Greetings from Athens, Greece. The eighteen UD students from my study abroad program have moved on, some home, others traveling elsewhere. Tuesday the President will announce his nominee to fill the vacancy on the US Supreme Court. I wrote to my students that back home they can say now that they’ve lived in Athens, the birthplace of democracy. They’ve climbed the steps of the acropolis to visit the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena. They now know the Parthenon served as the model for the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, the American ‘Temple of Justice,’ designed by architect Cass Gilbert during the Great Depression.
«My students have seen first-hard the plight of refugees fleeing from nearby Syria making their way through Greece to northern Europe and beyond. They’ve seen people in the shadows of the Athens subway and along the water in Piraeus. They know that refugees crises are a routine part of Greece’s history, and that Smyrna (now part of Turkey)—for which the Delaware town is named—was a site of a forcible population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. They’ve come to see how Greek people know plenty about occupation, migration, the movement of peoples, the messiness of borders, which may in part explain why Greeks have been so sympathetic towards the foreigners living among them in spite of the ongoing economic crisis.
My students now know that when the American Jew, Emma Lazarus, wrote her famous sonnet “New Colossus,”—whose verse ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ appears at the base of Statue of Liberty—she was contrasting her vision of the United States with the figure struck by the ancient Colossus of Rhodes, the statue of the Greek titan-god of the sun Helios, constructed to celebrate a military victory. Lazarus wrote that lady liberty is ‘Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land.’ She is instead ‘a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name is Mother of Exiles.’ Her America welcomes refugees—‘Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”
My students read from the ancient historian Thucydides how the general Pericles boasted of the openness of Athens, even as he recognized that their liberality could do them harm: «Our city is thrown open to the world, though and we never expel a foreigner and prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him.»
My students visited the Areopagus in Athens and the Bema in Corinth where the apostle Paul preached. They heard read passages from a a two-hundred year old Torah scroll in the Athens Synagogue and huddled around the holocaust memorial in the cold. They met a nineteen year old Austrian studying holocaust education in Crete. They were “strangers in a strange land,” and then got to go home without much of a care of what the border crossing would be like, or whether they would be detained or sent back, and without having to worry about who they might be leaving behind or if they could ever return».
From David Stran’s personal profile page on Facebook.