During his Friday luncheon with diaspora leaders, Prime Minister Samaras told them that he didn’t want to ask “for anything,” but wanted to “thank” the diaspora for what it does. A noble sentiment, and one that would have brought the diaspora and Greece together sooner if it had been the norm over the years. He also invited the diaspora to join in “building a new Greece.”
This latter invitation is one that all Greek leaders issue to the entire diaspora. Whether it is investing in Greece, traveling consistently to Greece, advocating for Greece in Washington, D.C., or writing Letters to the Editor pushing back at misperceptions of Greece, every single one of us in the diaspora can and should do something more. At this point, the Prime Minister should not be merely thanking — most of the pledges of support have either not taken full effect or materialized — but sounding a clarion call for the diaspora to act decisively.
Greek Americans have rallied to provide philanthropic aid — but not enough. Business leaders from the diaspora have pledged to invest in Greece, but outside of some bargain buys of devalued assets and banks, the investment has not yet arrived.
So how should have the Prime Minister addressed the diaspora? Perhaps he could have invoked — or straight out stolen from, as I do below — President Kennedy’s inaugural address and said something like this:
In your hands, my fellow Hellenes, as much as in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since antiquity, each generation of Hellenes – whether in Hellas or abroad — has been summoned to protect the “Πατρίδα.” They sent wealth back home, rebuilt entire towns, and gave their lives to ensure the continuity of Hellas.
Now the trumpet summons us again – not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, – a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and the lack of hope. Can we forge against these enemies a grand alliance, Hellenes back home and those in the diaspora, Hellenes and philhellenes to ensure the continued survival of a people and a place that have meant so much to Western culture and still today stand on the front lines of many of the challenges faced by the West?
Will you join in that historic effort? Generation after generation of Hellene has been granted the role of defending Hellas in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Hellenes: ask not what Hellas can do for you – ask what you can do for Hellas. Obviously, your wealth can help us, but I humbly ask you for a bit more. I ask for your imagination, your ingenuity, your spirit. Hellas has for centuries rebuilt and reinvented itself, and will do so again. Be part of it.
Don’t accept the label of “investors”, but commit to being among the builders of a new Hellas. I want every one of you — and everyone regardless of nationality — to succeed when investing in Greece. But what I ask of you πατριώτες is to accept a little less than foreigners, and invest in our youth. Do not only build successful businesses, but the next generation of the country’s business leaders.
Don’t think of yourselves as merely conducting “charity”, but as taking care of family members as they struggle. Make it personal. Ask your children or grandchildren to sacrifice a gift for the sake of a needy child in the homeland. Your Eminence, ask every parish to put out a special tray once a month and to adopt an organization, a family, a church with it.
Don’t aspire to only be a “lobby”, but warriors who protect their native country — her borders, her resources, her people. 100 years ago, during the Balkan Wars, Greek Americans returned home to fight for Hellas, and helped buy ships and planes that liberated much of what we consider home today. Band together again and make sure that your representatives know that there are Hellenic issues that they MUST satisfy you on in order to gain your support.
Hellenes have risen to the challenge every time history has issued it. The challenge has been issued not only to me, not only to my people, but to you as well. We will all be remembered by how we respond.
Hellenic American Leadership Council