor apartment. He gave me the piece and a few explanations regarding his illegible handwritten notes. I left and went back to the office to change the Sunday edition. Simple as that.
I am sorry that certain people tried to mix Stephanopoulos up in well-planned conspiracies. If there is one thing I admire no end in Stephanopoulos?s generation, it is that you will still see people at his age doing all that they can, fighting to do what?s right for the country. The grinding machine of populism wants to pass these people through its plates, flattening them and everything they are about. How wrong that is. If there is one thing we are paying for as a country today, it?s that we haven?t been quiet long enough to listen to what Stephanopoulos and other veterans like him have to say. We have become embroiled in the debates of ?experts? who, accustomed to the way they conduct themselves, see shady dealings, vested interests and mysterious shadows behind every opinion, idea and proclamation.
What I saw was a man who is feeling the pain of his country in his own flesh, who wrote a piece simply titled ?My Opinion.? The least we can do is respect it.