11/25/2016 02:43 EST | Updated 11/25/2016 02:56 EST

3 Things I Learned From President Obama's Speech In Athens

Yannis Behrakis / Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, Greece November 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

This past August, I had the opportunity to represent the European Union at the G(irls)20 Summit in Beijing, China. Coming back to Greece from this life-changing experience, my team and I focused a lot on improving our startup "Effect," a social enterprise to tackle Youth Unemployment.

A testament to our hard work, last week we had the honour of attending U.S.President Barack Obama's remarks during his visit to Athens. It was the first time I had the chance to listen to this charismatic leader and most importantly, it happened here, in my country. As a young woman from Greece, I was particularly impacted by President Obama's speech and here is what I think every young person should keep from it.

Faith in Democracy

The whole speech was an hymn for democracy, aiming to remind us that after all this time, since democracy was first born here in Greece, its flame still fuels the progress of our society. He reminded us that democracy is neither perfect, nor complete. For example, the first forms of democracy excluded women and certain societal groups from basic rights, and the process of advancing our democracy is far from complete even today.

But, President Obama also reminded us what we have achieved through democracy and everything we have managed to accomplish, because a young person had the freedom to use the internet, to share her ideas, to have control of her life and to live with equality and dignity. Because, that's when societies truly flourish and economic growth is unleashed. Democracy means that you often won't get 100 per cent of what you want. But, this can't be reason enough for a young person to lose faith in democracy, because this will mean they have lost faith in people.

Young generations have to create their own future:

Like most people, President Obama has his own sources of inspiration. Who are they?

They are "young people, who -- in challenging times -- have chosen hope over fear, who believe that they can shape their own destiny, who refuse to accept the world as it is and are determined to remake it as it should be."

He reminded us how to be strong, take initiatives and fight for the world we want.

Every generation has the chance to shape the world in the way they want it to be. I'm proud to say, that this thought does not get me frightened or nervous, it just creates a sense of urgency and a need to live up to my values and my goals. I couldn't express this better than what has been my favourite line of his speech:

"Because in the end, it is up to us. It's not somebody else's job, it's not somebody else's responsibility. That's why the most important office in any country is not 'president' or 'prime minister.' The most important title is 'citizen.'"

Can we get out of the crisis?:

As a nation, we often put the blame on other people for the economic crisis of Greece and Europe in general and everything that come from it. What we often forget, is that our choices reflect us, that we get to choose the kind of country we will be, the kind of values that will define us. The question is not "if we can get out of the crisis," but "if we can let go of our limiting beliefs" and realize that democracy is in place to enable us to change what we don't like and collectively define the future we want to live in.

Overall, I was thrilled that President Obama focused on fundamental values of the Greek society, "democracy" and "philotimo." Values that we never forget despite the crisis and keep us united no matter what.

He reminded us how to be strong, take initiatives and fight for the world we want. He underlined the importance of providing the young people with skills and opportunities. He focused on the importance of entrepreneurship as a means to let our ideas flourish and develop into impactful solutions for a better world. And, we might live in a world full of uncertainty and paradigm shifts, but sometimes all we need is to focus on a few guiding principles and let them lead us to to the world we want to live in.


By Marianthi Nika, delegate representing the European Union, from Greece, at the 2016 G(irls)20 Summit in Beijing, China.

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