Ομιλία στο δείπνο της έκθεσης: «Ήρωες: Θνητοί και Μύθοι στην Αρχαία Ελλάδα» που διοργανώνει το Κοινωφελές Ίδρυμα Αλέξανδρος. Σ. Ωνάσης, στη Νέα Υόρκη
Ladies and Gentlemen, Everybody loves a hero: an ordinary person achieving extraordinary accomplishments. Ridden with human flaws they make themselves approachable. And yet, blessed with extraordinary powers they command an awe inspiring distance. Naturally, we follow their every move and create myths around them. We look up to them and try to model our life […]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Everybody loves a hero:
an ordinary person achieving extraordinary accomplishments.
Ridden with human flaws they make themselves approachable.
And yet, blessed with extraordinary powers they command an awe inspiring distance.
Naturally, we follow their every move and create myths around them.
We look up to them and try to model our life around them.
We worship them and believe that in time of need they will come to our rescue.
For in times of distress they are known to offer solutions, often through acts of unique bravery, and by doing so they keep our lives in tact.
In tact. Preserved. Unchanged.
No surprise here: the indo-european root of the word hero is no other than that of conservation.
He or she who makes it possible for us to keep our way of life, by fending off dangers that threaten to change it, is a hero.
And we love her for it.
We need no heroes in Greece today.
The country that invented the hero will do well not to seek one this time.
The reasons are two:
At this time of distress, we need not conserve our way of life, but we must change it.
And to do so we do not need great acts of heroism but we do need a collective act of greatness.
Don’t get me wrong.
The situation in our country is dire.
And all our instincts and all our prayers are calling for heroes.
But this time we need not find one person to fight our battles,
but the inspiration to fight our own.
We are today in the midst of a battle for survival.
In a world economy without boarders our perils do not endanger our economic standing alone.
But also our capacity to intervene in global affairs, take a stand and make our voice heard.
In today’s world our country’s capacity to stand for the values we represent and voice them in the global dialogue of cultures is directly related to the way we are perceived in the world.
And lately our image in the world leaves a lot to be desired.
So the battle ahead of us is not limited to our capacity to repay our debt but our capacity to raise our voices, our capacity to take a stand and our capacity to make this stand respected.
Left to its own devices, the economic plan our country is pursuing cannot solve the problems we face.
If people do not see value in the plan, if investors are not ready to put their money where their mouth is, if workers feel that they are the only ones paying for someone else’s expensive party, if civil servants do not understand why they need to change the way they work, the plan, any plan, is doomed to failure.
If we hope to get out of this crisis we cannot reduce salaries and pensions alone.
We cannot cut down government spending and investment alone.
We cannot curtail waste and tax evasion alone.
These acts alone will not solve our problem.
In fact, they will likely accentuate the problem by drawing funds out of the economy.
Not only that. They might cause enough social unrest to stop the plan in its tracks.
So what does it take to get out of a crisis like this one?
It takes an act that no outside force can assume or assure:
an act of greatness.
In fact, it takes a small act of greatness by each and every citizen of our country.
It takes the gradual and persistent rebuilding of a community,
and this will take an effort for it requires that we first change ourselves.
The truth is that no plan is worth the paper it is written on unless we commit to changing ourselves.
Unless we inspire in ourselves new attitudes, new needs and new wants,
unless we believe in ourselves again and everything good we stand for as Greeks,
and unless we recruit this belief in building our capacity as peoples.
In our ministry we are part of this greater effort.
We have set out on an ambitious plan to change the way we see our country and thus the way we present it to the outside world, for this is the mission assigned to us.
We seek to abandon the iconic image of idle life in Greece for a life full of content and creativity.
For a country where so much is going on we have surprisingly reduced our global identity to one of a country where nothing happens.
For a country with so much natural beauty, so much heritage and most importantly, so much youthfull creativity we have managed to reduce ourselves to the image of a peoples lying on the beach.
Our job is to take all that is happening and all that can happen and bundle it in packets that change the way we look to the world.
And as we project all the things our country stands for we are rediscovering ourselves all the things that make us unique.
Not surprisingly, in our path, we have come across some ordinary people with extraordinary capacity.
And they have inspired us.
Like the camera man who kept working after we told him we could not afford to pay him anymore.
Like five graphic designers who are giving us all their best work even though we have not found ways of paying them yet.
Like the photographers who offered us their art willingly and freely.
Like hoteliers and private airlines carriers who are giving us their spare rooms and seats to invite journalists and tour operators to see our country and how it is changing.
Like unions of workers and unions of advertisers who are offering their advice and expertese for free.
Their collective work is by no means the work of a hero.
It is not the work of one leader or even one government.
It is the work of a community that is coming together, determined to change its ways.
This is happening all over Greece.
Last weekend an old man stopped me in the street and looked at me straight in the eye with a very determined look.
“I am a small time pensioner, a teacher who gave up part of his salary.” he said “I will do my bit, but I am telling you this: stop at nothing, keep going and stop at nothing.”
Of course we are scared.
And naturally we look for heroes.
But take one look into this old mans eyes and you will find all the inspiration you need.
In a speech a year ago Prime Minister George Papandreou said that history is not written by great leaders.
Each one of us can write history.
In our place of work, in our communities, in our families, among our friends.
And Greeks all over the country are discovering exactly that.
Through their professional work, their community work, even through their sheer resilience during tough times they are doing their part to change the country.
And in doing so they are writing history again.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We need no heroes in Greece today.
For as we move ahead and change our lives we find that heroes would only act as a distraction.
For the work ahead of us is our own.
No one can tell us what it will take and no one will tell us what the total cost will be to get out of this crisis,
or how much our lives will change.
But we are sure to get out of it, we are sure to get out of it together and we are sure to get out of it stronger.
For we have managed to inspire in each other the possibilities that lie before us.
The possibilities that lie before us when we come together as one.