President Barack Obama tours the Acropolis with Eleni Banou (left), director of antiquities for the Athens Ministry of Culture on Wednesday in Greece. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama tours the Acropolis with Eleni Banou (left), director of antiquities for the Athens Ministry of Culture on Wednesday in Greece. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Obama calls for ‘course correction’ on globalization

Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece — Pushing back against the forces of isolationism, President Barack Obama stood at the birthplace of democracy on Wednesday and declared it’s time for a “course correction” to ensure that the benefits of technology and globalization are more broadly shared.

Reducing inequality, he said, creates societies where people are “less likely to turn on each other, less likely to appeal to some of the darker forces” that tear people apart.

With the U.S. presidential election of Republican Donald Trump laying bare frustrations and dissatisfaction in America, Obama said the impulse to “pull back from a globalized world is understandable.” But he had this message to leaders and people around the globe: “We can’t look backward for answers, we have to look forward.”

“We cannot sever the connections that have enabled so much progress,” Obama said in a speech to the Greek people as he wrapped up the first leg of his final foreign tour as president. He then headed for Germany.

Obama cited both last week’s election of Trump and the June vote by Britain to leave the European Union as evidence of the inclination to pull back.

“The current path of globalization demands a course correction,” he said. “In the years and decades ahead, our countries have to make sure that the benefits of an integrated global economy are more broadly shared by more people and that the negative impacts are squarely addressed.”

“That’s how democracies can deliver the prosperity and hope that our people need,” Obama said.

Before Trump’s victory, Obama’s speech to the Greeks had been envisioned to be a capstone moment for his presidency, harking back to the origins of democracy as he expected to hand off to fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton. Instead, Obama’s legacy is in doubt as Trump prepares to take power and promises to undo much of the president’s agenda. Obama spoke out in defense of his agenda: the Iran-nuclear deal, a global climate change pact, establishing relations with Cuba and more.

“The next American president and I could not be more different,” Obama said. But, he said, “democracy is bigger than any one person.” He renewed his pledge to ensure a peaceful transition despite his differences with Trump.

Obama’s words are being watched closely by world leaders. They see parallels between Trump’s ascension and the rise of far-right and populist movements in their own countries amid continued economic anxiety.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won elections last year on what critics say was a populist platform, though one on the left of the political spectrum. He pushed his formerly small radical left party onto the forefront by telling Greeks weary from six years of financial crisis and falling living standards that he would reject austerity measures imposed in return for the country’s bailouts.

But after the near collapse of negotiations with Greece’s creditors — other European countries using the euro currency, and the International Monetary Fund — Tsipras performed a political about-face: He signed up to a new bailout and more austerity to prevent his country being forced out of the euro.

Before Obama’s speech, he toured Greece’s most famous ancient monument, the Acropolis citadel. Obama passed through the Propylaea, the monumental gateway that serves as an entrance to the site, and walked along the Parthenon temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Athena, considered the patron of Athens.

The U.S. president lingered at the base of the Parthenon, gazing at the columns and glancing around at the panoramic view of Athens as he chatted with his guide, Eleni Banou of the Culture Ministry’s antiquities division.

The 5th century B.C. temple is surrounded these days by scaffolding as part of a maintenance project. The entire site was closed to the public for the day for Obama’s visit, which has taken place amid stringent security measures. Demonstrations were banned in parts of Athens, and road and subway stations were shut down for the first official visit of a sitting U.S. president since Bill Clinton came in 1999.

Greece’s government hoped Obama would help persuade some of Greece’s more reluctant international creditors to grant debt relief, and pressure other European countries to share more of the burden of the continent’s refugee crisis.

Obama was receptive to Greece’s woes and repeated his belief that debt relief is necessary. He said Greece must continue putting in place painful reforms it signed up to in return for successive international bailouts. It is questionable how much of this stance will also be adopted by Trump.

Greece is struggling to deal with hundreds of thousands of refugees who have crossed Greece’s borders on their way to more prosperous European countries. A reluctance by many other EU countries to host refugees has left more than 60,000 people stranded in Greece. Many are living in poor conditions in massively overcrowded camps.

Obama said the Greeks cannot be expected to bear the bulk of the burden on their own. It demands “a truly collective response by Europe and the world,” he said.

Obama’s next stop on his final foreign tour is Germany, followed by Peru.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

HRT Rescue Technician Andy Toyota gives the thumbs-up to crew members in the Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue helicopter shortly before takeoff during an interagency training session held by Northwest Regional Aviation on Thursday, June 13, 2024, at the Arlington Airport in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
From around state, authorities simulate ‘terrorist attack’ in Arlington

Teams from King County, Snohomish County and elsewhere converged for a multi-faceted scenario Thursday at the Arlington Municipal Airport.

Two couples walk along Hewitt Avenue around lunchtime on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett businesses say it’s time the city had its own Chamber of Commerce

The state’s seventh-largest city hasn’t had a chamber since 2011. After 13 years, businesses are rallying for its return.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

Marysville
5 Snohomish County sisters accused of $1M fraud scheme

For two years, the women used online return postage to get gift cards, then returning the physical items to a brick-and-mortar store, charges say.

FILE — Michael Whitaker, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, testifies before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 6, 2024. Whitaker told a Senate panel, on Thursday, June 13, 2024, that changes are being made to the agency’s oversight of Boeing, including conducting more safety inspections. (Anna Rose Layden/The New York Times)
Boeing discloses new quality problem on 787 Dreamliner jets

The issue affects jets built in South Carolina that have yet to be delivered, the company said in a statement.

Alvin Cooper (Photo provided by Marysville School District)
After allegations, Marysville schools’ HR director resigns

Last week, the district’s finance director Lisa Gonzales publicly called for the school board to put Alvin Cooper on leave, citing mismanagement.

Leslie Davis, left, and Lyndsay Lamb, twin sister stars of HGTV's "Unsellable Houses" and 2004 Snohomish High School graduates, donated a private design session to the school's auction fundraiser for their 20-year reunion. (Photo provided)
Got $2,000? Bid on face time with HGTV’s ‘Unsellable Houses’ twins

The sisters are offering up themselves in a fundraiser for their Class of 2004 Snohomish High 20-year reunion.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.