U.S. Senator Mr. Robert Menendez, a distinguished American Citizen with world renown, who is respected and esteemed by people from all sides of the political and social spectrum of his Country, a great Philhellene with extensive knowledge of the Greek issues, who supported—and continues to support—our Country time and again and in critical moments, was awarded the title of doctor honoris causa of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration by the Senate of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.
In his welcome address to Senator Menendez, the Rector of N.K.U.A., professor M.-A. C. Dimopoulos emphasized, among other things, that ‘Mr. Menendez is a distinguished member of the U.S. Senate, a figure who calls indefatigably—especially under the current circumstances—for full respect for International Law and the prevalence of world peace. Right from the beginning of his political career, he has been fighting for the faithful observance of Treaties as well as the broadest possible accession of sovereign states to them. Throughout his tenure, Senator Menendez has been at the forefront of America’s international human rights campaign’.
The significant work and the personality of the honoree were presented by the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, professor M. Tsinisizelis. The ceremony proceeded with the reading of the Department’s Resolution, the Award, and the Honorary Diploma by professor M. Tsinisizelis, the investiture of the honoree with the gown of the School of Economics and Political Sciences by the Dean, professor N. Eriotis, and the presentation of the honoree with an honorary plaque by the Rector, professor M.-A. C. Dimopoulos. A speech entitled ‘How Democratic Values Drive the U.S.-Greece Relationship’ was given on the occasion by Senator Robert Menendez.
It is noteworthy that the N.K.U.A. Senate’s decision on the awarding of the honorary doctorate highlights, among other things, that Senator Menendez, due to his commitment to International Law, stands out as a firm and uncompromising pillar of opposition against all revisionist tendencies, which keep emerging in our region and worldwide.
In his speech Senator Menendez mentioned, among other things:
«I was a boy who couldn’t afford to buy school books. Today I receive the title of Doctor Honoris Causa, the highest academic honor awarded by this esteemed university. It is truly humbling and a once in a lifetime experience.
Especially coming from THIS university.
A university that has played a major role in the preservation and collection of knowledge in this country, the birthplace of democracy.
Today, we are facing a world with unprecedented challenges.
In my thirty years of doing foreign policy in Congress, I have never seen the confluence of more challenging global events than we face right now.
Who would have thought that in the twenty-first century, in the year 2022, we’d be seeing a European war?
But it’s not only Europe.
Open a map and pick just about anywhere in the world and you will find major challenges to democracy and the rules-based international order…
An international order—shaped by those values and ideals we’ve talked about today—that brought us prosperity, peace, and progress…
An international order based on the ideals of democracy, human rights, free and fair competition and open societies…
An international order that faces new threats like never before.
At a time like this, going it alone will never do. We must work together.
Because only by uniting together behind our values and vision for a democratic world can we meet the challenges of this moment as authoritarian regimes are on the rise.
In closing, this is a critical moment in history for the United States, for Greece and the world.
Across the globe, freedom is under threat.
It is incumbent on us to take up the mantle and do our turn as stewards of a cherished legacy started by Aristotle and Korais (co-rey-EES) in Greece.
And carried forward by Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King in the United States.
Many commentators like to say that around the globe democracy is backsliding.
That autocrats have the upper hand and the good guys are on their back foot. But I tell you they are wrong.
Yes, the challenges are formidable.
Russia, China and other autocracies possess dangerous resources and are relentless in their drive for power.
But that only means that we, who support democracy, must be relentless in our commitment to building a free world.
Pericles said and I quote:
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Throughout history, Greek immigrants and Americans have helped to improve the lives of others and make our nations what they are today through their enterprising spirit, creativity, and thirst for knowledge and higher learning.
And when I think of the obstacles and hardships many Greeks had to overcome to achieve success in the United States, I recall the story of my own family.
My parents came to the United States from Cuba in 1953 to escape the Batista dictatorship.
The United States offered them protection that enabled my family to thrive.
My parents had to struggle to give us a shot in life. But as hard as that struggle was, we knew we had a chance because we were free.
Free to follow our dreams.
Free to pursue an education.
Free to speak out for what we believed in.
You only get to do that when you live in a democracy.
But democracy won’t defend itself. We must defend democracy.
If we want the right to determine our own destinies, we must defend democracy.
If we want the right to elect our own leaders, we must defend democracy.
If we want the right to run for a seat on the local schoolboard when we see injustice, we must defend democracy.
And so here tonight in Athens, in the cradle of democracy, let us unite together against the forces of repression and autocracy.
From the shores of the Mediterranean to Russian steppe, let us let us recommit to standing up for freedom and the rule of law.
And let us go forth from this magnificent university hall and embrace the incredible opportunities that await our two great nations as we march into the twenty-first century together.