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Politics

Andreas Dracopoulos Talks to TNH on SNF’s Philosophy, Philanthropy and the Community

NEW YORK – Every conversation, discussion, or interview with Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) co-President Andreas Dracopoulos is a unique experience. Such is the strength of his character and leadership qualifications.

And this interview (and he does not often grant interviews) is a prime example. Andreas, as everyone calls him, is not preaching, but sharing his thoughts with everyone.

And he dares to say things publicly that others only whisper in private. As, for example, to the problems affecting the construction of the St. Nicholas National Shrine.

The full interview follows:

TNH: You always refer in your speeches to your late uncle, Stavros Niarchos, with exemplary love and respect. What is the basic principle that you have learned from him that affects how you make decisions even today for SNF?

AD: We should never forget where we come from. I had a very close and special relationship with my great uncle and we worked together during the last few years of his life. His approach resonated with me, and still does today: work hard (and play hard, try to enjoy life), always give the best you can no matter what you are doing, don’t ask others to do what you yourself will not or cannot do, if you are hard on others be harder on yourself…as long as you are not trying to hurt anyone, don’t worry about what others are saying about you…philotimo, meraki, pride, respect… things that I have tried to live by every single day of my own life and values that I try to share and instill in my children.

TNH: The contributions to society of SNF, which you lead and direct, are of unprecedented value, and in the process and due to your general behavior you have become one of the most admired Greeks in the world. How do you feel about that?

AD: Honored, humbled, happy, proud, and even more responsibility. Stubbornly committed to keep on delivering.

TNH: The SNF Cultural Center has become, after the Acropolis, the focal point in Athens. But equally important are SNF’s gifts to combat poverty and the health sector crisis in Greece. To accomplish those goals, you need the close cooperation of whatever government is in power at the moment. What is it like to collaborate with them?

AD: As we have always said, each grantee is our collaborator. We believe in the positive multiplier effect of any good collaboration, we believe in public-private partnerships and in what they can offer in today’s complicated world. Once there are no hidden agendas and there is hard work, transparency, and a common vision, miracles can happen. We do not replace the state, we simply try to complement it for the common good. Governments come and go, but our intention is that our work will remain diachronic with positive effects on society at large. Governments are there to serve the people. We work with whomever will serve their mission and their people, and improve society at large. We all have responsibilities and should be accountable to our missions to serve.

TNH: We are happy to see your substantial gifts to our Greek-American community as well. From the St. Demetrios High School in Astoria to the large donation for the construction of the St. Nicholas National Shrine. What is your reaction to the situation regarding St. Nicholas and the Archdiocese overall?

AD: I am in shock though, unfortunately, not really surprised. We have worked in more than 120 countries around the world and have provided more than 4000 grants. And the only real issues we have encountered have to do with (some) grants to our Greek-American community. What more can I say? Persons in leadership positions need to reboot, to remind themselves why they are there in the first place, and should have the common sense and decency to go home when they have to go. Enough!

(Editors note: Due to a technical error the following paragraph was not included in our printed edition. Our apologies to our readers and to Mr. Andreas Dracopoulos).

And of course we all have to work together as one community to support our Church, our customs and rituals, and last but equally important, our Greek language. Without the Greek language our Hellenic roots will also be lost, with whatever repercussions this may entail…

TNH: What are the criteria upon which you base your decision to approve or reject a project?

AD: Our internal guidelines are indeed quite simple: does the proposed grant have a positive effect on society at large and are the people involved with the applying organization ethical, efficient, professional, etc.? If the answer to those two questions is “yes,” then we have to be able to “prove” to ourselves why we would ever decline such a request . We are not perfect by any means, I am sure we have made mistakes, but I would rather make a mistake in giving “too much” than declining a worthy proposal. And so that is how we proceed.

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