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AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Nick Larigakis
April 24, 2008—No. 27 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day

WASHINGTON, DC -- On April 9, 2008 the American Hellenic Institute hosted its annual "Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" at the Cannon Building on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 187th 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 Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis, who served as 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.

Special guest speaker was Konstantinos Kiltidis, Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Greece.

Members of Congress attending the reception and addressing the audience included (in order of appearance): Rep.Hilda L. Solis(D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rob Wittman(R-VA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Lois Capps (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Ed Royce (R-CA) Diane Watson (D-CA), Zack Space (D-OH), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Chris van Hollen(D-MD), Dale Kildee (D-MI) and Niki Tsongas(D-MA).

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, and stressed their support for Greece over the name issue with FYROM.

Below are excerpts of remarks made from members of Congress and other guests:

Hilda L.Solis (D-CA)- said she was “honored to be able to celebrate the independence of 
Greece, a great country. We are strong supporters of the Resolution recognizing Greek Independence Day and proud to be here. We enjoyed working together with Nick on issues that are important to all of us because we all care about freedom and democracy.”

John Sarbanes (D-MD)-thanked AHI for hosting the event, and added “Greek Independence Day is a broader celebration. If you look at history, it went well beyond Greece. It celebrates freedom and democracy. I am proud of the contributions Greek Americans have made. Our advocacy is on the issues of Cyprus, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the FYROM, and we bring our advocacy forward because we believe they are important issues to the U.S. and to the interests of the U.S.”

Ileana Ross-Lehtinen (R-FL)- related her roots to those of the Greeks’ in saying that “We in the Hispanic community feel a real kinship to the Greek spirit: the values of family, individual excellence are as important to Greeks as they are to those of us with Latino roots, and we owe a great deal to the political principles which were in line thousands of years ago.”

Rob Wittman(R-VA)-acknowledged “the important role Greek civilization plays in the government system in the U.S. today.”

Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)- said that “…Ileanna Ross-Lehtinen is my hero. She is with us on the Greek causes and Resolutions. I am proud of our mother Greece and will do everything we can do to help our mother country.”

Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) – a co-sponsor of the Hellenic Caucus. She welcomed the guests and thanked everyone for their support.

Lois Capps (D-CA) –praised Greece for being the longest-standing democracy. She finished her comments with a Greek phrase “Zhto h Eleytheria”.

Jim McDermott (D-WA) shared his experiences on the island of Crete, and his fondness
for the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis.

Ed Royce (R-CA) mentioned that “Thomas Jefferson admired the ancient Greek ideals of Logic, Aristotelian thought, and Science...Lord Byron helped in the struggle to liberate the people,” but that “the struggle goes on goes on in the sense of liberating your faith in that Turkey has made it impossible for the Greeks who are in Turkey to carry on their faith, and steps need to be taken and our hope is that we can bring tighter pressure there and that Turkey not be the only country in the world not to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and take the last steps necessary to finally liberate that last bastion of Greek thought, the Greek Orthodox Church.”

Chris van Hollen (D-MD) “Thank you to Nick and to all the members who work to make sure we have a strong relationship between Greece and the U.S.I want to mention two things; There was a big debate in NATO recently about new members. Greece was absolutely right to raise an issue about the name of FYROM and to stand up for its people and understand the importance of symbolism in politics.”

Zack Space (D-OH) “We are in the Veterans Affairs building. My “pappou” came here during WWI and did his service here [in the U.S.].Along with Biliarakis and Sarbanes, what is important about John, Gus, and myself: our family, our tradition, our Church, our values. Those are things we all grew up with in our Greek families, and there are now three new Greeks in Congress!

Dale Kildee (D-MI)- said whenever I go to the Turkish Embassy by invitation, they always know that I am going to mention Cyprus and the Ecumenical Patriarchate and that each be treated with great respect. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is extremely important. I happen to be a Roman Catholic but I feel like he is our brother.” He finished by saying,
“We owe so much to the Greek people.”

Niki Tsongas (D-MA)-“It is great to be here. This past weekend I marched in the Greek Independence Day parade in Boston, where Greek Americans came from across the state. My husband Paul was a first generation Greek American. His father came when he was three years old. It’s remarkable that as a first generation American, he could rise to run for the presidency of the United States and come close to winning. It was really a testament to his Greek heritage – the commitment to Family, the commitment to Public Service, and to want to be engaged in the life of the community, and of the nation. This is that which I have learned so well from him. I am not Greek, but I am Greek through osmosis. I was welcomed in the Greek community as I traveled to Lowell [MA] with my husband. This past winter I traveled to Athens for the first time in twenty five years 
and I was so impressed at the progress the country has made- particularly the infrastructure- especially after the Olympics, and how the country is taking care to be a true regional leader.”

Konstantine Kiltidis, Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Greece-stated that he is “happy that significant members of Congress recognize the importance of Greek Independence Day…We never forget the assistance that U.S. provided to Greece during all the wars, and we never forget the solidarity that you have shown to us during the disastrous wildfires of the summer of 2007. “Zhto h Ellada, Zhto h Ameriki!”

Ambassador of Greece, Alexandros Mallias- “Thank you very much for being here in honor of Americans, of Greek-Americans, and Greeks, because we share a history based on values and interests. Greece has been saying ‘Yes’ to dignity, ‘yes’ to freedom, ‘yes’ to prosperity, ‘yes’ to democracy. But we say ‘No’ to those who forget history, ‘no’ to those who want to change history, ‘no’ to those who want to become members of the international community in the 21st century using 19th century failed policies . On behalf of the Greek government, and the Greek people I want to say how grateful we are for the tremendous support we get from Congress on issues that affect Europe and Greece. Your support on Resolution 356 made propaganda on the name of FYROM, and your support on Senate Resolution 300 has been an extremely useful tool for Greek diplomacy and I think had a satisfactory outcome in the Bucharest NATO summit.”

Yannis Michailidis of the Cypriot Embassy- started by saying that “It is a great pleasure to convey a message for the Ambassador [Ambassador Andreas Kakouris]…March 25th 1821 is the day identified with the uprising of a heroic people who struggled bravely for independence, and 187 years later 1821 continues to symbolize peace freedom and democracy. In 1974, Cypriots gave their lives to defend the freedom and independence of their country…for thirty four years the people continue a peaceful struggle for freedom and reunification. Cyprus has found strong supporters in Congress among members of the Greek-American community…we strive to achieve a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem based on the Rule of Law. Hellenism must remain united. I want to congratulate Mr. Rossides [President of AHI] , Mr.Larigakis, Executive Director of AHI, and Members of the Board and affiliates for their tireless efforts promoting the future of Hellenism. AHI has consistently been a forceful voice for the just cause of Cyprus in the U.S. and I sincerely thank them.”

During the evening, there was a presentation of traditional Greek dances performed by the Return to Origins Greek Folk Dance Troupe under the direction of Rena Papapostolou as well as the singing of the National Anthems of the United States and Greece by the Greek School of Saint George Greek Orthodox Church in Bethesda, Maryland.

Please find the photographs from AHI's "Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" at the following link: http://ahiworld.org/2008_congressional_salute/

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For additional information, please contact Nick Larigakis at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.