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Hand Picked Selections in Greece
What can you say in a few pages about a 5000 year old civilization? I will relate one small monumental bit of Greek history. To me the word ‘civilization' must encompass freedom. A country whose citizens are not free is not a civilized country. There are about 3.6 billion acres of land on this planet (I looked it up). I can specify the single acre on which civilization was born. It lies within Greece.
There is a most famous hill in Athens, the Acropolis. The Parthenon, one of the world's greatest buildings, is its crowning glory. A smaller, relatively unknown hill sits just west of the Acropolis. It is called the Aereopagus. In ancient Greece, the Acropolis was devoted to the Gods, the Aereopagus to the affairs of men. Three thousand years ago the rulers of Athens were called ‘tyrants'. Originally the word just meant ‘ruler', without the baggage it carries today. The Tyrant of Athens was appointed for life by the town's most powerful citizens. One day a week the tyrant would go up on the Aereopagus and give his judgments on matters of the day. His word was law. About 2600 years ago the ruling tyrant was, well, tyrannical. His judgments showed favoritism and he was also suspected of plotting to have his son succeed him. One hearing day, on the Aereopagus, hundreds of Athenians showed up instead of several dozen. Their spokesman told the tyrant that he was no longer in charge. The tyrant asked who was to replace him. He was told nobody, that from now on Athens would be ruled by its citizens. They had created a word to describe the new system. It was a combination of ‘demos' (people) and ‘kratia' (rule). From now on Athens would be a ‘demokratia' - democracy.
On that day, in that place, human civilization began. Every time I go to Greece I walk up the worn, slippery marble steps to the top of Aereopagus, which today is just a rubble of rock. I give thanks to those citizens who stood there so long ago for what they did on that day. If the people of Greece ever need help and I can provide it, they can count on me. I owe them. All free people are in their debt.
President, Hand Picked Selections