Pavlos Tsimas at the Dukakis Center: A masterclass in public service
Pavlos Tsimas likes to tell a story about his encounters with former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. It was 2008 in Boston, the second time Tsimas was to interview the Duke, as he is known in certain circles. Welcoming Tsimas to his office at Northeastern University, where he has taught for more than two decades, Dukakis asked whether his guest would like some coffee. "Yes, thank you," replied Tsimas, thinking his host would summon a secretary or assistant to fetch the coffee.
It was not to be. Dukakis rose from his desk, went over to the coffee machine, and poured the coffee himself, much to Tsimas' bemusement.
Stories like this one are actually legion among those who have spent any time in the company of Michael Dukakis. Fortunately for the Dukakis Center, Pavlos Tsimas, perhaps the foremost political journalist of his generation, is no less generous or gracious a character, as a marvelously diverse audience in ACT's Bissell Library discovered this past Wednesday night.
Tsimas had forsaken celebrating Halloween in Athens to talk American politics in Thessaloniki. It was time well spent.
The occasion was a double anniversary celebration: thirty years since Michael Dukakis' ill-fated run for the American Presidency; and 20 years after Dukakis first visited Thessaloniki to launch what has become the Dukakis Center.
The Bissell Library conference space was decked out for the occasion as a veritable television studio. Camera crews from LiveMedia and AddArt were present, while translators Michael and Klio Webber (the former an ACT alumnus) manned the translation booth set up in the back of the room.
The evening was divided, appropriately, into two halves, the one dedicated to Pavlos Tsimas' analysis of the Dukakis phenomenon, the second to the exploits of one of two academic Centers which bears the Dukakis name (the other being based in Boston). Meanwhile, surprise guest Giorgos Giannakoulas, a senior at Anatolia College currently interning at the Dukakis Center, shared his thoughts about what Michael Dukakis might mean to young Hellenes today.
The capacity audience was also treated to an excerpt from the forthcoming documentary on the Dukakis Center, "Now More Than Ever," produced by the Thessaloniki-based non-profit AddArt.
The evening evolved gradually into a bilingual masterclass in public service. Protagonists Tsimas and David Wisner, Executive Director of the Dukakis Center, interviewed one another in turns in Greek and in English on such topics as the relative electability of a Michael Dukakis, politics and education, and, ultimately, the meaning of public service.
The highlight of the evening came when both protagonists -- Tsimas and Wisner -- concurred that the essence of public service is to be found in Pericle's Funeral Oration, as recounted by Thucydides. Michael Dukakis himself contributed to the exchange, in the form of a pre-taped interview, in which he repeated his mantra that there is nothing more satisfying in life than being of service to one's fellow citizens.
In the end, however, the last word(s) belonged to the audience.
"In Athens there is Eliamep; in Thessaloniki there is the Dukakis Center."
"Mr Tsimas, you are even better live than on television."