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AHI Hosts Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
April 24, 2006—No. 31 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day

WASHINGTON, DC—On April 4, 2006, the American Hellenic Institute hosted "A Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" at the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 185th Anniversary of Greek Independence and the common democratic ideals held by Greece and the United States. The event was held in cooperation with the Congressional Hellenic Caucus's co-sponsors, Representative Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

The program began with the singing of the Greek and American national anthems, performed by Stelios Kontakiotis and Christina Indianos.Additionally, there was a special presentation on “George Jarvis: An American Fighter for Greek Independence” presented by AHI ChairmanJames Marketos.

AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis, Master of Ceremonies, 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 American issues in the U.S. Congress.

Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias and Cypriot Ambassador Euripides L. Evriviades offered their greetings in honor of Greek Independence Day and fostering liberty and democracy and upholding freedom.

Ambassador Mallias also emphasized Greece’s reliability as a partner and solid ally of the U.S. He said this was reconfirmed by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni’s and Greek Minister of Economy and Finance Christos Folias’ visit to the U.S. He emphasized the relationship between Greece and the U.S. towards peace and stability in the Balkans and the Middle East.

In his greetings, Ambassador Evriviades congratulated the American Hellenic Institute for upholding the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. He also emphasized the importance of Cyprus joining the European Union as well as the hard work and support of Greece and AHI in their work for Cyprus.

Members of Congress attending the reception and addressing the audience included (in order of appearance): Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY),Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), also attending the reception were Rep. Philip English (R-PA), and Rep. James Moran (D-VA).

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 expressed their wish for a proper settlement of the Cyprus issue.

Below are excerpted remarks from several of the Representatives:

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY): “In the year 2006, a vibrant Greek democracy continues to be an inspiration to its neighbors and the world. And, I believe that the friendship between America and Greece has never been stronger. There is a commitment to common goals and a sharing of fundamental values and a joint effort to combat terrorism.

The Hellenic Caucus will continue to work on several important issues before Congress. I urge Members to support H.R. 857 which allows U.S. citizens to file claims regarding their property in occupied Cyprus…And it’s vital the United States remain involved with the efforts to end the division of Cyprus.

We will continue to support efforts on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. I have introduced H.R. 521, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should cease its distribution of negative and nationalistic propaganda and should work with the UN and Greece to find a mutually acceptable official name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

As Turkey proceeds in its EU accession process, it must respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Today, we take special note of the Hellenic Americans and thank them for their many contributions to our nation’s cultural, economic and political heritage.

And, today we celebrate Greek Independence Day and we applaud the many contributions to our nation’s culture, economic and political heritage. And ‘Zito H Ellada!’”

Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC): “Thank you for the invitation to be with you on the hill tonight. The Greek Caucus is a very strong part of the Congressional process, and it’s always important to keep us informed on these issues that are so important to you. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your celebration.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD): “It’s been my privilege to work with this great organization, AHI, for many years, first as a Congressional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1980’s and now as a member of Congress as we make sure we continue to deepen the strong relations between the United States and Greece, the United States and Cyprus and to work on the many issues, the challenges that we face on the foreign policy front.

And you all know those issues very well…but we need to redouble our efforts in our quest to achieve justice and a just settlement in Cyprus. I know that we can do that working together. I thank AHI for all its efforts in that area and to try to make sure that we have the rule of law applied throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and look to the rule of law to resolve our problems. Thank all of you and again thank AHI.”

Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD): “Thank you (AHI) very much for doing the event. And, we think it is important to mark Greek Independence Day but also to mark the relationship between the United States and Greece at the same time.

You know, when the revolution began, America was literally a new republic of about three decades old and the Greeks received tremendous support from the Americans, Henry Clay, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson all were very strongly in support of the Greek effort to gain their freedom and their independence which of course they were successful in doing. So we value that connection which dates from way back from the very beginning.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL): “In these days when we are currently celebrating Greek Independence Day, the common values the Greek and the American share a deep commitment to democracy, human right and the rule of law are move obvious than ever. 185 years ago, on March 25, 1821, Greek freedom fighters brought sovereignty back to their country, allowing the Greek people to deicide their fate themselves again.

A week ago, I delivered a statement on the House floor paying tribute to the Greek freedom fighters and to all persons and nations who have successfully fought for their right to live according to the rules of democracy and freedom, denying thr rule of tyranny and autocracy.

The year 1821 is not only outstanding in the Greek context but also serves as a strong symbol of the inspiration one brave nation can provide to the world. The United States is a proud and stalwart partner of the Greek nation. We are grateful for the gift of democracy you have given to the world and we look up to your perseverance in uholding this gift as your guiding principle.

Greece is one of our strongest allies in the war against terror. Earlier this year, Ambassador Mallias just recently signed a bilateral agreement, which allows U.S. and Greek law enforcement officials in both countries to cooperate more effectively in bringing criminals to justice and in combating international terrorism.

As a NATO ally, the Greek military has taken on a strong and continuous commitment in Afghanistan. The Greek government has supported Operation Enduring Freedom both militarily and financially, contributed significantly to the International Security Assistance Force and funded educational programs.

As one of the wealthiest and most stable countries in the Mediterranean, Greece is of great geopolitical importance. It serves as a shining beacon of peace and stability to the neighboring Balkans and as a bridge to the Muslim world.

I commend Greece for its strong work in both the Middle East Partnership Initiative and the Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative.

The friendship that binds the United States, the land of freedom, and Greece, the country of freedom fighters fills me with pride.

I am especially encouraged by the frequent meetings on the diplomatic level that have recently taken place between our countries, such as the visit of the new Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Folias to the United States. I look forward to working together to further advance the Greek-American partnership.”

Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL): “I’m delighted to be here to share with all of you as we celebrate Greek Independence Day. But, you know I was thinking, even as involved as we are internationally…Greeks are an integral part of the culture and society of Illinois, especially where I live, where the biggest weddings are held right in my neighborhood at the Greek church.

I just congratulate you for all you have meant to America, for all you have meant to the world, especially the expression of democracy. Teaching others what it really means for people to be involved, for people to have a say, for people to be a part. We are proud to be with you.”

Concluding the event, was a presentation of traditional Greek dances performed by the Return to Origins Greek Folk Dance Troupe under the direction of Rena and Elena Papapostolou.

Please find the photographs from AHI's "Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" at the following linkhttp://ahiworld.org/2006_congressional_salute/.

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