The meaning of our national identity and the challenges Greek society faces inside a complex international environment were the topics of reflection of the important thinkers, academics but also athletes who took part in the one-day Conference called “Greece in the Modern World: National Identity and the Challenges of the 21st Century”, organised by the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation in cooperation with the Panhellenic Women’s Organisation “Panathinaiki”, under the auspices of His Excellency the President of the Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, on Thursday 21 June, at the Amphitheatre of the Acropolis Museum.
This Conference was also honoured with the presence of the President’s wife, Mrs Sissy Pavlopoulou, who is a member of the Scientific Committee of the Panhellenic Women’s Organisation “Panathinaiki” and a honorary member of the ELPIDA Association of Friends of Children with Cancer.
The President of the Republic, Mr Prokopios Pavlopoulos, whose speech opened the Conference proceedings, spoke of an important aspect of “the Greek People’s National Duty”, or stated otherwise, determining the “fundamentals of Greece’s mission in the modern world.” “It is not enough for us to rest on the “laurels” of our momentous national heritage if we are to move forward in the Modern World. Within this historical context, we must, if we are to serve our National Goal, remain firmly united – for no one can ignore the cost of our discords and rifts over time – and armour today’s Greece, since it is crucial to its growth, against the modern challenges looming ahead. In particular, we must: Restore the prestige of our country… Above all – and looking back on the heavy cost of our mistakes in the recent past – we must give the upcoming generations the means and the opportunities, to build the future of our country, according to its truly inexhaustible potential. And our primary concern, if we are to move steadily in this direction, is to defend our National Issues”, the President characteristically said.
Greece and the essence of our national identity were also the topics broached by the President of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation, and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, during her introductory statement: “Greece is the country where the supreme concept of “Homeland” was born, from as early as the times of Homer, Pericles and his invention “Democracy”. It is the country which gave birth to the notions of “Reason”, “Nobility” and “Harmony”. Greece is the rocky promontory in the Mediterranean, in the words of our great poet Giorgos Seferis, which has no other possession but the efforts of its people, the sea, the light of the sun, and its immense tradition handed down to us through the centuries without interruption. I have great faith in this Greece. It is my overriding motivation and the reason why our Foundation has been fighting for over 21 years with a deep sense of responsibility to build a better world for the future generations of our homeland.”
At the conference, moderated by journalist Ioannis Politis, the Government was represented by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Yiannis Amanatidis, who during his brief greeting issued a call for national unity: “Let us write a new chapter in our history and give our country the place it deserves in the modern world. This presupposes the unity of the Greek people”, said Mr. Amanatidis, while a written greeting was also sent by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, who among other things, stated: “Our faith, history, tradition, customs and our sense of honour, bring us closer to each other, and are the ingredients that shape our identity. The need for solidarity and cooperation between families, institutional bodies, and businessmen, has now become an imperative.”
Brief greetings were also sent by the President of the Academy of Athens, Professor Antonis Kounadis, who spoke of the importance to preserve the Greek language and the teaching of the humanities, in the following words: “It is the duty of our country first towards itself and towards mankind to spearhead a universal attempt to revive the study of the humanities which represents the very essence of education, the teaching of Greek culture and classical philology” ,the Chief of the Navy General Staff Vice Admiral Nikolaos Tsounis, who mentioned the national problems of defence and security, in an “environment of never-ending provocations” within which “the Naval Forces, retaining the power of deterrence, and the credibility of their fleet, despite the current fiscal difficulties that necessarily led to smaller budgets, remain the guardian of national principles and values”, as well as the President of the Panhellenic Women’s Organisation “Panathinaiki” Mrs Maria Gianniri who stressed: “We are obliged to preserve the treasures of our nation, religion, language, and family, for they have been the custodians of our Greekness”.
Mr. Dimitris Mavros, Managing Director of MRB Hellas and Mr Kyriakos Pierrakakis, Research Director of DiaNEOsis, under the moderation of Mr Nikos Chatzinikolaou, President of the Athens Daily Newspaper Owners Association, presented an important part of DiaNEOsis’ research, under the title “What do Greeks think – 2018”, which reflects the general tendencies and character of Greek society. At the same time, they also spoke extensively about both the demographic issue of the country and the position of the new generation in this environment.
Immediately thereafter, a lively dialogue followed between philosopher and writer, Mr Stelios Ramfos, and journalist, Mr Pavlos Tsimas, who tried to outline the state of contemporary Greek society with its virtues and pathologies: “We have a democracy of wishes, not values. This is terrible. Optimism is the truth. With truth we may find a way, with fake optimism there is none. Future means hope. Our tragedy is that we hope so that we may not have to think. We hope so that we may not have to plan ahead. We must understand this”, Mr Ramfos said, among other things.
The Gold Olympic Champion of Windsurfing, Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, spoke with journalist, Popi Tsapanidou, about his strong feelings when he won an Olympic medal with the blue-white colours but also the hard labour, the frustrations and the value of persevering, thus deeply touching the audience. “My greatest team is Greece. For me, what matters most, is not “what I want from life”, but “what life needs from me”. Because it is only then that my heart opens to the outside world. If we succeed in overcoming our memories with our dreams, we shall remain young at heart. We shall remain fighters. I have a debt towards Greece. It doesn’t have a debt towards me”, the Gold medalist said.
A different voice, the voice of the outermost regions of Greece, conveyed to the attendees, the President of the Municipal Community of Kellis, in the Prefecture of Florina, Mr Athanasios Taskas. It is worth mentioning that the Municipal Community of Kellis received an award in 2013 by the Academy of Athens since it is the community with the largest families throughout the country.
An interesting discussion followed between prominent representatives of the country’s intellectual circles under the moderation of journalist Mara Zacharea, with, as primary focus, Greece before the challenges of the 21st century. The Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaias and Lavreotikis spoke of the “Church before the Challenges of the Modern World”, the Rector of the University of Athens, Professor Athanasios Meletios Dimopoulos, spoke of how we can forge national consciousness in Today’s Greece, Professor of Public Law from the University of Athens, Spyridon Flogaitis referred to the role that Greek education and civilization should play in the process of European integration, Professor of Law and Theory from the University of Athens, Aristeidis Chatzis, spoke of the “Liberal Democracy and its Enemies” and writer and Professor of Psychology from the Panteion University, Foteini Tsalikoglou, who tried to capture the psychological state of modern Greece.
About the “Greece we want” spoke the Academic, University Professor of High Energy Physics from the University of Texas A& M, Mr Dimitrios Nanopoulos. “We don’t have the time. Things are moving, as we say in physics, exponentially faster. We no longer live in the era of the antediluvian carts. Things run at the speed of light. Metaphorically and literally. We can no longer afford to remain in our shell and stay away from where the action is. I am in favour of a Greece open to the world, which belongs to the world. A Greece which will prove that we are truly offsprings of the soil on which we stand”, he said.
The Conference closed with a brief but comprehensive epilogue by Mrs Sissy Pavlopoulou, wife of His Excellency the President of the Republic and Member of the Scientific Community of the Panhellenic Women’s Organisation “Panathinaiki”. “To close, I would like to speak of the two principles that have guided me all through my life. The first principle is , the grandeur of mankind which lies in its efforts to find in the worst moment or the toughest ordeal something positive to hold on to. In its ability to draw strength from it and to carry on regardless. The second principle is to turn information into knowledge, to learn how to process it instead of being misled by it. It is only in this manner, with the goal of processing in mind, that we will succeed in turning this information into wisdom, into a critical yardstick in order to take the right decisions”, said Mrs Pavlopoulou.
This event was also attended among others by Former Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou, the academic and poet Kiki Dimoula, the wife of the Hellenic Army Chief of Staff, Evangelos Apostolakis, Despina, the wife of State Secretary Alekos Flambouraris, Evi, the President of the Acropolis Museum, Professor Dimitrios Pantermalis, Mr Andreas Potamianos and Fani Palli-Petralia.