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AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Demetra Atsaloglou
April 6, 2012—No. 22 (202) 785-8430

AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day

Event held in Cooperation with Hellenic Caucus Reaffirms Shared Democratic Ideals

WASHINGTON, DC—The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) celebrated the 191st anniversary of Greek Independence Day by hosting its annual “Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day,” on March 21, 2012. 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 to organize the reception and for their ongoing efforts to promote Greek American issues in the U.S. Congress.

Members of Congress who addressed the audience included (in order of appearance): U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), and Michael Turner (R-OH).

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. 

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.

Dignitaries in attendance included: former U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, former Congresswoman and Dina Titus, who is currently a congressional candidate for Nevada’s First Congressional District; Greek Defense Attaché, Col. Taxiarchis Sardellis, AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaidis and HALC Executive Director Endy Zemenides. 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 students of the Greek School of Saint Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church, Falls Church, Va., 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.

Excerpts of Remarks

Congresswoman Tsongas: “We are reminded of the extraordinary contributions of Greek Americans have made to this country, and I have seen firsthand all the remarkable contributions.”

Congresswoman Maloney: “I’m so pleased to be here and share this great opportunity with you to celebrate Greek Independence Day. I thank you, Nick, for bringing us together and the American Hellenic Institute for organizing this important gathering…New Yorkers celebrate Greek Independence Day with a parade on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan which I have been honored to participate in many times—and was even the Grand Marshal once…. I would say that relations between the United States and Greece remain strong and with sheer commitment to ensuring stability in Europe and throughout the world… And as co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus I am proud to say that we are one of the largest Caucuses in Congress… the Caucus has brought a renewed energy and really on key diplomatic, military and human rights issues in a critical part of the world. And just recently, the Caucus hosted a briefing with Ambassador Kaskarelis regarding the ongoing debt crisis in the Eurozone. He answered all of our questions, and it was very reassuring…it was a very productive exchange, and we thank him for that. The situation in Greece has been very difficult for the Greek public and the Greek government has taken impressive steps to address it and the Caucus will continue to monitor the situation there as new developments unfold.” 

Congresswoman Berkley: “Welcome to our nation’s capital, where we are celebrating Greek Independence Day. It is a pleasure to be with you this year. Thank you, Nick, for bringing us all together and providing a wonderful opportunity to rejoice in the Independence of Greece.”

Congressman Bilirakis: “I want to thank AHI for doing such a wonderful job over the years…And on March 25, 1821 Archbishop Germanos raised the flag of freedom declaring Greece free. This day was not chosen by chance because it coincides with the Greek Orthodox celebration of the Annunciation of the Theotokos. To the Greeks, the Mother of God is our champion savior, their champion and our protector. Four-hundred years of Ottoman rule and the Greeks they protected and preserved their customs, their traditions, their religion and our wonderful language. We had brave heroes to thank for that, what Kolokotronis, Kanaris, Miaoulis did and Philhellenes like Lord Byron that gave their wealth. We have them to thank and all the unsung heroes. Ladies and gentlemen, if we can overcome that then the Greek people can overcome this crisis. I promise you we can do it. And we as Greek Americans can save our Ellada. We must be goodwill ambassadors. Again, we must preserve our heritage, our identity. It means the world to me, and I know it means the world to you too.

Congressman Sarbanes: “It’s wonderful to be here to celebrate and commemorate with AHI the 191st anniversary of Greek independence…I want to congratulate and commend the American Hellenic Institute for the tremendous work that you have done; Nick, Gene Rossides, the board, the foundation, for all the wonderful work you have done to stand century over these important issues…It is organizations like the American Hellenic Institute that make sure we never forget what happened and that we stand ready to seize the moment when it comes to make sure that justice for Cyprus is there. So on that and so many other issues, AHI has been in the forefront, and it’s always a pleasure to join with you in celebration of this day”.

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen: “All of us have been inspired by the wonderful words of the Greek patriots; the motto of freedom or death. And that sustained them and they fought against enormous odds until they were finally free and all of us know that this same defiance was expressed in our own war for independence when Patrick Henry famously declared, ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’ That shared commitment of freedom has been the foundation of the close ties between our countries—between our people—and have grown ever closer for two centuries.”

Congressman Pallone: “Let me first of all thank Nick and the American Hellenic Institute for all that they do…I always like to come to Independence Day Celebrations because they remind me of the importance of Greece to our democracy.”

Congressman Crowley: “Our country has been really built on the backbone on your forbearers from Greece who settled throughout this country and made it the great country that it is today”.

2012 Greek Independence Day Photos

 

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.

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For additional information, please contact Demetra Atsaloglou 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.