The two-day visit of President Obama to Greece, where the United States President decided to deliver his last official speech on foreign soil, is of utmost importance. Barack Obama chose to close the circle of official visits of his Presidency in Athens, the womb of democracy, art and philosophy and the cradle of Western civilization.
Driven by his classical education and his profound classical cultural training, the President reserved the final stop of his official tours for Greece, the birthplace of civilization, the sporting ideal, the theater and architecture. He would have liked to deliver his formal speech from Mount Pnyx, overlooking the Acropolis, under the gaze of the perfection of the Parthenon, in order to bask in the holy ground of the venue in which democracy was born. However, he gave his speech at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center on Wednesday.
Many analyses and lengthy discourses appeared in the Greek media surrounding the precise context of the President's visit. And, I do not dispute that Obama's interest with respect to the country's financial crisis, its ongoing austerity, the migrant situation and Cyprus is genuine, that he is truly interested in the aforementioned issues on an academic basis.
That which is important, however, are the semantics of Obama's visit, the swan song of an eight-year presidential term, as they are highly symbolic. In choosing Greece as his farewell stop, the United States President bestowed enormous value upon the country that gave birth to the principles of Western civilization.
Simply, the President put everything into its proper perspective, lauding Greece's deserved place as the origin of the Western world. For, daily, Obama is in sight of the archetypal Corinthian, Doric and Ionic columns that abound in Washington and in other capitals around the world and, surely, he often listens to and quotes the words of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon and Demosthenes.
Beneath the Acropolis, where it all happened, where art attained perfection, where the development of ideas became philosophy, where it all began and was eventually bequeathed, as of a saga of classical Greece and its civilization, to the rest of the West.
Barack Obama did not hide his admiration for the country that gave birth to democracy, 2500 years ago, for the ancient Greeks who perfected sculpture and architecture, and for the land that established the Olympics, not only as a simple sporting event showcasing a good fight, but that invented the concept of the ceasefire and the idea of the cessation of hostilities.
With knowledge and ancient scripture in suitcase, with deep admiration for the miracle of classical Hellenism, Obama may have arrived in a Greece with the pride of its citizens gravely wounded, but, regardless, he came to pay homage and to express his admiration to the Greeks, thoroughly believing that they are the offspring of a glorious history.
"I think we all know that the world owes an enormous debt to Greece and the Greek people. So many of our ideas of democracy, so much of our literature and philosophy and science can be traced back to roots right here in Athens,"the President said.
Contrary to the Greek government's rhetoric, Barack Obama may not have much sway over Greece's negotiations on debt relief, nor in its dealings with respect to Cyprus, but the symbolism of his visit is paramount, not only for Greece, but for all of Western Europe, which brought unnecessary, heartless hardship to the country that created the model of thought and art on which our world was founded.
In my opinion, it seems that the importance given on the final tour of this most educated President to Athens is a slap in the face of Germany which appears as a mere stopover as part of a penultimate business trip. The story can be viewed in the terms of Alexander the Great and his rampage for the "revenge of the Acropolis."