I was compelled to ponder the important presence and influence of the Greek diaspora by Kathimerini’s recent interview with George Yancopoulos, the co-founder and president of Regeneron, the American pharmaceutical company that developed the antibody cocktail administered to US President Donald Trump when he contracted Covid-19.
I was not just struck by the obvious success of one Greek American and how he described his career and the company’s evolution, but also by the deep love he expressed for Greece.
Yancopoulos talked about P. Roy Vagelos – the 91-year-old legend of the American pharmaceutical industry and now president of Regeneron’s board – and remembered what his father had once told him about Vagelos: “This is how I’d like to see you one day. Using your knowledge and research to save lives.”
In a voice trembling with emotion – as Tassoula Eptakili, who conducted the interview, described it – the head of the company entrusted by the president of the superpower, expressed the hope he has made his father proud. Well, he definitely did. And along the way he made – just as so many other Greek men and women in America and in other countries – Greece proud.
It is indeed notable how so many of these successful scientists and professionals are passionate about Greece. They don’t insist on picking on the shortcomings and enduring problems of the country they or their parents were born in. They choose to see their beloved Greece with admiration and joy.
Yancopoulos remembers his father bursting into tears during a hike in the hills around his native Kastoria. “Never forget the blood that has been spilled on this ground so that you could be here today,” his father told him, urging him to remember the heroes this country has produced and everything it has given to humanity. The scientist noted that he tells his own children the same thing whenever he can. This is not just touching; it is confirmation of the invaluable and enduring power of Hellenism.
And, of course, it is not just Yancopoulos, or Vagelos who showed the way and acted as a role model, or for that matter Regeneron’s vice president of research, Christos Kyratsous.
What about Albert Bourla, the head of Pfizer who recently carried out a large investment in his beloved Thessaloniki, and so many more?
The role of so many Greeks in the battle against the pandemic is additional proof of Hellenism’s increasing role and influence at a global level, a force that can and should be tapped by the mother country.