2017 WHITE HOUSE CELEBRATION FOR GREEK INDEPENDENCE
MARCH 24, 2017
Dear Mr. President,
Following a tradition established many years ago, we have the distinct honor and special privilege to be once again at the White House on the occasion of the celebration of the Greek Independence Day. We are deeply grateful as the Greek Orthodox American community for such recognition of our people and for your kindness to sign the Proclamation that pays tribute to the historic 1821 Greek Revolution, a revolution that led to the liberation of Greece, after four bitter centuries under the painful occupation and rule of the Ottoman Empire.
America has been connected to Greece in a special way even before the Revolution of 1821 and the creation of Greece as an independent state. Allow me to share with you an example of how far back this strong bond extends:
Most people when asked the question what was America’s first war on foreign soil, have no response. The answer is the Barbary Wars of 1805 when Thomas Jefferson was President. At that time, President Jefferson sent special envoy General William Eaton on a secret mission to stop the Barbary pirates who were demanding tribute from ships travelling near North African States, especially Libya. At 2:00 pm on April 27th 1805 General Eaton along with Lieutenant O’ Bannon, leading an attack force of 7 United States marines and 26 Greek recruits as well as 24 European mercenaries advanced on the city of Tripoli, Libya. In that battle, Greeks who signed an oath to protect and defend the United States of America, led by Captain Constantinos Lucas, fought side by side with the American Marines and many fell heroically on the battle field.
Then, we should remember that Greece with the United States fought on the side of democracy and against tyranny in two big wars WW1, WW2, and then in the Korean War where the soldiers of the Greek Sparta Battalion were among the many Greek and Greek Americans who sacrificed their lives and received US Congressional citations.
More recently, together we suffered unspeakable tragedies especially on September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, a victim of which was also our Saint Nicholas Church at Ground Zero. Yet, determined to overcome any adversity and proving that the spirit of freedom is victorious over evil, we are rebuilding together the new World Trade Center, part of which raised from the ashes, is the new Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, a symbol of hope and victory against evil and barbarism.
Through history, both nations have exercised their uncompromised right to break the yoke of tyranny and to recover the priceless gift of self-governance and independence.
All the more this has been a central focus in defense and in protection and promotion of the very priceless religious freedom. During our very honorific meetings in this White House, we repeatedly have indicated how the ideas of independence and religious freedom painfully apply to special situations related to our Ecumenical Patriarchate, to Cyprus, and to the name of FYROM.
Today, however, allow me to offer in addition a strong plea for the very country where the historic revolution of 1821 occurred. Greece is this country, a faithful, unyielding dedicated ally of the United States who remained valiant despite demanding and life sacrificing conditions in numerous wars in which the United States has been involved.
Yet, Greece, this precious and loyal ally of the United States, has been at least for the last 6 years in a continuing financial ordeal and affliction. On this occasion, the people of Greece, and I am speaking from personal experience, remember very well the impact on Europe, and especially on Greece, of both the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. We know and are deeply grateful to the United States of America which saved a devastated Europe after the Second World War. The contribution of America was truly monumental -- helping to restore financially a war ravaged Europe. Today, compared to the gigantic assistance needed for Europe after World War II, a significantly less assistance is needed for Greece to recuperate financially and function again as a dynamic state. By doing so, the possibility will be given to Greece to resume and continue a vital role as a faithful ally and nation that produced waves of succeeding cultures and civilizations for 6000 years.
On this Day of Greek Independence, we fervently pray that God put an end to the ordeal of Greece, the mother of democracy, culture, philosophy, science and even a model of philanthropy towards the hundreds of thousands of refugees. We ask for peace in our wounded world. We pray for the United States, the staunch defender of freedom and justice for all; for the noble first family, the President, and the Vice President of the United States, and for all the people who are in need for divine and human assistance.
We pray and we believe. We pray and we hope. We pray and we are in grateful anticipation of your positive initiative.
Thank you, Mr. President.