NEW YORK – Retired 4-Star Admiral James Stavridis, Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, presented a lecture titled, “21st Century Security Challenges and Opportunities” at the Kimisis Church of the Hamptons on August 8.
The lecture is one of the major summertime events of a parish that does not slow down after June. Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Fr. Constantine Lazarakis, and the Parish Council, led by President Gus Karpathakis, will welcome the guests.
Stavrides, who will be signing copies of his book, The Accidental Admiral, is the author of six books and hundreds of articles. He told The National Herald his presentation is “a look at the global security situation which I think we can all agree is pretty dangerous.”
“There will obviously also be a conversation about Greece and its economic challenges and the challenges in the eurozone,” he said.
“It’s important that we recognize that Greece is in an incredibly important geographic position, right on the nexus of terrorist routes, in a very contentious area for NATO, and is a willing participant in all NATO operation. It has been a very good and constructive partner from a geopolitical perspective and it affords extremely important strategic bases for the alliance and the United States,” he said.
So “Point 1 is: Greece Matters,” and not just in the financial scheme of things,” he continued.
His second point is that “Greece has an incredibly difficult time ahead and it is vitally important that the U.S., the troika, Greece, all work in a constructive way and not throw stones at each other.”
“I spent a lot of time in negotiations over the years and personality matters,” he told TNH. “How people address each other matters – whether it is with respect or lack of respect – and I think there is plenty of blame for both sides. Those negotiations were not conducted in my view in an entirely professional way on both sides. There were personal attacks and it was counterproductive,” he said.
It was noted that Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister, said he was running on two hours of sleep per night for months. “How it is possible for people to be making optimal decisions,” under those conditions TNH asked. “I think you answered your own question,” Stavrides replied.
“I am not an economist,” he said, shifting into that area, “but most economists agree – even the IMF says that – we will have to see some restructuring of Greek debt, and provide some means of lift to the Greek economy. We will not solve the problem simply by a series of cuts that bring more downward economic pressure… you have to use some form of expansionary policy to stimulate growth to avoid an endless downward spiral.”
He emphasized, however, that Greece must also take action on matters like reducing tax evasion and other structural reforms like raising the retirement age and reducing the bloated public sector. “Most responsible Greeks recognize this, and that’s the painful part of this, but it has to come with some kind of stimulus or the boat won’t float.”
Stavridis agreed that the opportunity dimension must be addressed, for example, making it easier for entrepreneurs, especially young people, to open businesses.”
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
The presentation will include a discussion on ISIS and the massive migrations that are from Africa and the Middle East to Europe, and he will also look at cyber risk, the situation in Ukraine and China.
“It’s a walk around the world to look at the challenges, but I hate talks that suddenly stop with the message ‘there it is. It’s a pretty dangerous world. What do you think of that?”
He said he tries to then talk about opportunities, to also focus on what is going well.
A Q & A and reception will follow.
Stavrides is enjoying the summer. His only regret is that the referendum interfered with his planned trip to Greece. “It was not going to be productive to have meetings with government officials.”
He is looking forward to a vacation trip and visit to his family in Florida next week, where he grew up, his father Paul George Stavrides being stationed there as a U.S. Marine.
His paternal grandparents were refugees from the Smyrna region, and his mother, Shirley Anne, is of Pennsylvania Dutch stock.
Asked if he ever pursued genealogical research, Stavrides said his sister was more interested in that. “I am one to look forward. I’m very proud to be a Greek-American and proud of my family’s courage, coming here during difficult times,” passing through Ellis Island and settling in Allentown, PA.
Stavrides and his father have led parallel lives. After his military career “He was still a relatively young man. He earned a PhD in higher education and became the president of Allegheny Community College in the Pittsburgh area.
He acknowledged that his path was inspired by this father “his example based on patriotism and courage, and the fact that he became president of a college was very much on my mind.”
Paul George “loved to mentor young people and was a natural teacher. Throughout his time in the Marine Corps he spent a lot of time helping young people and he wanted to continue that as a civilian and the same rationale applied to me.”
“He was a fabulous father,” Stavrides said, and added he was also blessed with great mentors, including Admiral Michael Mullin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Vice Admiral Cutler Dawson, Secretary Defense Robert Gates – “the was instrumental in recommending I become an educator…he later become the president of Texas A&M.”
Among the things he learned from them are: “Never lose your temper. Stay calm at all times. Always focus on the positive – be an optimist. Optimism is a very powerful force.”
They also reinforced the value of education, and last but not least, they showed him the value of family, which means “Making sure that you put your family first in your heat, knowing that there will be times when you have to take on hard jobs and cannot always be the perfect father or husband.”