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AHI President’s Op-ed: Greek Independence Day and the Athenian Oath: Let us be Reminded of our Duty
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Demetra Atsaloglou
April 6, 2012—No. 23 (202) 785-8430

AHI President’s Op-ed: Greek Independence Day and the Athenian Oath: Let us be Reminded of our Duty

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) released an op-ed written March 20, 2012 by AHI President Nick Larigakis titled, “Greek Independence Day and the Athenian Oath: Let us be Reminded of our Duty.”

Larigakis’ op-ed recounts his experience at this year’s Greek Independence Day held in Philadelphia, March 18, 2012, where he met Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. The mayor shared with President Larigakis the fact that the Athenian Oath is printed on the back of the mayor’s business card. The op-ed challenges the Greek American community to remember the spirit of the Athenian Oath when engaging in its civic duty to resolve the outstanding policy issues of concern to the community.

To date, the op-ed received placement in the following publications: The National Herald, The Hellenic Voice, The Hellenic News of America, and Greek News.

The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American think-tank and 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.

 


 

Greek Independence Day and the Athenian Oath: Let us be Reminded of our Duty

By Nick Larigakis,
President, American Hellenic Institute
March 20, 2012

 

On March 17 and 18, 2012, I had the opportunity to spend two wonderful days in Philadelphia, the city of “Brotherly Love,” where the American Hellenic Institute was the featured organization at this year’s annual Greek Independence Day parade. In addition, our organization’s leadership was honored. Dr. Spiros Spireas, AHI Foundation president, served as the parade’s Grand Marshal, and AHI Founder Eugene Rossides and I were Honorary Grand Marshals.

As everyone knows, Philadelphia is also the city that gave birth to this great country of ours.   Only a few blocks down the street from where we stood at Independence Hall, America’s Founding Fathers, inspired by the democratic ideals of Greece, helped to form our own union more than two hundred and thirty years ago. Those ideals became ingrained in long-lasting documents that continue to be the standard bearers for western democratic values and principles of democracy to this very day.

Under an absolutely beautiful sky we gathered at the starting point to begin our march. I was introduced to the Honorable Michael A. Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia. Mayor Nutter was very gracious, and I applaud him for making the effort to being there and lending his support to this very important celebration of the Greek American community of the Greater Delaware Valley. In his remarks later from the reviewing stand, the Mayor also announced that he had issued a proclamation to commemorate the day.

As good as all this was, what impressed me the most about Mayor Nutter was what he had printed on the back of his business card, which he provided me upon our introduction. With great pride he told me how honored he was to have the “Athenian Oath” printed on its back side, as a testament and reminder to all those who serve in public service as to their “obligation to the people and city they serve.” I was very impressed, and I might add, embarrassed, for I was not aware of the “Athenian Oath!”

This is what is says:

We will never bring disgrace on this, our city, by any act of dishonesty or cowardice. We will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city, both alone and with many. We will revere and obey the city’s laws, and we will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those about us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught. We will strive unceasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty. Thus, in all these ways we will transmit this city greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.

Also, we should be reminded that although the war of Greek Independence began in 1821, the present day borders of Greece came only into existence in the post-World War II era. For many, this occurred in our lifetime!

However, I submit that independence has yet to be completely achieved.

Unfortunately, today we are still faced with the reality that Cyprus, an EU country, is now in its 38th year of continuing illegal military occupation by Turkish troops; Turkey continues to violate Greece’s territorial integrity almost on a daily basis; and the Ecumenical Patriarch, the spiritual leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world continues to lack complete religious freedom by the Turkish government in Istanbul.

It’s also worth reminding ourselves that Turkey is a member of NATO and an aspiring EU country described by many within our government as being a “faithful and vital ally” in which “… our bonds are sound, our friendship is sure, and our alliance is strong,” and, “Our partnership is rooted in our long history and very long list of mutual interests, but most importantly, it is rooted on our common democratic values.”

And of course, in the past twenty years, we have seen additional challenges to Greek history and even implied threats to its territory by the intransigent and provocative governments in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

In invoking the “Athenian Oath,” it is our “civic duty” to continue to be vigilant in our pursuit to resolve many of our outstanding issues. If they continue to go unresolved, then a threat exists that undermines stability in the southeastern Mediterranean and serves to contradict our American values and the rule of law. Therefore, U.S. interests in the region are threatened too.

The heroes of 1821 and throughout history paid a hard price for the freedoms that we enjoy and celebrate today. Indeed, freedoms that many of us take for granted, and as the events around the world continue to illustrate, we never should.

The Declaration of Independence, penned in Philadelphia, states very succinctly that as free peoples, we have the right to “…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” For many of my generation, we have been given this gift, but as the “Athenian Oath” states, “…we will transmit this city greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.” Will we?

We must continue to be vigilant in the defense of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Through these ideals we can achieve the lasting peace and freedom that we all desire for mankind. And might I add ideals that must also apply to the issues confronting Greece and Cyprus.

Zito H Eleftheria.

 

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Nick Larigakis is President of the American Hellenic Institute.