Greece’s former Prime Minister George Papandreou spoke on Wednesday at the 19th Clough Colloquium in Robsham Theatre about human justice and our duty as citizens of the world. He spoke about globalization, the Eurozone crisis and worldwide democracy.
Papandreou and his family fled from Greece when he was a child after a dictatorship forced his father, a prime minster as well, to resign from office. Growing up in America and attending Amherst College allowed Papandreou to look at the world and Greece in particular in a unique way; he earned an invaluable new perspective. Papandreou also credited the optimism that America has as a great asset to being able to change the world.
Since seeing the horrors of dictatorships, Papandreou has been fighting for democracy. He cited the urgent need for collective action, such as the quick response necessary in ending the current Ebola outbreak. During the Greek government debt crisis in 2008, Papandreou recognized the urgency of quick action in order to save the country, using the slogan “Either we change or we sink.”
He explained that this time was a critical test of his leadership, and stated that his honesty, no matter how painful, was necessary in order to bring change to the country. Papandreou highlighted that the problems that occurred in Greece were parallel to any issue. To deal with problems of the world, there needs to be cooperation and a collective response, Papandreou explained.
He went on to say that a creeping epidemic of fear and speculation is no way to create solutions. Papandreou called for a necessity of globalization and interdependence, with proper global governance. “No man or woman is an island,” he defended.
A question that the Prime Minster raised that went beyond the realm of strictly ruling countries, but also for companies and organizations, is a big one: how do you put into effect meaningful change? He explained that instilling long-term change within an organization is like saving someone from a heart attack. The first few hours of emergency room medicine are very systematic and quick response; however, the hardest part of the recovery is instilling new, healthier lifestyle choices and changing the entire mindset of the patient. In order for the Greeks to grow from their crisis, there needed to be a change in the mindset and goals of the Greek nation.
Papandreou also emphasized the imperative need for democracy, a structure of government taken for granted in America, yet sparsely seen throughout the world. In the long term, he wishes to see a united, stronger Europe, where the citizens can take initiative of the peace process and integrate into a global community and combat the injustices occurring, especially in the Middle East. He sees a world where citizens can be stewards of a common place and a place where we can reject stereotypes, citing Pope Francis in saying that the root cause of social ills is inequality.
Papandreou highlighted the need for interdependent, engaged societies, with citizens that would be active in participation. We must take initiatives and play key roles in our government. At a place like Boston College, he explained, we are called to use our valuable education to help other human beings, going along with the ideal, Men and Women for Others.