WASHINGTON, DC – President Barack Obama welcomed Greek-Americans to the White House for a celebration of Greek independence, and “the deep connection, and deep affection, that has always drawn Greece and America together, and I know Joe [Biden] conveyed that affection when he spoke to Prime Minister Samaras yesterday.”
The President greeted the invited guests with “Kalispera! Welcome to the White House,” and proceeded to acknowledge the Greek-American achievement in America.
“Over the years Greek-Americans have had a profound effect on this nation, shaping our cities, and our culture… and when we come together to celebrate Greek independence we can all be Greek for a day,” he said.
He also said that his recent trip to Europe “was a chance to re-affirm the bonds between the United States and all of Europe, and Greece is at the heart of that partnership, and declared, “That’s why as Greeks continue to work to return to growth and economic prosperity, the United States will continue to stand by the Greek people. Greece will always have an unwavering friend and ally in the United States of America…God bless America, Zito I Ellas.”
Vice President Joe Biden reminded that Thucydides said “the secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom is courage,” and that what binds us together the United States and Greece.”
Referring to his telephone call to Greek Prime Ministers Antonis Samaras, Biden said they discussed a number of issues.
“I also told him he is moving in the right direction…as you know throughout history Greece has overcome every challenge, with that trait I mentioned earlier: courage, the key to freedom and democracy, that audacious idea. Thousands of years later it remains one of the greatest gifts Greece has given to the world,” he said.
Archbishop Demetrios thanked the President for his hospitality, and noted that it was very appropriate to celebrate Greek Independence in the Presidential mansion of a country known “for its unabated passion for freedom and its unlimited love for independence in every nation and every community.”
He also noted the personal and intellectual bonds between the leaders of the American and Greek revolutions.
Archbishop Demetrios indirectly referred to the plights of Cyprus, in its 40th year of illegal occupation by Turkey, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, when he praised President Obama “for leading the noble fight…in order to secure freedom and independence for nations and individuals thirsty for it. There are still, for us Greek-American Orthodox, areas of serious concern, areas [that lack] freedom, both religious and political. We are sure you are aware of the areas and care for them, as you do for other places.”
During his speech President Obama welcomed the minister of culture and tourism, and noted that Greece should not have to sell tourism, adding that although he has yet to visit “I look forward to it.”
Also present were Christos Panagopoulos and George Chacalli, Ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus respectively.
He explained that he could not celebrate Greek independence last week because he was in Europe, but said “there is no such thing as a wrong time to celebrate the extraordinary ties between the United States and Greece, dating back, as His Eminence said, to our earliest days. Our founding fathers drew inspiration from the Greeks as pioneers of the radical idea that ordinary citizens can govern themselves.
“When the Greek people rose up to claim their own freedom. Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter wishing the blessings of liberty upon them. The Greeks, he wrote, were the first to present an example of what man should be,” he said.
He urged the guests to remain after his speech and enjoy themselves. “I cannot think of a better way to end the week than with all our Greek and Greek-American friends and with some spanakopita, baklava…and maybe a glass of ouzo, although I still have some work to do.”