George Papandreou

George Papandreou was born on June 26, 1952, in the US state of Minnesota. He spent his childhood in the US and Canada, until his family returned to Greece in 1961. His father, Andreas Papandreou, was arrested in 1967 and imprisoned by the military dictatorship ruling Greece at the time. When pressure from thousands of internationally prominent figures forced the junta to release him eight months later, he and his family fled to Sweden, where they were given political asylum. After studying Sociology at Amherst College, Massachusetts, he returned to Greece for his obligatory military service. Afterwards he continued his graduate studies in Great Britain in the Sociology and Development Department of the London School of Economics.

Some years later, in Sweden, George Papandreou met and became friends with Olaf Palme, with whom he worked on promoting human rights and adult education. He often accompanied Palme on his election campaigns. On one of the tours with Palme, he met Anna Lindh, who was later to become the Foreign Minister of Sweden, and who at the time was President of the Socialist Youth of Sweden. Their friendship lasted until Ms. Lindh's was killed by a deranged man in 2003.

George Papandreou became a cabinet member for the first time in 1985, taking up the post of Deputy Minister of Culture. He was primarily responsible for issues of the Greek Diaspora, Adult Education and Youth. In this post, he successfully supported the institution of Free Radio and in 1988 he received the Votsis Foundation Award for the Promotion of Journalism.

George Papandreou became the leader of the International Olympic Truce Foundation to promote the Olympic Ideals, to serve peace, friendship and international understanding and to uphold the observance of the Olympic Truce, calling for all hostilities to cease during the Olympic Games and beyond, and mobilizing the youth of the world in the cause of peace. In two separate tenures as Minister of Education, he laid the foundations for a number of new institutions and took measures to reform and improve the educational system. He showed particular sensitivity to education for minority groups creating a system of Intercultural Education to address the needs of students with special cultural needs, such as the students of minority schools in Thrace, the Roma community, and immigrants. As Foreign Minister he worked at improving relations between Greece and its neighbours, and particularly with Turkey. For his contribution to Greek-Turkish relations he was named Diplomat of the Year 2003 by the European Voice newspaper. At the 4th World Conference on the Future of the Internet, George Papandreou was voted as one of the 25 people who have changed the world through the Internet.

He has received awards for the promotion of world peace and democracy, and was honoured by the Organisation “SOS Racism” for his struggle against racism and xenophobia in 1996. In September 2003 he received the prestigious “Defender of Democracy” award from the Parliamentarians for Global Action. As President of the Andreas Papandreou Foundation, every summer he invites prominent international figures to take part in the Symi Symposium, held on the island of Symi. All the participants – politicians, intellectuals, academics and journalists –share a progressive political outlook and use the symposium to discuss important issues of current European and global affairs. Among , Bill Clinton, Joschka Fischer, Javier Solana, and the two Nobel Prize-winning economists Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz.

In 2004 George Papandreou, one of the most popular figures in contemporary Greek politics became leader of PASOK though the party lost the elections to the Costa Karamanlis led New Democracy Party. As Minister of Foreign Affairs he continues to improve Greece's relationship with her neighbors and is an active force in world peace, education, democracy and human rights. George Papandreou proves that  America, is still the land of opportunity our ancestors believed in, and if you go to school, are honest and work hard one day you may be prime minister of Greece.

Return to History of Greece: Biographies