Washington, DC His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, led a delegation of Greek-American leaders to Washington, DC on March 25th to commemorate Greek Independence Day. In a ceremony conducted in the Old Executive Office Building, President George W. Bush proclaimed March 25th, 2002 Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy, 2001. (Text attached.)
In his opening comments, Archbishop Demetrios said to President Bush: You greatly honored us one year ago with your Presidential proclamation and meeting, exactly for the same celebration. This time, however, our meeting occurs after the horrendous terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the devastating consequences that followed. Under these circumstances which created an unbearable pain in all of us, the freedom the right to independence, human rights, the dignity of human existence, the necessity for peace, the right to happiness and to a creative life, these principles, which directed the struggle for Greek Independence in 1821 and which constitute the heart and essence of our American Democracy, take on a significance of dramatic proportions. (Complete text attached.)
President Bush, in warmly welcoming all those in attendance, responded: I want to honor the heritage of liberty that both the Greeks and the Americans share. There is no better place to do this than in the White House, the symbol of liberty and the symbol of freedom. The spirit of liberty has always had enemies. It is important for us to remember our history, that there are some who cant stand liberty and freedom, as we learned so tragically on September 11th. The terrorists who attack us hate the very idea of human freedom. They cannot stand the thought of freedom of religion. It must make them very nervous to know that a Methodist is standing next to His Eminence, in a free society, in a society that welcomes people to worship freely, and as they so choose.
America and Greece are strong allies, and were strategic partners. Our nation has been inspired by Greek ideals, and enriched by Greek immigrants. Today about 1 million Americans claim Greek origin. Theyve made a mark in every field. In my administration, John Negroponte heads our United Nations, and hes doing a fine job. And as part of my war council, the National Security Council, sits George Tenet, whose advice and steady hand have been invaluable to our success. (Complete text attached.)
President Bush graciously acknowledged the presence of Director of the CIA, George Tenet, Ambassador of the United States to Spain George Argyros, and other Greek American members of the Administration present including Barbara Spyridon Pope, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and John Vonglis, Department of Defense, Director of Personnel and Readiness.
Attending the ceremonies were some 100 people, including a Greek government delegation led by Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Yiannis Magriotis; Ambassador of Greece to the United States, Alexander Philon; and members of Parliament Grigoiros Niotis and Panagiotis Skandalakis. Representing the Republic of Cyprus was Ambassador to the United States, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.
Also in attendance were: Andrew A. Athens, World President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad; Andrew Banis, Supreme President of AHEPA; Andrew Manatos, President of the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes; Vice Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council Michael Jaharis; Police Captain John V. Kassimatis, Commanding Officer, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Eugene Rossides, Founding Chairman of the American Hellenic Institute; Philip Christopher, President of the Pancyprian Association of America; Savvas Tsivicos, President of the Cyprus Federation of America; Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, Director, Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Federation; Sotirios Vahaviolos, 2002 Greek Independence Day Parade Chairman (NYC); Former Ambassador to Greece from the United States, Michael Sotirhos.
GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY: A NATIONAL DAY OF CELEBRATION
OF GREEK AND AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, 2002
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Ancient Greece was the birthplace of the democratic principles and thought that fundamentally shaped the growth of democracy in world history. Societies aspiring toward more democratic forms of government have found inspiration in the Greek tradition of representative government and free political discourse. As modern Greece celebrates the anniversary of its independence, won 181 years ago, Greeks can be proud that its vibrant democracy continues and that it is based upon the beliefs in freedom and self-rule first forged in classical Greece over 2500 years ago.
These ideals have been embraced by peoples of the world who aspire towards democracy, including the Founders of the United States; and they were tested by the attacks of September 11, 2001. The terrorists sought to destroy a political and economic system that promotes individual freedoms and tolerance, defends national liberty, and supports the full participation of its citizens in the democratic process. The terrorists failed; but rather than destroying us, their attacks strengthen our resolve to stand up to this evil. Along with the members of our worldwide coalition, including Greece, we are committed to defeating terrorism and protecting liberty.
The friendship between the United States and Greece continues to thrive and is based upon our common cultural bonds and our shared national values. Today, more than 3 million Americans proudly claim Greek heritage, representing a continuing link between our countries. From the arts and education to industry and science, Greek Americans have made significant contributions to the cultural, civic, and economic vitality of our land.
As we celebrate Greek independence, we remember the history of those who sacrificed their lives to preserve freedom and democracy. We value our friendship and continuing partnership with the government and people of Greece, and we commit to work together to provide greater opportunity and more freedoms for the citizens of the world. And we join the world in anticipating the momentous 2004 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Athens, the birthplace of Olympic competition.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 25, 2002, as "Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy." I encourage all Americans to take special note of Greece's rich history of democracy, the strong bonds of friendship and culture between our countries, and the important role that Greek Americans play in our Nation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-sixth.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America
To the President of the United States
Mr. George W. Bush
On the Occasion of the Signing of the Proclamation
For the Greek Independence Day
Washington, DC March 25, 2002
Once again, your generosity of heart and mind offer to us, the Greek Orthodox Community of America, your precious proclamation on the memorable occasion of the celebration of Greek Independence Day. This year, the Proclamation takes place on the very day of March 25, the unique and sacred day of the Annunciation. We are particularly thankful for this.
You greatly honored us one year ago with your Presidential proclamation and meeting, exactly for the same celebration. This time, however, our meeting occurs after the horrendous terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the devastating consequences that followed.
Under these circumstances, which created an unbearable pain in all of us, the freedom, the right to independence, human rights, the dignity of human existence, the necessity for peace, the right to happiness and to a creative life, these principles, which directed the struggle for Greek Independence in 1821 and which constitute the heart and essence of our American Democracy, take on a significance of dramatic proportions.
Issues of our deep concern, such as unresolved, grave problems related to the Balkans, Cyprus and the Middle East, as well as to the all-out effort for the radical elimination of terrorism, are now urgent, necessitating immediate solutions.
We are fully aware of the continuous, methodical and passionate work of you, personally, Mr. President, and that of your esteemed advisors and staff on the issues and concerns mentioned above; and we are truly appreciative and grateful indeed, for the tremendous offering and the substantive progress.
We fervently pray, however, that in our days we will see established and handed to our children something beyond the ephemeral solution of problems and the temporary overcoming of crises. We are faithfully asking the omnipotent and loving God to grant us the gift of a firmly established freedom for all, of a globally- provided peaceful life for all, and of an undeniably accessible justice for all.
We know that your leadership aims at offering to all the people of the world a freedom from any oppression, from any totalitarianism, from any terrorism. We know that you faithfully and unyieldingly adhere to such a noble and sacred principle of freedom for all, a principle that motivated the Greek Independence fight, a principle that lead our great country of America to become the champion, the guardian and the promoter of freedom and democracy.
We gratefully wish you a triumphant success in your noble efforts. Please count on us, Mr. President, in your irreconcilable fight for a freedom for all. Thank you.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY CEREMONY
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
THE PRESIDENT: Your Eminence, I can't spend enough time with you. (Laughter.) I love your gentle soul, and I love your guidance and your advice. And any time you want to come back, just give me a call. (Laughter.) I'm so glad you're here. And I want to thank you all for joining us to celebrate this important day for Greece.
I want to honor the heritage of liberty that both the Greeks and the Americans share. There's no better place to do this than in the White House, the symbol of liberty and the symbol of freedom.
I want to thank the Greek Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs for being here, as well. I appreciate you coming. I want to thank the Ambassador -- the Greek Ambassador to the United States, and the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the United States, as well. You all are welcome here. Thank you for coming. It's great to see you again.
I'm glad to see Ambassador George Argyros is here, as well. I never thought he'd get through the confirmation process. (Laughter.) But he is my Ambassador to Spain, and is doing a very fine job. I appreciate so much the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, for being here, as well. (Applause.)
One hundred and eighty one years ago, our nation supported the cause of Greek independence. And we have admired the progress Greece has made since. Yet well before we recognized the independence of modern Greece, the Greek heritage had a great impact on American independence. Many of America's founders knew Greek history better than our own. They drew on Greece's political heritage in framing our Constitution. America's love for liberty has deep roots in the spirit of Greece.
The spirit of liberty has always had enemies. It's important for us to remember our history, that there are some who can't stand liberty and freedom, as we learned so tragically on September the 11th. The terrorists who attack us hate the very idea of human freedom. They cannot stand the thought of freedom of religion. It must make them very nervous to know that a Methodist is standing next to His Eminence -- (laughter) -- in a free society, in a society that welcomes people to worship freely, and as they so choose. They hate freedom of speech. They can't stand the thought of people speaking their minds. They hate our system.
They also thought we were weak and soft. And they're wrong, and they're learning it every day. They learned it in Afghanistan, where we went into that country not to seek revenge, but to seek justice. And this weekend, little girls went to school for the first time -- some little girls went to school for the first time in Afghanistan, showing the world that we didn't go into Afghanistan as conquerors, but as liberators.
And they're going to find out how tough we are. Because I want to assure you all that we're going to hunt 'em down, one by one, until our homeland is secure, until freedom is secure, to make sure our children and our grandchildren can live in a free and peaceful world. (Applause.)
One ancient Greek statesman put it this way. He said, "We are free to live exactly as we please, yet we are ready to face any danger." He might as well have been talking about the United States of America. Fortunately, we don't face danger alone. There are other people who love freedom, as well, in this world. Greece and America have been firm allies in the great struggles for liberty. Greece was one of only a handful of countries that fought alongside the United States in every major 20th century war. And Americans will always remember Greek heroism and Greek sacrifice for the sake of freedom.
As the 21st century dawns, Greece and America are -- once again stand united; this time in the fight against terrorism. Greece is a part of the coalition of nations helping bring justice to those who would harm us, harm the people of Greece, harm anybody who love freedom. The United States deeply appreciates the role Greece is playing in the war against terror. We thank Greece for access to the military base in Souda Bay, Crete, and for providing a naval frigate for patrolling the Arabian Sea.
And just as Greece has stood side by side with the United States, the United States stands ready to encourage the continued warming of Greek and Turkish relations. We welcome the resumption of diplomatic talks on Cyprus, and hope that they will lead to a final settlement that strengthens regional peace and stability.
America and Greece are strong allies, and we're strategic partners. Our nation has been inspired by Greek ideals, and enriched by Greek immigrants. Today about 1 million Americans claim Greek origin. They've made a mark in every field. America is better for the 1 million Americans who live here.
In my administration, John Negroponte heads our United Nations, and he's doing a fine job. And as a part of my war council, the National Security Council, sits George Tenet, whose advice and steady hand have been invaluable to our success.
Today we honor Greek independence and the Greek spirit, a spirit of liberty and a spirit of courage, a spirit that values family and education and public service and faith; a spirit that has helped make America what it is today.
It is my honor to welcome you all here. May God bless Greece, and may God continue to bless America. (Applause.)