Annual Greek Independence Day Celebration at the White House
Apr 4, 2014
THE NOBLE FIGHT FOR ESTABLISHING FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE CONTINUES, SAID ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS AT WHITE HOUSE ANNUAL GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama welcomed today Friday, April 4, 2014, at the White House His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and the Greek-American community for the Annual Greek Independence Day Celebration. This was the 28th consecutive celebration at the White House honoring the 193rd Anniversary of the start of the Greek War for Independence of March 25th, 1821.
President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden met in private with Archbishop Demetrios in the Green Room, just prior to the public event, which started in the East Room of the White House a little before 6:00 p.m.
President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and Archbishop Demetrios during the ceremony at the White House (photo © Dimitrios Panagos/GOA)
Vice President Joe Biden opened the program and welcomed the approximately 400 guests. The Vice President conveyed his love and respect for the Greek American Orthodox community and praised the virtues and achievements that this community represents saying that the quest for freedom and the courage that is required to achieve it, is what binds us together. He then introduced the President and Archbishop Demetrios.
Archbishop Demetrios, first expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the President for the sixth consecutive celebration of Greek Independence Day in the White House during President Obama’s presidency.
“The noble fight for establishing freedom and independence internationally did not end with 1776 or 1821, but continued. It continued through the 19th century, and through today,” said the Archbishop and he later added: “There are still, for us Greek American Orthodox, areas of serious concern, areas which need the fullness of freedom, both religious and political. We are sure that you are aware of and care for these areas as you do for other places where liberty is absent,” added the Archbishop. (see full text of Archbishop’s remarks below)
President Obama welcomed everyone with the greeting Kalispera (good evening). He thanked the Archbishop for his enlightening words and his dedication in leading the Greek Orthodox people in the United States.
The President spoke of the inspiration provided to all nations by the Greek Revolution of 1821 for freedom and independence. He also noted that over the years Greek Americans had a profound impact on this nation and recounted the many times in history when Greece and America stood together to protect the democracy they both cherish. President Obama said that the two countries continue to stand shoulder to shoulder for security and in the many challenges facing our world. He said that the United States appreciates Greece’ s leadership as it holds the presidency of the European Union and referred to his recent trip to Europe as a way to reaffirm the bonds between the United States and all of Europe, noting that Greece is at the heart of that partnership. He said that as Greece continues to work to return to prosperity, the US will continue to stand by the Greek people and that Greece will always have an unwavering friend and an ally in the United States of America.
Present among the many guests at the White House were the Greek Minister of Tourism Olga Kefalogianni, the Greek Minister of Culture and Sport Panos Panagiotopoulos, the Ambassadors of Greece to the United States Christos Panagopoulos and of Cyprus George Chacalli, Commissioner for Cypriots living abroad and other religious groups and human rights Katherine Clerides, many members of Congress, US government officials and dignitaries.
President Barack Obama with Archbishop Demetrios (photo © Dimitrios Panagos/GOA)
REMARKS BY ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS
OFFERED AT THE PRESIDENTIAL OBSERVANCE OF
GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY
FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2014
THE WHITE HOUSE
This is the sixth time in the six years of your Presidency that we have the distinct honor and special privilege to be your guests at the White House on the occasion of the annual celebration of Greek Independence Day.
As Greek American Orthodox Community, we are deeply grateful for such a great honor and for your exceptional kindness to sign a proclamation that pays tribute to the historic day of March 25th 1821. This is a symbolic day of the start of the Greek Revolution that ended with the liberation of Greece after four extremely painful centuries under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire. Our celebration of March 25th, 1821 happens in the White House, in a glorious place, in a country known for its unabated passion for freedom, and its unlimited love for independence for every nation and every human being. Therefore, this is a very appropriate place to celebrate Greek Independence Day, since the Greek Revolution of 1821 was motivated and guided precisely by the same unabated passion for freedom and the same unlimited love for independence for all.
Already, in the time of the Greek Independence war, the strong bond between the Greek Revolutionaries of 1821 and the American Patriots fresh from the 1776 victory of their independence war was clear, based on the common intense passion for freedom and the unlimited love for independence. The national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, offered an indication of this bond in a stanza of his grandiose poem, Hymn to Liberty, when he wrote,
“The land of Washington
was filled with heartfelt joy
Remembering the iron chains
That also kept her fettered.”
We know well, Mr. President, that in both cases freedom was achieved with plenty of personal sacrifices, astonishing courage, ironclad determination, and faith in God. We also know that the noble fight for establishing freedom and independence internationally did not end with 1776 or 1821, but continued. It continued through the 19th century, and through today. Rivers of heroic blood, millions of exceedingly brave soldiers, huge numbers of men, women and children offering their lives to the cause of freedom.
Mr. President, you have been leading the noble fight of our nation in multiple fronts in order to secure freedom and independence to nations and individuals thirsting for it. There are still, for us Greek American Orthodox, areas of serious concern, areas which need the fullness of freedom, both religious and political. We are sure that you are aware of and care for these areas as you do for other places where liberty is absent.
You are in our prayers, you and your noble family. Please be assured that we fervently ask the almighty and merciful God to be constantly with you so that you lead our great nation in the pursuit of happiness, liberty and life, and the realization of freedom and independence, the eternal gifts of God, for every nation and human being on earth.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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