2010 News Archives

President Obama Hosts Archbishop Demetrios, Prime Minister Papandreou for March 25 Celebration at the White House

WASHINGTON – The White House hosted yesterday afternoon the Annual Greek Independence Day 

Photo: Dimitrios Panagos President Obama with Archbishop Demetrios in the White House

Celebration for the 24th consecutive year honoring the 189th Anniversary of the start of the Greek War for Independence of March 25th, 1821. This year’s celebration was scheduled earlier than the actual anniversary because the President will be traveling to Asia after March 18.

This year’s celebration coincided with the official visit to Washington of the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Mr. George Papandreou.  

President Barack Obama received Archbishop Demetrios of America representing the Greek-American Orthodox community and Prime Minister Papandreou in private, just prior to the public event, which started at 5:30 p.m.

For the first time in the history of this White House celebration, the First Lady Michelle Obama attended the gathering. 

Mr. Papandreou, who earlier in the day had an official meeting with President Obama, was the first to address the more than 350 guests in the East Room of the White House. In his comments, the Prime Minister praised Archbishop Demetrios “for his commitment and his very important work as the spiritual leader of the Greek Americans.” Mr. Papandreou also acknowledged the contributions of the Omogeneia: “The Greek American Community is a lasting link between our two countries. We are proud, and I am part of this Community, we are proud of their accomplishments in academia, in business, in culture and politics. They contribute much to the United States and they are always a source of innovation and strength as they bring their ideas and aspirations to Greece when they visit our country.”

Archbishop Demetrios began by thanking President Obama for his “commitment to pursue what St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians describes as whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is gracious (Phil. 4:8),” and said that it was in the spirit of those words of St. Paul that we experience this celebration.

His Eminence said that we pay homage to those who fought the Greek War of Independence and “we honor their universal legacy for freedom, democracy and independence,” he said the heroes of 1821 succeeded because they had “Souls filled with unwavering faith, hearts filled with enormous courage, and minds shining with brilliance…” 

The Archbishop asked the President’s assistance on the issues of interest to the Greek American Orthodox Community and said: “We are gratefully aware of and we are with you in your persistence and commitment to promote globally those absolute values, especially in the sensitive areas of the Far, the Middle and the Near East Asia.   We thankfully noted that in the first year of your Presidency, you have repeatedly shown your specific advocacy of the same values in the case of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, strongly defending its God-given right to religious freedom.   We rely on your continued and dynamic support until, with the help of the omnipotent God, the expected good results are obtained.   We also repeat our plea expressed to you in last year’s celebration, for your needed intervention in the still pending issues of the unification of Cyprus, and of the appropriate name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.   Our plea for these issues is accompanied by our warm prayers for the leaders and people of Greece, the land which gave Democracy and universal values to the world.” (see full text of His Eminence’s remarks)

President Barack Obama spoke last, in a warm and upbeat atmosphere, highlighted by the previous speakers and an earlier announcement from the Department of Homeland Security about the designation of Greece as a member of the Visa Waiver Program.  The President in his remarks noted how fitting it was to have Mr. Papandreou present in this year’s Greek Independence Day celebration, thanked and praised Archbishop Demetrios, and acknowledged the contributions of the Greek American Community and its leaders. The President said that on March 25 we’ll not only celebrate a singular moment in time, we’ll be reminded of the spirit that has defined Greece and its people for all time. There’s a concept that captures it, and it doesn’t translate easily; it doesn’t really have an equivalent in English. But it’s a virtue that all of you know well, because it’s the very essence of being Greek – and you will forgive if my pronunciation is just so-so – philotimo. Right? Philotimo.  Literally, it translates as “love of honor.”  I love that concept – love of honor. But, of course, it means much more than that.” (see full text of the President’s remarks)

At the conclusion of the program President Obama greeted many of the attendees including Metropolitans Iakovos of Chicago, Methodios of Boston, Evangelos of New Jersey, Bishop Savas of Troas, members of the Greek government, diplomats, numerous members of Congress present at the event and Alexi Giannoulias who is running for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois.

Later in the evening Archbishop Demetrios along with Prime Minister Papandreou attended a working dinner with the participation of other Greek government ministers and a small number of Greek American business leaders. A series of opinions and ideas were exchanged about resolving the present financial crisis in Greece and creating the proper conditions for investment in Greece by Greek American businesses. 

The previous night the Chief of Protocol of the United States Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall hosted a dinner at the historic Blair House, in honor of Archbishop Demetrios and the anniversary of Greek Independence Day. 

  • To see the full text of the Archbishop’s remarks go here
  • To see photos of the White House reception go here.
  • For a transcript of the President’s Remarks go here.
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