When I published my memoir, My Greek Drama in May, many people asked me why I published it first in the United States. (I have since published an updated and expanded version in Greece, my home country.)
My answer was that I wanted America to learn a little about the Greek mind, and the Greek spirit.
And I've always felt a special connection with America, and the opportunity she provides. It was my grandfather's work in the steel mills of Indiana that allowed him to provide his family a good life when he returned home to Crete.
So when I launched the multi-city book tour that I concluded early this month, the purpose was to promote the book, yes, but it also provided an unexpected opportunity to understand what makes the United States so unique. While I do not consider myself a modern day Alexis de Tocqueville, I would like to offer some insights on the America I saw over the past month.
After several events in Washington, D.C., my tour really started in Pittsburgh, where I had an opportunity to receive a mayoral proclamation (yes, my friends, March 28th is Her Excellency Ambassador Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki Day in Pittsburgh!) and to visit with the wonderful, close-knit Greek-American community there.
Seeing the coal-carrying trains and the proud steel heritage, I felt very connected to the life my grandfather lived when he came to America, even as Pittsburgh has grown and transformed into a hub of medicine, education, and innovation.
My tour effectively concluded with stops in San Francisco and Seattle, cities whose histories are more closely tied to silicon than steel.
In between, I visited Tampa, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, and New York.
Each city had its own distinct architecture, landscape, iconic features, and history -- which inevitably someone was excited to share with me, and which I was eager to learn. San Francisco felt to me almost like a European city, and was one of the most beautiful cities I've visited. Seattle felt very Asia-facing, something I hadn't realized you would find in the United States. Tampa has an interesting connection to Greece, as nearby Tarpon Springs is a place where Greek immigrant sponge divers found they could ply their home country trade.
I began to wonder how a country made up of so many geographically diverse and culturally distinct cities can function as one country.
Now that I've had a chance to reflect on my tour, I believe I have an idea.
Americans are united by a desire to make unacceptable situations better, and every American I met believes that they have the power to play a role in making that situation better.
Throughout the book tour, I was struck by how often I met Americans who asked, "How can I help Greece?"
This question came not just from those with a Greek background, but from everybody.
And just as often, someone would offer an idea for helping Greece.
This may seem commonplace to Americans, but it was a revelation to me.
One of the things I tried to do in saving the Athens Olympic Games was to get people to embrace their own role and their own power in creating the Greece they wanted to see.
In the United States, nobody needs to remind people of their own role or their own power in creating the future they want to see. Perhaps it is something that is almost written into your cultural DNA, a desire to answer your Founding Fathers' call to create a "more perfect union."
I close My Greek Drama with the writings of a fellow Cretan, Nikos Kazantzakis, who wrote, "You must love responsibility. You must say: 'I, I myself will save the world. If the world perishes, I will stand to blame."
This is an attitude I saw throughout my tour of the United States. And so, while I left the United States immensely grateful that the American people had made my book a best seller, I left even more grateful for the lesson in possibility and promise that I learned, and now bring back to Greece.