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John Sarbanes Reflects on Public Service and Democratic Values at ACG Distinguished Speakers Series

In a gathering that was both a testament to the transformative power of informed discussions and a beacon of democratic passion, U.S. Congressman John Sarbanes addressed an enthusiastic audience at the ACG Events Hall on June 19. This engaging session, part of the 2024 Distinguished Speakers Series themed “Anchoring Politics in Service,” spotlighted the critical intersection of education and policy, highlighting the essential role of youth in shaping the future of global democracy. The event was organized by the ACG Office of Public Affairs in collaboration with Kathimerini.

Congressman Sarbanes, who leads the Democracy Reform Taskforce and served on the Energy and Commerce Committee, captivated the audience with his insights into the necessity of fortifying civil society, the imperative of securing democratic engagement, and the virtues of service-oriented politics. His discourse not only outlined a vision for proactive citizenship and responsive governance but also served as an invitation for every participant to envision their role in a democratic society. He shared, “We are behind the curve and should accelerate our efforts to build an environment to reestablish itself in a more powerful and sustainable way.”

Claudia Carydis, Vice President of Public Affairs at ACG, set an inspiring tone with her heartfelt welcome. Carydis invoked ACG’s guiding philosophy: “Non ministrari sed ministrare”— Not to be served but to serve which resonated deeply, particularly with an audience comprised mainly of students from diverse educational backgrounds, ACG faculty and staff, alumni, and members of the Greek diaspora, all united by a common interest in democratic governance.

ACG President David G. Horner added his reflections, connecting his experiences with national politics during his time abroad to the broader implications of such engagements on both personal and national levels. President Horner highlighted Congressman Sarbanes as a model of principled leadership, standing out in an era often characterized by political spectacle and reaffirming the role of educational institutions like ACG in fostering civic responsibility and leadership: “Sarbanes exemplifies the leadership that transcends mere politics to become a service to society, a beacon of integrity and responsibility.”

The discussion, moderated by Athanasios Ellis, Editor-in-Chief of Kathimerini English Edition, began energetically as Congressman Sarbanes engaged with Deree students Mikaela Krisilia and George Vougiatzis. The intellectual synergy between Sarbanes and the students quickly intensified, setting a dynamic tone for the session. The dialogue covered critical issues like the impact of social media on democracy, strategies for combating climate change, and the ethical challenges in regulating emerging technologies. Sarbanes’s responses reflected his decades of experience and commitment to fostering a legislative environment conducive to broad societal benefits. He passionately remarked, “Europe is more advanced in regulating the tech industry while the US is playing catchup,” emphasizing the critical need for proactive measures.

“I find ways to serve the community by volunteering. Doing something that is selfless has value for both the community and self,” Sarbanes shared, highlighting the intrinsic rewards of service and urging the youth to consider public service as a noble and impactful career path. He added, “It was a natural extension of what I was doing. The more people who enter elected office, the bigger stage we have to perform on. If you pursue this career, it comes out of service. Passion moves you every day.”

During the heartfelt discourse, Congressman Sarbanes took a moment to reflect on the profound impact his father, Paul Sarbanes, had on his perspective and career trajectory. With a tone mixed with reverence and inspiration, he shared, “My father’s service to the country was not about being a politician but being a public servant. He understood every opportunity to reach a higher standard in life, a higher obligation to serve a broader number of people.” This tribute to his father not only underscored the personal roots of his commitment to public service but also served as a poignant reminder of the legacy that shapes leaders. Sarbanes emphasized how these foundational experiences propelled him into a life of service, suggesting that the ethos of public service is often a cherished value passed down through generations, resonating deeply with the audience and reinforcing the theme of the evening.

The event was more than an academic exercise; it was a deep, heartfelt engagement that bridged generations and geographies, serving as a powerful reminder of the role that educational institutions like ACG play in nurturing future leaders committed to democratic values and service. The active dialogue from the audience, particularly the students, underscored a promising future where young minds are at the forefront of advocating for and implementing democratic values in their careers.

As the evening concluded, the energy in the room transformed into a collective inspiration, promising to catalyze action and advocacy well beyond the confines of the hall, echoing the foundational values of ACG and the democratic aspirations cherished by all present. The event underscored the importance of forums, like the Distinguished Speakers Series, that provide a platform for future leaders to engage directly with current policymakers, fostering a continuous cycle of learning and inspiration critical for the sustenance of democracy globally.