“The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.” – James Freeman Clarke
Today, Greek Summer 2020 was officially launched to welcome the world back to a truly incredible country. Greece’s Prime Minister spoke from Santorini this weekend, about a bold plan to save Greece from the looming catastrophe that threatens so many around the world. Ultimately, our future will depend on well-founded, bold action, so that our children and grandchildren can live, love, and thrive, just as we all dream they will.
The “Why” of Politics
When I was a kid sitting on the front porch of our house in Jesup, Georgia, I remember many times listening to my father and his political colleagues talk about what matters. A lawyer in the south in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, my Dad was for a time the Attorney General of the state of Georgia, and later an adviser to presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. His study and his passion was the letter of the law, the ideas, and decisions stamped into government, the fabric of the Republic, as it were. When I took up political science, my interest became the philosophies, and the leaders who would execute the laws which were derived from those ideas. You see, the “cause” of politics is the people.
For me, the ideologies behind candidates, governments, and the societies they support are what matter most. Political Science is, after all, about this. Somehow, maybe its mental laziness on my part, I’ve learned to key on leadership in order to understand success and failure within our systems. And today we are definitely in short supply where great leadership is concerned. Evaluating a Donald Trump or his British counterpart Boris Johnson should be, an exercise in plain logic, unfortunately, the people have so few good examples to compare to crude politicians and greedy businessmen.
The True Statesman
There are a few examples who possess the essential quality we must look for, which is, ironically a quality that is ultra-rare. Politicians, you see, are common. Anybody can put on makeup and insert themselves into the system. And when we elect or crown the common ones, we end up wanting, always wanting for the same prosperity, justice, and end well. Vladimir Putin falls into this category, regardless of what you may have been told. And a lady example of a stateswoman is New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is an even better example.
“A statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the nation. A politician is a statesman who places the nation at his service.” – Georges Pompidou
Mitsotakis, who’s the son of former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, just made the boldest move any European leader has taken in a generation. With the world spotlight on Greece for having triumphed over a horrible pandemic, Greece’s PM set in motion stage two of a plan to avert catastrophe for his people.
Make no mistake, Mitsotakis’ opening Greek Summer 2020 from Santorini is a bold and crucial move by the prime minister. And decisive movement at such times, is the mark of a great leader. This goes beyond party, beyond partisanship, and to the heart of what all people need in a leader.
“The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians.” – Benjamin Disraeli
It would appear that sometimes politicians can elevate themselves into the realm of trusted statesmen. Mitsotakis has set himself apart from the foggy crowd, in many ways since he took up the mantle of PM. Today he has taken a chance for his people. He’s put his reputation on the line to save Greece from a catastrophe ten times worse than the 2008-2009 economic crash. The prime minister from Santorini:
“Greek tourism is back. We are opening up to visitors, but we are doing it with your safety as our utmost priority. And we have worked very hard to ensure our guests will be safe and stay healthy. Today, my message to you is very simple. Come to Greece.”
More importantly, he’s done so with meticulous preparation, organization, and something no other politician on the world stage has managed in 30 years. He’s added a touch of class as you can see from the broadcast from ancient Thera.
I have friends who are members of every political party in Greece, in the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Russia, and a dozen more nations. Many times their politics do not revolve around issues or progress as much as on hardline status quo. Political persuasion, like religion, can be a very steadfast tradition. But there is a longer tradition than SYRIZA or New Democracy, or Golden Dawn or the Communist Party of Greece dogma.
Greeks once stood together behind the art that has lasted millennia, and laws which created the basis for every ideal society thrives upon. Greeks, and especially their Minoan predecessors here on Crete, steered the world to civility and unimaginable prosperity. This happened when the crossroads of the world was the Aegean. History is repeating if I don’t miss my guess.
Ultimately, the reopening of Greece to tourists could be an utter failure. The plan could fail simply because nobody is traveling. Or, it could be deemed a failure if even the smallest outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19 arrives with travelers. But this is how you can tell a true statesman from an ordinary politician or businessman. For once in a great while, it’s time for all Greeks (even us adopted ones) in the world to pull together, to make Greek Summer 2020 a success.
“Whatever possession we gain by our sword cannot be sure or lasting, but the love gained by kindness and moderation is certain and durable.” – Alexander the Great