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Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addresses the 146th Boston College Graduation Ceremony in Boston on Monday 23 May, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Dimitris Papamitsos)
BOSTON – Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis was the keynote speaker at the 146th commencement ceremony of Boston College, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate. He is the first Prime Minister of Greece to deliver a commencement speech at an American university graduation.
Mitsotakis, who said he was honored to speak at the ceremony, told the 20,000 guests in the audience and the 3,000 graduates – and the world, since the ceremony was broadcast live – “I have faith in your generation, that you will not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Mitsotakis said he had flown to the United States twice in one week, meeting with President Joe Biden on May 16, and addressing a Joint Session of Congress the next day, but declared, “I am very happy to be here with you.”
On substantive matters, the Prime Minister spoke about democracy and the threat of populism, explaining that, “my generation thought that democracy would be easy, ignoring the fact that this requires constant effort,” and adding that “democracies are threatened by voices that offer easy solutions to difficult problems.” He also spoke about social media and its current influence.
Mitsotakis spotlighted the war on European continent, saying that is is causing pain and threatens a global recession. He also addressed climate change.
Appealing to the graduating classes, he told them it is their duty to reinvent democracy, and urged them to not lose faith that they could change the future.
He even cited verses from a song by Greek singer-songwriter Vassilis Papakonstantinou which says, “I am afraid of the things that will happen to me without me” but he also referred to Greek poet C.P. Cavafy’s ‘Ithaca,’ which says that “it is not the destination but the journey that matters.”
The premier urged the young men and women to “make the world a better place, enjoy life, and seek happiness,” offering the observation that nothing will make the graduates happier than their relationships with other people, and he referred to the song ‘The End’ by The Beatles, in particular the verse: “and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
After mentioning his ties with Boston College – “my wife Mareva graduated from BC with a political science degree in 1989, my son Konstantinos graduated from BC in 2020 as a history major” – he pointed out that, “I wouldn’t give up the chance to address the graduates of the most prominent college in America with a Greek motto – ‘Aen Aristevin,’ ‘Ever to Excel.’ All in all, that is why I ended up flying from Greece to America twice in the past nine days, and I am so pleased that I did so.”
Mitsotakis then reminisced not only about his own commencement ceremony, but the particular moment in history too:
“As I was preparing to address you today, I remembered the days when I was graduating from college a full generation ago, in 1990. The Commencement speaker at my graduation in those heady days was the Chancellor of West Germany, Helmut Kohl, who was already laying the groundwork for the reunification of his divided country. ‘This is a time of joy, pride and gratitude,’ Chancellor Kohl told us. ‘Freedom and unity is becoming reality. The dream of a free, peaceful and just world will materialize, provided that we do not relax our common efforts.’
“He, but also we in the audience, had every right to be enthusiastic. Just eight months before my graduation, the Berlin Wall, the concrete symbol of the divide between freedom and democracy on one side and repression and totalitarianism on the other, had come crashing down. I still remember getting goosebumps watching the events unfold on television.
“Within a year the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe would be toppled, the Soviet Union would cease to exist, and the last vestiges of the Cold War would be swept away.
It is difficult to convey to you how optimistic those times were. We did not just savor the moment, but we also made predictions about the future.”
Mitsotakis then addressed the timely topic of the opportunities and challenges presented by technology:
“For the past thirty years now, we have wholeheartedly embraced rapidly advancing technology as a force of good, without fully analyzing its economic, social, but also moral implications.
“Take social media. A decade ago it was unquestionably heralded as a societal revolution, upending the traditional top-down hierarchy of information and media. The apotheosis of free speech. A god-sent tool that allowed democratic forces all over the world to organize themselves against authoritarian regimes and break down government censorship of information.
“And where are we today? Social media is polarizing public debate and transforming the public sphere into a modern-day version of the tower of Babel, where we speak different languages and we only listen to those who share the same views with us.
“On top of that we are again faced with the unthinkable. A war on the European continent which is causing unending human suffering but is also threatening us with a global recession.”
Prior to Mitsotakis’ speech prominent Greek-Americans who were present in the special booth the college had assigned to them spoke to TNH about the event. Former governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate in 1988 Mr. Michael Dukakis said, “we are all very proud of Greece and its Prime Minister’s presence at BC Commencement.” He also said “we are very much concerned about the course of the world because we have a mad man head of Russia.”
His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston said, “we are very happy and honored that the Prime Minister of Greece is the keynote speaker of BC commandment and also the recipient of the honorary doctor’s degree.”
George Behrakis prominent businessman, philanthropist and member of the board of trustees at BC said that, “we are very proud here in America. I have heard him speak many times and I am very impressed and very proud as a person of Greek origin to have Prime Minister Mitsotakis here who can speak fluent English – very impressive. He makes proud all the Greeks here in America.”
Well known journalist and author Nicholas Gage said, “it is a great honor for us Greeks for the presence and [the honor shown] Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis last week in Washington and today here in Boston.”
After the ceremony a luncheon was hosted by BC in honor of Mitsotakis and his guests on college grounds.
ASTORIA – The Pancyprian Association of America Cultural Division presented the Pancyprian Choir of New York with Artistic and Musical Director Phyto Stratis in the enchanting concert titled ‘Celebration’ featuring the songs of Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Loizos, and Stavros Xarhakos on June 4 at the Archdiocesan Hellenic Cultural Center in Astoria.
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