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Greek of the Week Features Michael Dukakis

New Greek TV's featured Greek of the Week is Michael Dukakis.

Unarguably the most famous Greek-American in recent history, Dukakis is the longest serving Governor ever in Massachusetts and reigns as the second Greek-American Governor in the United States of America. Dukakis offered a candid interview below that includes his thoughts on Greek and EU relations, Greece's economic crisis, career highlights, Greek roots and more.

Maria Athens: How would you describe yourself?

Michael Dukakis: Full of life at 80. Teaching full time at Northeastern University in Boston and UCLA during the winter quarter at Los Angeles. Kitty and I celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary this past June and are blessed with three great kids and twelve grandchildren. Still deeply involved in state and national politics.

Maria Athens: What have been the highlights of your career?

Michael Dukakis: Governor of Massachusetts for twelve years. Regrettably, a winning primary but losing final presidential election in 1988. These days I thoroughly enjoy teaching the next generation of public servants on both coasts and encouraging young people on campuses all over the country to get deeply and actively involved in politics and public service.

Maria Athens: If you had been elected President, what would your Greek foreign policy consisted of? What do you think of troika mandates placed on Greece?

Michael Dukakis: Strong support for Greece and a real effort to resolve the Cyprus situation at a time when I think it would have been possible to do so. These days I continue to wonder what EU policy makers have been thinking as they force Greece and other southern European nations to adopt austerity policies as a response to a worldwide recession. Austerity can't possibly get you out of a recession or depression. We learned that lesson in 1929. Fortunately, President Obama rejected the austerity nonsense, which is the principal reason why the U.S. is doing so much better than Europe.

Maria Athens: What are your thoughts on Greece's recent economic strides and return to markets?

Michael Dukakis: I wish I was seeing a lot more progress in Greece's efforts to get out of a terrible recession which has been exacerbated by EU policies. Clearly, Greece needs sweeping reform, but cutting spending and raising taxes is the worst way to try to get out of the economic slump it is in.

Maria Athens: What is your opinion on how the Greek government has handled its financial crisis?

Michael Dukakis: The Greek government has been doing its best to meet EU demands, but those demands have made its economic situation a lot worse than it should have been.

Maria Athens: Where does your family hail from in Greece?

Michael Dukakis: My mother was born in Larissa. Her parents came from a little village in Epirus named Vrisohori. My dad's people were from Mytilene, but like a lot of islanders they moved to the Turkish mainland where the economy was better during the Ottoman empire, and he was born and grew up in the predominantly Greek town of Adramiti, about nine miles inland from the Aegean coast. Kitty and I visited his home town about ten years ago and were warmly welcomed by the mayor and its citizens.

Maria Athens: Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing and education?

Michael Dukakis: I was very lucky. Both of my parents were great Greek-American success stories. My dad came here when he was fifteen in 1912, and twelve years later he was graduating from the Harvard Medical School. How he did it is an amazing thing, but he practiced medicine for over fifty years in Boston just a stone's throw from our Greek Orthodox cathedral. My mother came here when she was nine, and she was the first Greek-American young woman ever to go away to college. She graduated from Bates College in 1925 and became a school teacher. They were great parents and expected a lot from their sons, and we did our best to deliver. Originally, I thought I wanted to be a doctor like my dad, but I got more and more deeply involved in politics as I headed for college and decided that is what I wanted to do. I think my dad was disappointed that I didn't become a doctor, but he was very proud of me, especially when I was elected governor.

Maria Athens: How does your ethnicity influence your daily life?

Michael Dukakis: I grew up in a Greek home; learned the language; attended Sunday School; and have always been very proud of my immigrant roots and the Greek history and traditions that are a part of my life. Kitty and I try to get to Greece every two or three years, and I will forever be grateful to the Greek-American community for the terrific support they gave me in the presidential campaign of 1988. I am also very proud of my cousin Olympia and the great acting career that she has enjoyed.

Maria Athens: Where is your favorite place in Greece?

Michael Dukakis: We have a lot of favorite places--Larissa and Epirus; Mytilene; and Crete. In fact, Greece is special wherever one visits. I just think we Greek-Americans should be much more loudly protesting the EU policies that have forced the country into a terrible recession.

Maria Athens: What is the best piece of advice you could offer someone trying to fulfill his/her dream?

Michael Dukakis: I believe deeply in public service and what Pericles said about the responsibilities and obligations of citizenship, and I hope that many young Greek-Americans will follow in the footsteps of John Brademas, Paul Sarbanes, Paul Tsongas and so many others who have been great public servants. We, above all, should understand how important it is to be deeply and actively involved in the public and political life of our communities and states and country.

Last modified onWednesday, 18 March 2015 19:28