Editorial: The democratic legacy of Barack Obama
The speech of Barack Obama at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation encapsulated all of…
The speech of Barack Obama at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation encapsulated all of the characteristics of a top leader. The speech amounted to the political legacy of a leader who governed a super-power for eight years, during a difficult period, but who did not forget his ideas, did not give in to populism, who despite his mistakes and errors tried to change his country, to make the world better and safer.
His belief in democracy, as everyone who saw his speech realized, was not opportunistic, flexible or pretextual. The democratic values – as first established in ancient Athens and later enriched, particularly in the past two centuries – continue to inspire him and a motivating force in his politics. “I believe, after eight years ,that the basic longing to live with dignity, the fundamental desire to have control of our lives and our future, and to want to be a part of determining the course of our communities and our nations these yearnings are universal”. No sound minded person could argue against this.
Our country may have given birth to Democracy , but after all we have gone through, especially in recent years, we need someone – in this case an American in Greece, where anti-Americanism was for many decades the passport for a political career – to remind us of the timeless values; the role of the responsible citizen, which beyond that of a president and politicians; the need for dialog, consensus and compromise; the respect of human rights, the separation of powers, the freedom of press, the freedom of religious belief and combating inequalities.
Barack Obama however did not just stay there. He referred to all the problems that affect the modern world, the major inequalities and opportunities generated by globalization, the resurgence of nationalism and racism. Of course he passionately defended an open, liberal society, which despite its problems, is the best political system that allows everyone to at least hope in a better future.
Unfortunately, as the recent US elections demonstrated, he is the exception and not the rule. The lack of leadership on an global level, especially in our country which is struggling with the crisis, is significant. Consequently we are increasingly addicted to demagogue leaders who invest in division – “us or them” – and nationalism, who cultivate lies and unrealistic promises to win over the votes of terrified and exhausted voters.
The outgoing American President may not have solved our problems, but his stability, certainty and democratic beliefs will be missed.