Karolos Papoulias, A Personal Testimony

I disagreed with Karolos Papoulias on many issues when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs. So, when he visited New York to represent Greece in various meetings, he was polite to me, but he also displayed his displeasure.

And yet, later as President of the Republic, he honored me – along with others – with the Order of the Phoenix, a supreme state honor, acknowledging my service to the homeland, at an event held in the main hall of the Presidential Palace.

It was clear that he put his duty above his feelings and politics. In this way he honored himself, but also – most importantly – his office.

It would be neither the first nor the last time he did something like that.

I refer to this small personal example now that he has died to make the point that politicians and other leaders – including publishers – more often than we can imagine, transcend personal bitterness, feelings of victimization, and political expediency to do their duty. In doing so, they honor their office, serve the interests of their country, contribute to political stability and, as much as possible, to the civilized discourse of political life.

These instances are not well known, because the political scene has become distinguished by its harshness, which leads even to societal division. Often political discourse is so biased, so trivial, so focused on personal political gain that politicians go so far as to accuse opponents even of treason or corruption on the basis of superficial matters.

In this climate it is impossible for the parties to cooperate for the common interest.

But there are times when politicians, even those who clash fiercely in public, cooperate in the background and even recognize – in private conversations – the positive traits of their opponents.

One such example was the then-Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis – father of Kyriakos Mitsotakis – who, despite the sharp, often unacceptable public attacks on him by Andreas Papandreou especially on foreign policy issues, kept the latter fully informed about national security matters through the then-director of his diplomatic office, the distinguished Ambassador Loucas Tsilas.

But this is hidden from the public because it would be difficult to juxtapose the bitter public conflicts with the behind-the-scenes cooperation of political opponents.

One such example in the United States is the late Archbishop Iakovos, who respected and honored the ecclesiastical throne so much that he did not allow himself to practice pettiness.

Of course, not all those who hold leadership positions operate according to such criteria. But there must be many who do, judging by the small but steady steps towards greater political stability and progress in Greece.

May Karolos Papoulias’ memory be eternal.


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