NEW YORK – Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos spoke with The National Herald’s co-editor and publisher Eraklis Diamataris on August 20 in a Zoom meeting on Facebook Live. The discussion focused on philanthropy, COVID-19, and Greece as Dracopoulos shared his insights into SNF’s tremendous philanthropic efforts during these difficult times.
In his welcoming remarks, Diamataris noted how SNF was established in 1996 following the passing of Stavros Niarchos, Dracopoulos’ uncle, who was one of the most successful and innovative business executives of the 20th century, well-known for his philanthropic efforts. The Foundation continued his legacy and has made a profound impact on the lives of those in need, in advancing Hellenism, and not only helping Greece, but countries around the world.
Diamataris asked Dracopoulos about the current global pandemic and the global economic effects and how SNF has responded to the situation.
Dracopoulos first thanked Diamataris for the opportunity and then congratulated him and his sister, Vanessa, for their efforts as co-editors and publishers of TNH, and then highlighted the importance of collaboration for philanthropic organizations, the public and private sector working together to make a difference in the world as SNF has helped by making grants in more than 130 countries.
He said, “The most important thing to remember is that we are not here to replace anyone, philanthropic organizations are here to work together with the public and private sector in a complementary way… on different projects for the good of society at large.”
“With the COVID situation, our Foundation has been affected by it, working-wise we are lucky that we can work from home in this virtual world, so our work has not been affected, if anything, there’s more work for us, that’s why we established back in April this $100 million COVID initiative… this has to do with basic health related issues also as we all know we’re still at the beginning of the socio-economic crisis. I think it’s important to note that at least in my opinion, COVID was not the cause, it was the excuse. We were caught as a global society with our pants down and COVID exacerbated and brought to the surface all the issues that are all around us, it reminded us that on its own, whether it’s the state or private enterprises, we cannot deal with problems on our own, in this global century, we talk about gloablization and the power of technology, but in the end, nobody on their own can do anything about all these issues unless we work together. It shows once again that only through collaboration we can get through these big problems, COVID maybe in a few months, a year it will go away, the thing is how will we be affected as a society, what have we learned and again unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before another COVID comes.”
“In terms of our work we try to focus on Greece, this is where we come from as a family, but we are an international foundation so we help both Greece and internationally. We believe it is also the responsibility of people with means, whether its power or financial support in situations like that to come in and help, whichever way you can… Everybody has the responsibility to come in and help so we try and help within our means, so we focused at first on the health-related issues, and the food supply with organizations that help the needy to get food and basic health, in Greece and internationally with other organizations big and small and with the state in Greece, we have already spent 2/3 of the $100 million. Many make announcements that they are going to help, but we believe you have to put your money where your mouth is, and do it… One has to act fast and try to make sure you can make as much impact as you can with what you offer, in that way, we moved fast, again it was more towards the first effects of COVID, and now we are focusing more on the longer term socio-economic issues which, unfortunately, are too big for any of us and we have to work together and are all around the issues of social justice and racism. We all have our plates full, public organizations, private organizations, there is a lot to do, and again it is all down to being active and collaborating.”
When asked about the greatest lessons he learned from his uncle Stavros Niarchos during the time they worked together, Dracopoulos said, “A lot of things, but the first thing that comes to mind is you have to work hard, I don’t care who you are, how rich you may be, you have to work hard and also the more you have the more responsibility you have to help others, his way of helping others was that he basically endowed the foundation with which we can do all the work we do today. He was a hard worker, he was working as hard as anyone until the end… And the more you have, whether it’s money or power, the more responsibility you have to make sure you share it because we all live within a human society, maybe we’re all understanding it the hard way, maybe COVID is reminding us we don’t live alone, even though we have to live alone because of the quarantines, to get out of it we have to work together, it’s about individual responsibility and it’s also a social responsibility.”
Dracopoulos also noted that “capitalism is the best system, but we have lost our way, there has to be social justice, you can’t have capitalism without social justice, more equality, and more equal opportunity. What COVID showed us, the public domain stood up in Greece, the doctors, nurses, from the public sector… but, we have to work together.”
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, “a crown jewel of Athens,” as Diamataris described it, was also discussed as were the digitization of TNH’s archive which is made possible through the support of SNF, and the recently opened Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in Manhattan, a circulating branch of the New York Public Library, the Agora at Johns Hopkins University, as well as the continuing efforts in Greece, including building new hospitals.