Welcome Message of the Chairman

The standard practice when composing a Chairman’s welcome message and particularly if he is the Chair of a Chamber of Industry, Commerce, Development, Tourism & Culture, is to demonstrate the benefits one can get resulting from the institution’s activities.

I decided to reverse this customary action and, choosing as my stepping stone the strand of Culture, to unite our countries and our peoples through two texts both timeless and contemporary at the same time.

The first one, composed 2.500 years ago, is considered till nowadays to be a colossal document of democracy and culture.

XXXIV. In the same winter the Athenians gave a funeral at the public cost to those who had first fallen in this war. It was a custom of their ancestors, and the manner of it is as follows. The dead are laid in the public sepulchre in the beautiful suburb of the city, in which those who fall in war are always buried; with the exception of those slain at Marathon, who for their singular and extraordinary valour was interred on the spot where they fell.

XXXVI. I shall speak first of our ancestors, for it is right and at the same time fitting, on an occasion like this, to give them this place of honour in recalling what they did. For this land of ours, in which the same people have never ceased to dwell in an unbroken line of successive generations, they by their valour transmitted to our times a free state. And not only are they worthy of our praise, but our fathers still more; for they, adding to the inheritance which they received, acquired the empire1 we now possess and bequeathed it, not without toil, to us who are alive today. And we ourselves here assembled, who are now for the most part still in the prime of life, have further strengthened the empire in most respects, and have provided our city with all resources, so that it is sufficient for itself both in peace and in war.

XXXVII. We live under a form of government which does not emulate the institutions of our neighbours; on the contrary, we are ourselves a model which some follow, rather than the imitators of other peoples. It is true that our government is called a democracy, because its administration is in the hands, not of the few, but of the many.

XXXVIII. Moreover, we have provided for the spirit many relaxations from toil: we have games and sacrifices2 regularly throughout the year and homes fitted out with good taste and elegance; and the delight we each day find in these things drives away sadness. And our city is so great that all the products of all the earth flow in upon us, and ours is the happy lot to gather in the good fruits of our own soil with no more home-felt security of enjoyment than we do those of other lands.

XL. And you will find united in the same persons an interest at once in private and in public affairs, and in others of us who give attention chiefly to business, you will find no lack of insight into political matters. For we alone regard the man who takes no part in public affairs, not as one who minds his own business, but as good for nothing; and we Athenians decide public questions for ourselves or at least endeavour to arrive at a sound understanding of them, in the belief that it is not debate that is a hindrance to action, but rather not to be instructed by debate before the time comes for action. For in truth we have this point also of superiority over other men, to be more daring in action and yet at the same time most given to reflection upon the ventures we mean to undertake; with other men, on the contrary, boldness means ignorance and reflection brings hesitation.

XLI. In a word, then, I say that our city as a whole is the school of Hellas, and that, as it seems to me, each individual amongst us could in his own person, with the utmost grace and versatility, prove himself self-sufficient in the most varied forms of activity.

XLIII. For the whole world is the sepulchre of famous men, and it is not the epitaph upon monuments set up in their own land that alone commemorates them, but also in lands not their own there abides in each breast an unwritten memorial of them, planted in the heart rather than graven on stone. Do you, therefore, now make these men your examples, and judging freedom to be happiness and courage to be freedom, be not too anxious about the dangers of war.

  1. Hegemony, 2. Religious rituals

Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles’ Funeral Oration. 431 BC.

The second text, written 80 years ago, continues holding one of the most important positions in the world socio-anthropological literature.

… But during my anthropological studies and visits to various countries in Europe, I had the opportunity of meeting men and women who were keenly interested in hearing about African ways of life.

At the same time, I am well aware that I could not do justice to the subject without offending those “professional friends of the African” who are prepared to maintain their friendship for eternity as a sacred duty, provided only that the African will continue to play the part of the ignorant savage so that they can monopolise the office of interpreting his mind and speaking for him. To such people, an African who writes a study of this kind is encroaching on their preserves. He is a rabbit turned poacher.

But the African is not blind. He can recognize these pretenders of philanthropy, and in various parts of the continent he is waking up to the realization that a running river cannot be dammed for ever without breaking its bounds. His power of expression has been hampered, but it is breaking through, and will very soon sweep away the patronage and repression which surround him.

I make special mention of these points, because to anyone who wants to understand Gikuyu problems, nothing is more important than a correct grasp of the question of land tenure. For it is the key to the people’s life; it secures for them that peaceful tillage of the soil which supplies their material needs and enables them to perform their magic and traditional ceremonies in undistrurbed senerity, facing Mount Kenya.

Jomo Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya. 1938

And now, a few practical words about the Chamber -the Chamber which has the good fortune to follow the ways opened by the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Kenya in the Hellenic Republic, assisted by the Embassies and Ministries of the two countries.

It’s tasks, as planned by the 1st elected Board of Directors, are both heavy and ambitious. The Chamber can accomplish them counting on and being supported by 4 pivotal pillars: The quality of its members, the experienced and skilled members of its Administration, its multilevel development policy and practice, and, finally, the multidimensional foreign policy that Hellenic Governments consistently serve.


Vassilis G. Katsikeas

Chairman of the Board of the Hellenic – Kenyan Chamber

of Industry, Commerce, Development, Tourism & Culture