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Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Commemorates 185th Anniversary of Greek Independence on the House Floor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
March 30, 2006—No. 22 (202) 785-8430

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Commemorates 185th Anniversary of Greek Independence on the House Floor

WASHINGTON, DC— On March 28, 2006, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) spoke on the House floor to commemorate Greek Independence Day and to mark 185 years of Greek Independence. Please find the text of the full statement below.

 

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Madam Speaker, I rise today to address the House in honor of Greek Independence Day that was celebrated on March 25. Greek freedom fighters brought sovereignty back to their country, 185 years ago, allowing the Greek people to decide their fate for themselves again.

I speak here today to honor all persons and nations who have successfully fought for their right to live according to the rules of democracy and freedom, denying the rule of tyranny and autocracy. As the oldest democracy in the world, the Greek nation has passionately struggled to uphold democracy as its form of government.

The significance emanating from the year 1821 is outstanding, not only in the Greek context, but also as a strong symbol of the inspiration one brave nation can provide to the world.

When in 1821 the Greek people regained their independence, more than four centuries of occupation and oppression by the Ottoman Empire came to an end. The peoples of the Balkans were soon to follow the Greek example and sought freedom from the Ottoman rule.

The courage and vision of the Greek freedom fighters also transcended the borders of the former Ottoman Empire. The independence movement received broad support from intellectuals abroad, including English poet Lord Byron and U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Daniel Webster.

The Greek flag symbolizes the legacy of 1821. The cross in the upper left part of the flag stands for the Greek Orthodox Church, which significantly helped Greeks to preserve their ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage during the years of occupation. The cross is embedded by nine alternating blue and white stripes, each representing one letter of the Greek word for freedom. While the flag was developed in the early days of independence, it took more than 150 years before it became the official Greek flag.

After the end of the Ottoman occupation, Greeks had to struggle for another century before their land was truly freed. In the 1970s, Greeks once again fought for freedom and independence, stripping off a 7-year rule by a military junta. Shortly after democracy had been reestablished, the Greek nation finally adopted the cross-and-nine-stripe flag as its official flag.

The United States is a proud partner of the Greek nation, which has given the gift of democracy to the world, and which throughout history has fought to uphold this gift as its guiding principle. Greeks and Americans share a common vision to have everyone on this planet enjoy the gift of freedom and democracy. Greece is one of our strongest allies in the international war against terror.

The United States and Greece have consistently joined forces to fight the global threats of terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism, nuclear proliferation, illegal narcotics, and international crime. As a strong NATO ally, the Greek military has taken on a strong and abiding commitment in Afghanistan as well.

Greece has given the United States both military and financial support for Operation Enduring Freedom. It contributes to it is International Security Assistance Force and has pledged to fund educational programs.

Located on shores of the Mediterranean Sea, Greece is of the greatest geopolitical importance. Neighboring with the Balkans, it serves as a shining beacon of peace and stability in the region. Bordering with Turkey, it serves as the bridge to the Muslim world.

I commend Greece for its strong work in the Middle East Partnership Initiative, MEPI, and its strong participation in the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative.

However, many pressing issues in the region remain unresolved, Madam Speaker. The ongoing conflict over the final name of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia causes grave concern, just as it grieves me to see the continued division of Cyprus and the unbalanced approach that has been taken to overcome this division.

I hope that we will soon be able to witness the end of the occupation and a reunification of Cyprus on fair and equitable terms. The emergence of a strong, vibrant and justly unified Cyprus would provide stability, both politically and economically, to the Mediterranean region.

I urge Congress remain engaged in the search for a just and lasting reunification that will promote peace and stability. Recalling the Greek routes of democracy, I am proud to represent the interests of my Greek American constituency. With currently 1.5 million members, the Greek American community contributes significantly to the prosperity of our Nation.

Madam Speaker, I am proud of the friendship that binds the United States, the land of freedom, and Greece, the country of freedom fighters.

Together, we can promote democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights worldwide.

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For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or georgia@ahiworld.org. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.