New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
With the participation of over 100 Greek Americans, the White House celebrated for the first time virtually – due to the Covid-19 pandemic – the Greek Independence Day. This year’s celebration coincided with the Bicentennial of the Greek Revolution of 1821.
President Biden was introduced by the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who is a Greek American.
“I see at the screen and I see a lot of good friends”, said President Biden.
Among the attendees was Archbishop Elpidophoros of America – who also offered remarks – Congressmen Dina Titus, John Sarbanes and Gus Bilirakis, veteran Ambassador Tom Korologos – who got a special recognition from the President although he is a Republican – Mike Manatos – who got a special open invitation from the President to visit him – Rev. Alex Karloutsos, Dennis Mehiel, George Tsounis and other prominent Greek Americans, most of them affiliated with the Archdiocese.
“To all my Greek friends in the United States, Happy Greek Independence Day”, President Biden wished, regretting that because of the pandemic he was not able to host the traditional event at the White House.
“I promise you, next year, with the pandemic behind us, we are going to have one significant celebration”.
President Biden spoke about his telephone conversation with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a couple of hours earlier.
“He is going to come to see me. He wants to come. We are trying to work it out when the Covid will allow that to happen”.
Biden told Mitsotakis that it seems strange for him, a student of both Greek and American history, the idea that we are celebrating Greece’s independence that is only 200 years old.
“The idea of Greek independence being 200 years old sounds bizarre. We would haven’t have a United States of America if we hadn’t all we learned from the Greek history and all the Greeks have handed down. The birth place of Democracy is Athens”.
Quoting Aristotle, President Biden said the Greek philosopher described friendship as a single soul in two bodies.
“For me that captures the relationship I ‘ve been able to have as a U.S. Senator with the Greek American Community. I have been blessed by life-long friendships with the Greek American Community, including the great leader we have recently lost; Paul Sarbanes.”
President Biden underlined that Paul was a great friend and a great educator for him.
“Paul got me involved when we were trying to figure out how to deal with Cyprus long – long time ago; I still haven’t given up on it.”
He has also spoke warmly about his relationship with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, that has sought social justice for long time.
“I am particularly honored that Archbishop Elpidophoros is here. Archbishop, Your Eminence, as I told you, you have some big shoes to fill, because I go back to Archbishop Demetrios. He was a friend since I met him back in 1999 and actually I met you through the same vehicle, probably the best advance man in the world, the best Chief of Staff, Father Alex”, said President Biden, revealing that just a while earlier he had called Fr. Karloutsos to wish him for the 200th anniversary.
Joe Biden praised the Greek American Community that is defined by courage, honor and an immense pride of their Greek heritage. He paid tribute for the Greek immigrants and their contribution to the United States.
“The U.S. and the world owe a debt of gratitude to Ancient Greek ideals that first taught us who we are as a people, the Demos and as a Democracy we can control our own destiny.”
Biden also spoke about the 200 years of friendship between the two nations and more between the two people.
“We celebrate a really share value of liberty, and self governance in the awesome capacity of human spirit. We celebrate the heroism of the Greek people, mot just fighting for their independence two centuries ago, but in defending the cause of freedom. Because of our shared history we also share hope and optimism for the future; knowing that generation after generation, our people will continue to stand up for what’s right.”
President Biden praise efforts of Greek Americans for the good relationship the two countries enjoy.
“Under my Administration, we will be as close as we have ever been; I promise you that. I am committed to build a strong and stronger partnership than we already have and advance our shared interests. That’s what the Prime Minister and I spend time talking about”.
Finally he invited Archbishop Elpidophoros to speak, calling him a man of grace and pointing out that his name means Bearer of Hope. He also said he is looking forward to meet him in person.
“You bring hope to too many people your Eminence. And you have big shoes to follow; Archbishop Demetrios was a dear friend and is a great man of faith. He arrange along with Father Alex for me to meet his All Holiness in Turkey; that was one of the honors of my life.”
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America recalled his first meeting with Jow Biden, when he visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate as Vice President of the United States.
He also remembered their second meeting at the Parish of Southampton, with Fr Alex Karloutsos, in August 2019.
Elpidophoros thanked President Biden for the special commemoration of the Greek Revolution and he conveyed to him the blessings and well wishes of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who looks forward to see his during his upcoming visit to the United States, next October.
“For Greeks around the globe this date, March 25th, is like the 4th of July for the U.S.. A date that you Mr. President are giving a new meaning to as you strive to lead us out of this pandemic. But March 25th also has deep spiritual significance; it is the date that all Christians around the world are celebrating the Annunciation of Virgin Mary.”
Speaking about the Bicentennial of the Greek Revolution, Archbishop Elpidophoros said it’s full of meaning.
“Appealing to the sensibilities of free people everywhere; life, liberty, pursue of happiness are desired by all the people. Like the American patriots of 1776, the Greek heroes of 1821 sought to create for themselves a more perfect union; where the freedom to think and to act will be thrived in democracy.”
Elpidophoros pointed out that having emerge after a long occupation and oppression, Greece has lost much during these long and difficult years, including many of its national treasures. The Archbishop spoke about the Parthenon Marbles, saying that we are praying for them to be returned now.
The Archbishop also mentioned the attention given to the Greek Revolution and the Greek struggle by the American philhellenes, citing excerpts from a letter former President Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1823 to the Greek scholar Adamantios Koraes.
“Today these two nations, Greece – the world’s first democracy – and America – the world most successful democracy – remain steadfast friends and strong allies. Mr. President, America is the very happy home to a very large number of Greek Diaspora. Greek Americans have made a tremendous contribution to the life of our nation and its wider population. This White House celebration for the Bicentennial of the Greek Revolution of 1821, is a wonderful opportunity to share our passion for liberty, with our neighbors”, said Archbishop Elpidophoros, thanking President Biden for the joyous commemoration of the Greek Independence Day and its national observance at the White House.