George Logothetis, CEO of Libra Group, told an incredible story about the Holocaust and conscientious business at the 2016 Concordia Summit in New York.
Logothetis is chairman of Concordia’s leadership council; his brother Nick co-founded the summit. George, the London-born heir to his family’s Greek shipping business, runs a global holding company that owns everything from ships to helicopters to hotels all over the world. The company is so impressive that Logothetis, who flies a bit under the radar in American business, made Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list in 2014.
To bring home the importance of doing business with a conscience and helping those who need help, Logothetis told a moving story.
In Greece, Logothetis recently met a 25-year-old New Yorker named Sam who was working in a refugee camp as a volunteer. “He was helping people to come to terms with tragedy, helping young children find their parents,” Logothetis recalled, and he was doing this “instead of aiming to work in a law firm, a bank, or going to college.” Logothetis asked him why he was there.
In 1942, Sam’s great grandmother, then 12 years old, found herself on a train headed to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Her family managed to throw her off the train, so that she might live. She survived, and was taken in by a family that looked after her and protected her. She eventually met the man who would become Sam’s great grandfather, and together they had three children, two of whom died young; the third was Sam’s father.
Because of that history, Sam chose to help out with the current child refugee situation in Greece. “His sense of duty and responsibility to contribute to others’ future emanated from the kindness that was shown to his grandmother all those years ago,” Logothetis explained.
“There is less talk of opening doors and more talk of building walls,” the shipping magnate warned today. “But these walls of fear, prejudice and pessimism do not keep things outside as much as they trap things inside. They do not protect us, they diminish us.”
His words appeared to be a shot at the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, which has repeatedly made calls for more walls. After telling his story, and expounding more on the dire refugee crisis in Greece (“multiple crises” at the moment, actually, as Logothetis noted), Logothetis asked the business audience at Concordia to get fired up.
“If we channel our anger wisely and govern it with a degree of empathy, it can actually be a source of positive change,” he said.
Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.