Greece Is Also Having a Social Crisis

The financial crisis and the resulting political instability in Greece has led to desperation and despondency that have clouded the core values of the Greek people. In a recent speech given to the Greek America Foundation, I shared my belief that Greece won't find the solution until the larger Greek community recognizes that Greece is having a social crisis. We have a social crisis because we have forgotten the undercurrent of Hellenism that unites all Greeks, which in my view is philotimo. What is philotimo? The literal translation is "love of honor" but that translation does not capture the true meaning of the word. To me it means duty, loyalty, integrity, honor, love, trust, faith, and perhaps most important of all, pride in being decent. Philotimo means the strong have a duty to help the weak. Philotimo means we should have conviction in our values and principles. It means we reap what we sow. It means taking the high road and rising above pettiness and triviality. It also means eliciting goodness and kindness through small but meaningful gestures even when dealing with the most difficult situations or dynamics. It is a totally natural expression of humanity, friendship, solidarity and empathy -- you cannot fake philotimo. To truly help Greece, its compatriots need to face the social crisis and show our philotimo. We can use our philotimo to recognize what I think is Greece's largest problem -- there is a void of hope and a deficit of opportunity and pride. We can pierce the veil of despair and hopelessness. I think before we can begin an economic recovery we need to use philotimo to restore our belief. The second step is to restore strong and inspiring leadership and the third is reconnecting with our core ancient values as a culture.

Restoring these connections can remake Greece, a country that sits at the gateway of east and west, as a regional hub of commerce and generate a service-based economy. Thousands of hugely capable small businesses can be encouraged to grow out of this disaster and be an engine of economic growth. It is not the crisis that matters, it is how we react to it -- does it confront us or do we confront it? Philotimo has been the guiding principle of my family and our group. Honesty can disarm and unite people and we always treat people with respect and friendship -- even when things sometimes turn sour. We also take care of our people -- we empower them, trust them, lead them and not be afraid to let them fail. We refuse to take advantage of other people's misery, even if it is to a financial matter of business interest. Financial gain is unimportant compared to maintaining self esteem and self-respect. True success can be achieved on the merits of adapting and innovating. And however much you adapt, always do it from a base of philotimo.