Mod­er­ate, re­spectable and com­mit­ted

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The most im­por­tant thing for politi­cians is not re­ally whether their name will go down in the an­nals of his­tory, but, rather, how ci­ti­zens feel about them when they are in of­fice and whether they are re­mem­bered af­ter the glow of pub­lic life has faded. For­mer pres­i­dent Costis Stephanopou­los was po­lite, sweet-tem­pered and forth­right in his pub­lic deal­ings and was treated with a re­spect and trust that ex­tended beyond the ide­o­log­i­cal bound­aries of his Demo­cratic Re­newal party (which was the only party that in 1989 op­posed grant­ing tele­vi­sion li­censes to “dan­ger­ous peo­ple”) or New Democ­racy, which he later joined. Even though he was elected pres­i­dent in 1995 thanks to so­cial­ist PASOK and the conservative Po­lit­i­cal Spring party, the un­bi­ased way in which he per­formed his du­ties earned him the sup­port of a much wider sec­tion of the pub­lic. That is why Stephanopou­los was not for­got­ten even af­ter his sec­ond term in of­fice, which ended in 2005, and even though he was not ob­sessed with pub­lic­ity, like so many of his pre­de­ces­sors and suc­ces­sors (some with very lit­tle to boast about). In fact, the for­mer pres­i­dent be­lieved his great­est achieve­ment to be the bond he main­tained with the pub­lic through­out the 1995-2005 pe­riod; he trav­eled ex­ten­sively and reached out to the peo- ple, not in a staged set­ting or with a pa­tron­iz­ing man­ner, but sim­ply, nat­u­rally. We had good rea­son to re­mem­ber Stephanopou­los just last week, be­fore he fell ill, dur­ing US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s visit to Athens. The event re­minded us of Bill Clin­ton’s Greek visit in Novem­ber 1999 and the speech Stephanopou­los gave to wel­come him. It was a speech that was later called “his­toric,” a term that was well mer­ited be­cause Stephanopou­los did not get bogged down in pro­to­col or flat­tery and was gen­uine in his sen­ti­ment of re­spect. This was not the only in­ci­dent in which he dis­played the stature of his of­fice. He of­ten de­parted from the preva­lent views of his conservative back­ground and was also pre­pared to op­pose pub­lic sen­ti­ment. For ex­am­ple, he openly de­fied the pop­u­lar Arch­bishop Christodou­los and his “back to the roots” the­o­ries; he scolded the pub­lic for boo­ing Amer­i­can ath­letes at the 2004 Olympic Games, telling them they had hu­mil­i­ated the na­tion; and he also de­fended the right of Al­ba­nian A+ stu­dent Odysseas Ce­naj to carry the flag dur­ing an Ochi Day pa­rade. In politics, Costis Stephanopou­los was like a cy­clist: mod­er­ate, per­sis­tent, mod­est and com­mit­ted. And this is what the coun­try needs, not wannabe For­mula 1 driv­ers with delu­sions of grandeur.

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