American Hellenic Institute

Greek Tshirt

2017GreekHeritagebutton

AHI Calendar

 
Facebook Image
AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Georgea Polizos
March 25, 2013—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 192nd anniversary of Greek Independence Day by hosting its annual “Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day,” on March 20, 2013.  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. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

Special guest speakers were: Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos Panagopoulos, Chargé d'affaires Olympia Neocleous, Embassy of Cyprus to the United States; and AHEPA Executive Director Basil Mossaidis.

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:  Greek Defense Attaché, Col. Evangelos Papadopoulos and several congressional staff persons.

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 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 to AHI

Congressman Bilirakis: “I want to thank Nick Larigakis for doing an outstanding job helping Greece, Cyprus, our Church, and of course, our community here in the United States.  I also want to thank AHI’s founder, the original “Golden Greek,” Gene Rossides…400 years of Ottoman rule and we kept our customs our traditions…We overcame everything, we Hellenes, and I have always said there is nothing that will keep us down.  And that is true.  Take, for example, what we did at the Battle of Crete.  Look at what we did when we held back the Italians and proclaimed, “Oxi!”  It’s just incredible what Greeks can do if they stick their mind to it…

Congresswoman Maloney:  “I want to thank all of you for coming to celebrate Greek Independence Day, and I am so pleased to be here with all of you. I am the founder and co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus and it’s a bipartisan effort with Gus Bilirakis. This day, Greek Independence Day, is so historic and important.  It is the day you threw off 400 years of Ottoman rule and assumed independence 192 years ago and our own American revolution was inspired by the ideals of democracy given to us from the great country of Greece. I am from New York and it’s probably the home of more Hellenes and Astoria, Queens is often called “Little Athens,” and we celebrate Greek Independence Day with a parade that is widely attended, and it is tremendously important. Greece and America have always been allies in all of our wars.  We deeply appreciate the friendship of the Greeks and their support…But I want to thank the Greek American community for being here and so much for your leadership we appreciate it very very much. …We have worked together for many years to advance the causes and concerns of Greece and create greater bonds of friendship between our two great democracies.”

Congressman Van Hollen: “Let me start by thanking Nick, AHI, and all of you for all that you have done to keep strong the ties between the United States and Greece. In tough times and good times, working with us to tackle these really important issues—as well as the Hellenic caucus…it is a great bipartisan caucus…

“If you look back to the Greek traditions of liberty…we obviously borrowed from those ideas for our own declaration of independence and Constitution.  Now, the United States government needs to make sure we pursue religious liberty and freedom wherever it may be and that includes the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  So we will continue to work with you on that very important issue along with the other important issues that we face such as bringing justice to Cyprus.  Many of us have worked on this issue for a very long time, and I think it is really important that despite the passage of time that we not give up on achieving that goal.  I am confident that one day justice will prevail on this very important issue.  Finally, I think it is important for the United States to use its influence within the international arena, including with the IMF and others, to try and make sure that we can try and work through these economic crises in a way that restores stability to these economies, but does it in a way that doesn’t impose excessive hardship…It is great to be with you here to celebrate Greek independence day and all the great gifts that Greece has bestowed on civilization.”

Congressman Sherman: “It’s great to be here to celebrate the independence of Greece…I have always enjoyed coming to celebrate Greek independence and being with my fellow Hellenes and philhellenes…whether it is Cyprus, whether it is the Ecumenical Patriarchate, whether it is FYROM, I have been with you on every issue…I do want to say that my most recent effort has been to oppose the transfer of frigates to the Turkish Navy…this transfer was unwarranted, and I look forward to working with you on this…Keep in mind, if it wasn’t for the Turkish Navy, Cyprus would be much further along in developing its natural gas resources and Europe would be in a lot better position than it is today…

Congresswoman Titus: “I stood on the floor today as a proud Greek, as a member of the Hellenic Caucus, and also the new Hellenic Israeli Caucus, to speak about Greek Independence Day…I spoke about my grandfather whose name I share and how he taught me principles that have carried me through my public service. They are principles of great democracy and citizenship and participation, and I think they have served me well.  I also admonished my colleagues to visit Greece. My husband, my mother, my sister, and I were there in June, and we had a wonderful time…but I asked them [colleagues] to go and see Greece and enjoy all the things that it has to offer.  Then maybe they won’t stand on the floor of the House and always use Greece as the whipping boy for the economic woes that you find all across Europe; not just in our own country.  So I share with you that need to spread the word about the good things that are happening there and how we can work together.      

Congressman Pallone: “I was listening to what Nick said about you know I guess people who are saying bad things about Greece and it’s amazing to me…all I can say is just thinking about the history of the country and the contributions to Western Civilization, and to the world…for anybody to be critical…if they only went and saw how beautiful it is and how safe, they certainly wouldn’t be making any of those statements.  I also wanted to comment on the fact that those who talk about the economic crisis do they not realize what the Greek government has done. I mean the austerity measures and what they have had to do in terms of pensions and public employees…in order to try to get out of this crisis—many of which I think shouldn’t have been imposed—but they are going along with them and being incredibly responsible about it, in my opinion. So it’s not only a question of the country being a great place to go and its contributions to the world, but also the fact that even now they are moving forward with these austerity measures in a way that I think frankly are pretty commendable.

“I really believe, in terms of Cyprus, that this is also a temporary situation.  I think the economy in Cyprus is probably a lot better than what is being reported…But we need to be supportive in the United States of Greece—not only economically—but also on all the other issues the Hellenic Caucus deals with…we still have a problem with the Turks and the Ecumenical Patriarch by not respecting him.  We still have incidents—I think one occurred within the last couple days—where the Turkish military, or the Turkish naval vessels, invade the Greek territory.  So we as Americans have to continue to be supportive not only in the Hellenic Caucus, but in general of Greece and Cyprus, to make sure that our own government understands that these are allies that will always be with the United States.  We have to make sure that we are there for them economically and in every other way.

“I think there is no more important time to be here to celebrate Greek Independence Day and to make it known to your congressmen and women, and to your senators, that they need to be supportive of Greece and Cyprus.”

Remarks Submitted in the Congressional Record

Congressman Michael Grimm: “Greek Independence Day is an ideal moment for all Americans to contemplate the roots of our own democratic tradition.  It is important to remember that when the Founding Fathers set out to structure our young republic on firm footing, many of the laws and principles were based on the ancient political philosophy of the Greeks. Appreciating the very architecture of the United States Capitol, our Temple of Freedom, or reading through the Constitution reveals the profound impact the culture and history of Greece has had on our modern customs and institutions.

“It is with great pride that I rise today to honor the independence of a nation that, for centuries, has championed the very rights it has had the distinct honor and privilege of nurturing into existence: those of liberty and participation in the democratic process. I have come to know first-hand the vibrant cultural heritage Greek and Cypriot Americans offer to local communities in Staten Island and Brooklyn, and I have every confidence that the common bonds between the United States, Cyprus, and Greece shall live on for generations to come.”

Congressman John Sarbanes:  Watch the congressman’s floor speech here.

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 Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or at pr@ahiworld.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.