AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day
Top Foreign Affairs Legislators Participate
WASHINGTON, DC—The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) celebrated the 193rd anniversary of Greek Independence Day by hosting its annual “Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day,” on March 26, 2014. 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. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), former chairman and current member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Ed Royce (R-CA), who is chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Grace Meng (D-NY), a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Brad Schneider (D-IL), a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Eliot Engel (D-NY), who is the ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Special guest speakers were: Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Christos Panagopoulos, Ambassador of Cyprus to the U.S. George Chacalli, 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.
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.
Excerpts of Remarks to AHI
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen: “I have more than acute awareness of what living in a democracy really means. For some Americans, we may take our freedoms for granted…but I am so grateful…that I get to take part in that great experiment we call democracy. When the United States of America was founded 238 years ago, it was inspired by and built upon an old Greek idea: democracy…I am proud that today, as we commemorate the 193rd anniversary of Greece’s independence, that our two nations share such a strong friendship rooted in rich and time honored traditions and ideas. Here’s to the next 193 years.”
Chairman Royce: “Greece is the home of the enlightenment, the creator of the basic concepts of human rights and the age of reason…America was the first country to support Greece and this serves to remind us what Greece must have meant to those Americans…Challenges continue in the Aegean...I have been to Cyprus and left alone, I am sure they would work out an agreement…We stand with Cyprus…To all of you here, don’t stop working to be certain that Greece maintains its rights and freedoms and that Cyprus be free.”
Congressman Bilirakis: “I wear (my Hellenism) on my sleeve because it comes from the heart…when you do something from the heart, it is never wrong…It is our duty and our obligation to keep the flame (of Hellenism) alive….It’s no coincidence that Greeks declared independence on the same day as the Annunciation of the Theotokos…We are always grateful to our forefathers and as Americans, we must never forget what Greece has done for America…Only three countries in the world have been with the US for every single conflict. Greece is one of those three…We will not rest until Cyprus is free.”
Congresswoman Meng: “The Hellenic community has been very close to me over the years and I have always admired how close they have stayed to their culture, religion and traditions…I admire them as a special ally (of the US)…Glad to see the renewal of Cyprus talks, and we need to always be sure that Cypriots are not pressured into a bad deal.”
Congresswoman Maloney: “Today, it’s time to celebrate the wonderful contributions of the Greek community…Democracy was your true gift to the world… Greece led the world out of darkness… I’m proud to represent a large, beautiful Greek community…Macedonia is Greek…we will continue to work for an appropriate name…I’m hopeful for a positive agreement as we move forward on Cyprus…Our Secretary of State has made Cyprus a priority and has put it front and center. He’s not afraid of taking on these hard issues and it’s time for us to get behind him…It’s time to restore Cyprus to the dignity and ideals that were there before…I feel like we’re going to get it done this year.”
Congressman Schneider: “I consider Greeks a part of my community and I consider myself a part of this community…Let’s celebrate the relationship between the U.S., Greece and Cyprus, working together for peace in the future and in the region…Relationships such as these help to make the world a better place.”
Congressman Cardenas: “Many of us have our roots from other places and we are very blessed to have this country as our home…It’s the spirit of people who don’t think of themselves but think of others, and think of the big picture, that make this country what it is today…You have much to be proud of because you have Greek blood in you…Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad about that…Cyprus is not free. We need to continue to be diligent…Don’t let anyone forget that atrocities cannot be tolerated… Your pain in Cyprus is my pain…We will not see justice until people are willing to think of others instead of themselves…I share with you the celebration of a free Greece and the pain of a Cyprus that is not free…Until that happens, our work is not done.”
Congressman Pallone: “We do need to continue to remind Congress of the issues and the ideals that bring Greece and the United States together: the continued intolerance and aggression of Turkey’s government…Democratic rule of law and justice are our guiding principles…We won’t tolerate Turkish intolerance…We need to act for a Cypriot reunification and the United States need to support a united Cyprus…We don’t have a large Greek community in my district but they do a great, effective job of keeping me informed.”
Ranking Member Engel: “Follow the Greek way, vote the Greek way…this has done me well for 25 years, and I hope it will do me well for another 25 years.”
The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center and think tank 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC.
AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day