John Sarbanes: An ethical politician 

John Sarbanes: An ethical politician 

He has some character traits that are missing from Greek politicians. It was perhaps his substantive answers, his honesty, but mostly the air of a statesman that surrounded US Congressman John Sarbanes in the very interesting discussion he had last Wednesday with students from Deree College (part of the American College of Greece – ACG) in the school’s Library. The 18 years he spent as a member of Congress certainly enriched his experiences, but what shaped him from childhood was his father’s political legacy.

Paul Sarbanes, together with Michael Dukakis and John Brademas, were the trio that paved the way for the social prestige of the Greek-American community, through their election to top positions in American politics. And as the son of such a pioneer, John Sarbanes very often referred to his father during his answers to Deree students Mikaela Krisilia and George Vougiatzis, who took it upon themselves to ask him all the hard questions, as Kathimerini English Edition’s Editor in Chief Tom Ellis moderated the conversation. 

From left, Deree student George Vougiatzis, Kathimerini English Edition’s Editor in Chief Tom Ellis, US Congressman John Sarbanes, and Deree student Mikaela Krisilia at the 2024 Distinguished Speakers Series themed ‘Anchoring Politics in Service,’ held on June 19.  

But why did the highly successful politician, who has worked tirelessly on issues such as the environment and energy, not want to stand again in the November election? 

“It’s not what some people wrote, that I’m abandoning a ‘burning building’ to save myself,” he said, meaning that the political game since Donald Trump’s election in 2016 has changed, while being elected in the US has become a matter that requires a constant stream of donations. “It is that I would like to do things even after politics. I don’t know what yet, but what I am sure of, is that I will continue to serve society.” 

I imagined how improbable it would be for one of our politicians, elected to Parliament, still active and popular, to end his political career himself. And how nice it was for the young audience of the event to hear an elected representative admit that he still hasn’t planned his next steps. He truly lived up to the title of distinguished speaker in the event series with the same title, organised by ACG.

With the same frankness, he did not avoid the difficult question about the age of US President Joe Biden, noting that he has all the necessary experience, knowledge and awareness of the position of world leader. He referred to the relations between Greece and the US, the role of artificial intelligence, the bills he proposed and his political initiatives, stressing that the world is living through a really important phase for the future of democracy. Sarbanes said democracy is under pressure from populists who reach out to sections of society who feel ostracized from the modern world and the perceptions that govern it.

Sarbanes also did not hide his concern on the possibility of Trump’s re-election. It will not be like his first term in office that came almost as a surprise to Trump himself. This time, both the former president and his staff have had time to prepare to possibly challenge again the legitimacy of the electoral result, if the Democrats win by a narrow margin.

American College of Greece (ACG) President David G. Horner speaks at the event.

Approachable and polite, Sarbanes found himself besieged by students who wanted to meet and talk to him. As ACG President David G. Horner said, in his youth, the Senator had lived for a period of time in Greece as a Fulbright scholar and often visited the College to play basketball.

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