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AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Demetra Atsaloglou
April 21, 2011—No. 30 (202) 785-8430

Event held in Cooperation with Hellenic Caucus Reaffirms Shared Democratic Ideals

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) celebrated the 190th anniversary of Greek Independence Day was by hosting its annual “Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day” on April 6, 2011.  The common democratic ideals held by Greece and the United States were reaffirmed by several members of Congress at the event which was held in cooperation with the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

AHI President Nick Larigakis served as Master of Ceremonies.  He welcomed the guests and thanked Representatives Bilirakis and Maloney for their support in organizing the reception and for their ongoing efforts in promoting Greek American issues in the U.S. Congress.

Special guest speakers were Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Vassilis Kaskarelis and Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S. Pavlos Anastasiades. 

Members of Congress who addressed the audience included (in order of appearance): U.S. Reps. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Michael Grimm (R-NY).

Each of the speakers emphasized their admiration for Hellenic culture and for the valiant and inspirational struggle for Greek Independence achieved in 1821. They also expressed their support for a proper settlement of the Cyprus issue, a proper resolution to the FYROM name-recognition issue, and religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Representatives from the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) joined AHI and the Greek American community in celebration of Greek Independence.

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.  The Greek School of Saint George Greek Orthodox Church, Bethesda, Md., sang the national anthems of the United States and Greece.

The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.  

Click here for photos from this event.

Excerpts of Remarks
 
Congressman Sires: “I am very happy to be here for Greek Independence Day, and as most of you know, I traveled to Cyprus and worked very hard on the issue.  So I will continue to work with you because I think it is the right thing to do.”

Congresswoman Maloney:  “I would say that our shared commitment to ensuring stability in Europe and in Cyprus is strong.  I see some members of the Hellenic Caucus—we are now 135 members strong.  And the Caucus brings a renewed interest on Greek issues.  You do not have to be Greek to know in your heart that Thessaloniki and Macedonia and all that area is Greek.  And you don’t have to be Greek to know that all of the 40,000 illegal invaders, the Turkish troops have to get off the island. And you do not have to be Greek to have the Greek spirit and love for the country, and love the Greek American community.” 

Congressman Sherman: “It [Greece] inspired the world with its fight for freedom just as it educated and inspired the world in ancient days.  I have supported every effort that Carolyn [Maloney] talked about:  to protect the Ecumenical Patriarchate…to make it clear that we need to respect human rights and especially the rights of religious minorities.  That’s why I am cosponsoring the bill to establish a special office in the State Department to focus on religious minorities in the Middle East, including the Greek and Armenian and other Christian populations of Turkey.  I look forward to us working together with you to make sure that country [FYROM] has a name that does not imply territorial claims or cultural expropriation.  As to Cyprus the answer is simple: the Turkish Army needs to leave Cyprus.”

Congressman McCotter: “…we know the challenges facing our nations, Greece and the United States.  But it’s often overlooked about the debt that we owe the Hellenic culture as Americans—with the Athenian city-state being the cradle of Democracy.  And so today it is an honor to be with you as an American who may not have a Greek first name, but can lay claim to the legacy of Hellenic culture.  Thank you for having me.”

Congressman Bilirakis: “We have the two best ambassadors here in the United States representing Greece and Cyprus, and they are wonderful to work with.  We are all on the same team “eimastai mia oikogenia.”  We have our history, our values, our culture, our religion, and our language. And we have our forefathers to thank for celebrating Greek Independence Day….and all of the help of the great powers who came in to help Greece.  So we have so much to be grateful for and we live in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.” 

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen: “It is a pleasure to celebrate the anniversary of Greece’s independence with you.  On such occasions, it is good that we take the time to remember that all of us are the heirs of a precious legacy—liberty.  In Greece and the United States our forefathers fought for their freedom from tyranny and afterwards established democratic governments based upon Greek political philosophy in order to ensure freedom for their children.  These historic ties and common ideals have forged a strong friendship between our nations, and throughout the 20th century, Greece and the U.S. were unwavering allies in every major conflict. Today, whether it is in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, or in Afghanistan, Greece and the U.S. continue to work together to promote the cause of freedom. In fact, last week I introduced a bill to highlight the many areas in which Greece and the U.S. work to counter mutual threats to our security and to establish a U.S. policy that needs to pursue measures that strengthen the cultural, diplomatic, and economic relations between our countries.  Together, we must support the tenuous reunification efforts on Cyprus because three decades of division, conflict, and occupation by foreign troops is far too long.  Further, this week I circulated a letter addressed to President Obama, which several of my colleagues have joined in signing, asking him to urge the Turkish government to lift its restrictive policies on, and grant religious liberty to, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Let us hope this appeal will encourage concrete reforms by the Turkish government. It is important that we remember the significance and value of the U.S. relationship with Greece, and I will continue to work in my role in Congress to strengthen those ties. Thank you.”

Congressman Pallone: “I want to thank the American Hellenic Institute for all you do.  First of all, we obviously need to continue to work with the Hellenic Caucus and with all of you to put pressure on our government, on the State Department, on the administration to be more assertive with regards to Turkey on many things but particularly with regard to the occupation of the northern part of Cyprus – it is unacceptable.  It is something that I hope in the next few years, certainly in my lifetime, that we can see an end to the occupation and a united Cyprus.  But it’s only going to happen if we continue to pressure our government because they don’t do enough obviously to put pressure on Ankara.  The other thing is with regard to what Nick said.  There are about 5,000 Cypriot Americans who still have property in the occupied area, and pursuant to the European Court, they still are entitled and sole owners of that property.   But many of them have no way of enforcing that and some would like to get reparations or compensations for their property.  The last thing Ileana [Ros-Lehtinen] mentioned with the Ecumenical Patriarchate…I always say the same thing: his status should be very similar to that which we recognize for the Pope – universal head of the Church; with his own rights, not having to be limited in his nomination/election to someone who is from Turkey because he is universal; and stop the terrorist attacks, the taking of his property, and all the other acts that the Turkish government has made over the last few years.  So we’re going to continue to work on these things. We know how difficult it is…but the bottom line is it’s never going to change unless we put more pressure on our government to put more pressure on Turkey and that’s what we’re all about. So thank you for inviting me and I will continue to be out there on your behalf.”

Congressman Grimm: “I think the relationship I’ve always had with the Greeks has been close because as an Italian we share the family values and we share the work ethic. And if there’s one thing that you can say about the Greek community it is everybody helped build America.  It’s the work ethic that they bring…and that’s one of the reasons why I was relentless in getting involved in the Hellenic Caucus and why I have fought to be a leader.  So I’m honored to be a part of this Caucus, and I am honored to stand here with my friend, Nick, and tell you that you can count on my leadership not only because I’m a Marine; but I believe in my heart in the same values that you believe in.  I will be there and count on me to fight the good fight and to remain not only a friend but someone that at the end of the day knows why he’s here.”

Click here for photos from this event.

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The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.   

For additional information, please contact Demetra Atsaloglou at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.


The American Hellenic Institute is a nonprofit public policy organization that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and also within the American Hellenic community.

1220 16th Street, NW | Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone 202-785-8430 | Fax 202-785-5178 |
www.ahiworld.org