George Papandreou arrived in Canada as a young political exile from Greece where his father had been an outspoken opponent of the military dictatorship ruling the country at the time. Canada provided a refuge for the family as well as a political model for democracy, human rights and freedom of speech. At K.C.S.S. George was active in basketball and also worked as a volunteer at one of the local churches. During the summers he worked at various jobs including stints at the gas station on Highway 400, a gardener on a number of estates, as a painter in Kings Cross and a construction worker. He was also popular as he even had a small winery and although the wine didn’t taste very good his classmates didn’t mind a bit. George’s school friends were mainly political activists and immigrants, which later prompted him to study immigration as part of his Sociology degree at Amherst College, Massachusetts. He went on to get a Masters in Sociology and Development from the London School of Economics and is also a fellow at Harvard University’s Centre for International Affairs.
A Member of Parliament since 1981, He has experience in top-ranking positions across a range of political portfolios. His proposals for radical institutional reforms began early in his political career. Having worked as a volunteer in higher education in Sweden he travelled all over Greece to develop the Open University. As Minister of Education, he founded the first independent educational authority in Greece, took initiatives to strengthen civil society, youth participation and improve education for minority groups. He has always believed that education is the firmest foundation for both individual accomplishment and collective consciousness.
In 1996, as Alternate Foreign Minister, he was responsible for the government’s successful bid to host the 2004 Olympic Games. George served as Greek Foreign Minister from 1999-2004. He has received several honours for his commitment to promote peace and democracy, notably his successful campaign to engineer a rapprochement between Greece and Turkey. He was named Diplomat of the Year in 2003 by the European Voice newspaper. An active proponent of e-democracy that same year he was selected as one of the “25 People who are Changing the World of Internet Politics”. George Papandreou is the architect of the movement to revive the Olympic Truce, calling for a global ceasefire during the Olympic Games, as a first step towards permanent world peace. More than 370 political leaders, athletes and artists from around the world have signed the Olympic Truce Declaration, which was unanimously adopted by a record 190 countries at the United Nations in November 2003. As President of PASOK [Panhellenic Socialist Party] since January 2004, George is currently the leader of the Opposition in Greece. He is married to Ada Papapanou and has two children, Andreas and Margarita.
Written October 2005
Recognizing outstanding KCSS alumni