NEW YORK – New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted a celebration of the 198th Anniversary of the Greek Revolution March 19 at Gracie Mansion, welcoming Greek-Americans and Community leaders, including Ariana Huffington, who was honored for her contributions to the mass media industry.
The event marked New York’s official recognition of the March 25 Greek national holiday and began with a speech by Archbishop Demetrios. He referred to the Greek Revolution as a miracle and praised the Greek fighters who, without substantial means and with more hostility than support from European powers, challenged and defeated the Ottoman Empire.
The Mayor thanked Archbishop Demetrios for “everything that he has done for the city of New York,” and turning to the rest of the Greek-Americans present he noted that they constitute the largest Greek community in the United States and that the city is graced by their presence.
He thanked all those attending the celebration including the president of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York Kleanthis Meimaroglou, Consul General of Greece in New York Konstantinos Koutras, the Consul of General of Cyprus Alexis Phedonos-Vadet, and everyone who helped organize the event before speaking about the meaning of democracy.
“It is something that has to be earned and it’s earned only by the participation of people who struggle for democracy and who encourage others to fight for it too. New York is a democratic city – a city of immigrants – that gives everyone a chance to participate in everything that is going on. On behalf of all New Yorkers I say, “Long Live Greece.”
De Blasio then introduced Ariana Huffington, saying that if in ancient Greece there was a Goddess of Mass Media, she would be it.
“It is a great honor to be here with you and celebrate this day,” she said, adding, “I wish my mother were here, who taught me to fight and never surrender. The Mayor mentioned the values we inherited from ancient Greece, like drama and democracy. It’s true we invented democracy, and it finds it’s true meaning in the city of New York, where hundreds of different languages are spoken.”
Huffington spoke about her life, and then she highlighted other values, besides democracy, that the world has inherited from ancient Greece and its philosophers such as, “living in the moment” (parousa stigmi) with calmness (ataraxia). She added that that people must never forget hospitality (philoxenia) and then analyzed the meaning of “living well” (ef zin), which in modern times has been falsified, she said, to the point where people allow daily anxieties to alter the meaning of their being. She proclaimed the Mayor an honorary Greek, and joked about his nominating her as the woman who modernized mass media.
Koutras addressed the importance of celebrating the day that officially marked the beginning of the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire: “It is a great honor for Greece that we are today in the residence of New York’s Mayor, where the Mayor honors the anniversary of the Greek Revolution. Yesterday there was also an event in the White House, and I believe that Greece is one of the few countries that has its national holiday being so honored in the United States, and for that we feel proud. I have to stress the fact that the relations between the United States and Greece are great and we look forward to the future with optimism.”
Dr. George Tsioulias, Co-Chairman of New York’s upcoming 2019 Greek Parade, was also invited to address the gathering.
(Photo by TNH/Kostas Bej)
“The parade is the most important event for the Greek-American community every year,” he said, “and we are very proud because in this hospitable country we have the opportunity every year to declare how happy and proud we are to be Greek. I hope this year’s parade will be the most impressive and grand of all time. Our country is in need of support now more than ever, and the parade is an important way for us to honor our homeland.”
Earlier Archbishop Demetrios told a story from the Greek Revolution that illustrated the spirit of the freedom fighters. He explained, “There were times when the Revolution was in danger of failing, due to the lack of financial means to support the fight. At some point all the fighters, along with the priests, the nuns, and the civilians decided to gather everything valuable they owned made of silver or gold. They melted them down, made coins, and used them as money. That saved the Revolution at that point. This is what we celebrate today! The achievements, the spirit, the generosity, the inventiveness and mostly the devotion of the fighters to the sacred slogan: Freedom or Death!”
The celebration was also attended by the Greek Consul Lana Zochiou, the president of the 2019 parade Petros Galatoulas, United Nations Military Advisor Master Dimitris Efstathiou, Paraskevi Strataki, the military recruiting officer at the Greek Consulate, representatives of Greek organizations, and Community business leaders.
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