Over 400 Greek Americans attended the 30th White House Greek Independence Day Ceremony, on Friday March 24
New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photos: GANP/Dimitrios Panagos
Donald Trump was the sixth U.S. President honoring Greek Independence Day, hosting on Friday, March 24th, a White House reception for the Greek American Community, during which he signed a proclamation declaring March 25th “Greek Independence Day: A National Day of celebration of Greek and American Democracy”.
Over 400 Greek Americans from around the country took part in the 30th White House Greek Independence Day Celebration. In addition to President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and presidential senior advisors George Gigicos and George Sifakis were present. Defense Minister Panas Kammenos and Ambassador Haris Lalakos represented Greece, while Government Spokesman Nikos Christodoulides and Ambassador Leonidas Pantelidis represented Cyprus.
Trump began his remarks by telling the crowd how much he loves the Greeks.
“I love the Greeks. Oh, do I love the Greeks. Don’t forget, I come from New York. That’s all I see, is Greeks. They are all over the place.”
He also introduced Greek-American members of the White House staff, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, the Director of White House Advance George Gigicos and the Director of the Office of Public Liaison George Sifakis.
“Reince was the most successful leader the Republican National Committee has ever had. And now, as my really terrific and hardworking Chief of Staff, he’s one of the top Greeks in the country.”
He also thanked Archbishop Demetrios for awarding Reince Priebus and George Gigicos the highest honor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America — the Medal of Saint Paul.
He noted that this White House tradition to celebrate the Greek Independence started 30 years ago with President Ronald Reagan.
“We are thrilled to continue it, and always will”, President Trump said.
“Greek Independence Day celebrates the rebirth of liberty for the Greek people. It commemorates the fight for the Greek Independence that began on March 25th, 1821. After nearly 400 years of outside rule, the Greeks longed to regain their sovereignty”, the President said.
He stressed that this love of freedom and democracy has formed a lasting bond between Greece and the United States that has its origins in Ancient Greece, “the birthplace of Democracy.”
He reminded the audience that President James Monroe and the great American statesman Daniel Webster both supported Greece’s struggle for independence. “And it was a tough, tough struggle, you know that. Then-Representative Webster honored the role of Greece in forming civilization, and said that “We, like the rest of mankind, are greatly her debtors.””
“In years to come, we don’t know what will be required to defend our freedom, but we do know that it will demand great, great courage — a courage from all of us — and we will show it, and I have no doubt about that”, Trump said
He noted that drawing inspiration from our history and those who come before, we will rise to any occasion.
“We have a country that, as you know, has certain difficulties, has certain problems. We will solve those problems and we will quickly solve those difficulties. Just watch”, President Trump said.
In concluding his remarks he applauded the tremendous contributions of Greek people to the United States.
President Trump signed proclamation that he presented to Archbishop Demetrios, in which he expresses deep gratitude for Greece’s enduring friendship in a region that has experienced great uncertainty.
“Greece is an important partner in our engagements throughout the international sphere. We look forward to strengthening our excellent bilateral defense relationship, and recognize the value and importance Greece’s role as a strong ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”, the proclamation says.
In his remarks Archbishop Demetrios reminded the President that Greece and the United States fought on the side of democracy and against tyranny in two big wars WW1, WW2, and then in the Korean War where the soldiers of the Greek Sparta Battalion were among the many Greek and Greek Americans who sacrificed their lives and received US Congressional citations.
“Through history, both nations have exercised their uncompromised right to break the yoke of tyranny and to recover the priceless gift of self-governance and independence. All the more this has been a central focus in defense and in protection and promotion of the very priceless religious freedom.During our very honorific meetings in this White House, we repeatedly have indicated how the ideas of independence and religious freedom painfully apply to special situations related to our Ecumenical Patriarchate, to Cyprus, and to the name of FYROM”, Demetrios said.
The Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America plead with President Trump to support Greece.
“Today allow me to offer strong plea for the very country where the historic revolution of 1821 occurred. Greece is this country, a faithful, unyielding dedicated ally of the United States who remained valiant despite demanding and life sacrificing conditions innumerous wars in which the United States has been involved. Yet, Greece, this precious and loyal ally of the United States, has been at least for the last 6 years in a continuing financial ordeal and affliction. On this occasion, the people of Greece, and I am speaking from personal experience, remember very well the impact on Europe, and especially on Greece, of both the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. We know and are deeply grateful to the United States of America which saved a devastated Europe after the Second World War. The contribution of America was truly monumental–helping to restore financially a war ravaged Europe. Today, compared to the gigantic assistance needed for Europe after World War II, a significantly less assistance is needed for Greece to recuperate financially and function again as a dynamic state. By doing so, the possibility will be given to Greece to resume and continue a vital role as a faithful ally and nation that produced waves of succeeding cultures and civilizations for 6000 years.”