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AHI Hosts Congressional Salute To Greek Independence Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: CHRYSOULA ECONOMOPOULOS
March 22, 2002 No. 13/02 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts Congressional Salute To Greek Independence Day

On March 19, 2002, the American Hellenic Institute hosted "A Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" at the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill to kick off Washington, D.C.'s celebration of the 181st Anniversary of Greek Independence. The event, which was attended by more than 250 people, was held in cooperation with the Congressional Hellenic Caucus's co-sponsors, Representative Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis welcomed the guests and thanked Rep. Bilirakis and Rep. Maloney for their support in organizing the reception, and for their ongoing efforts in promoting Hellenic issues in the U.S. Congress.

AHI's Chairman James Marketos conveyed his greetings and stressed the symbolic importance of Greek Independence Day. He pointed out that, "the Greek struggle was really a struggle against incredibly overwhelming odds. And it reminds us of how tenaciously a group of people can cling to the idea of justice, and independence and the rule of law. Even after 400 years of those things being suppressed in Greece, the Greeks didn't lose sight of those important things."

Greek Ambassador Alexander Philon and Cypriot Ambassador Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis offered brief remarks and spoke of the importance of this holiday. The ideals of freedom, justice and the rule of law symbolized by the holiday and the importance of achieving these democratic ideals must also be realized in the particular situation in Cyprus. According to Ambassador Philon, "We want democracy to prevail within our neighborhood, but also we want democratic rights -- freedom of choice, freedom from occupation in Cyprus. And that is clearly what has to happen this year."

Numerous members of Congress attended the reception. Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY),Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) addressed the audience. Also stopping by the reception briefly were Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) and Member of the Hellenic Parliament and former Foreign Minister of Greece Theodoros Pangalos.

Each of the speakers emphasized their admiration for the Hellenic culture and for the valiant and inspiring struggle for Greek independence, achieved nearly 200 years ago. They also affirmed their commitment to finding a just and permanent solution to the Cyprus problem based on UN resolutions and democratic principles. They stressed that the rule of law must prevail in the Cyprus problem and in the Aegean.

Below are excerpted remarks from several of the Representatives:

Rep. Bilirakis: "There are a lot of members of Congress here who are tremendously supportive of the continuing Greek cause that we have, the Greek-Turkish situations, the Cypriot situation. I'm going to be a little parochial when I say to those of us who are Greek Americans here how very special we are that we've retained our heritage and our customs and our language and our religion through so very very many years of conquest and that we've continued that on in this particular country."

Rep. Pallone: "We have the talks over Cyprus, the direct talks that are ongoing. The U.S. needs to be very supportive of putting the pressure on the Turkish side to make sure that they come to the table and that we negotiate something that provides for a united Cyprus. At the same time, the whole effort for Cyprus to joint the European Union -- the U.S. needs to continue to be supportive of that in a major way and to talk about how Cyprus really has been so successful economically and why it serves as such an example."

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen: "Aristotle said, 'If liberty and equality are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.' It is this legacy of democracy which our forefathers emulated for our young republic in its founding days here in the U.S. And thus, today we celebrate that shared democratic heritage and long-standing friendship and alliance with the Greek community from the corridors of the people¹s Congress."

Rep. Payne: "As a senior member of the International Relations Committee, I have long been involved in issues affecting the Greek American community. I am aware that Greece achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821. I originally introduced a bill in March 2000 calling for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to their rightful home in Greece. I am reintroducing that same bill tonight."

Full transcripts of speaker remarks and digital photos of the event are available by contacting Chrysoula Economopoulos at (202) 785-8430 or[email protected]. Transcripts and other materials related to AHI's celebration of Greek Independence Day will also be available on our website on Monday, March 25, 2002 under a special link -- "AHI Celebrates Greek Independence Day" -- available on our homepage at http://www.ahiworld.org.