In 1821, after nearly 400 years of Ottoman oppression, the Greeks bound together under a flag bearing the cross to fight for freedom and justice in the land which gave the world democracy. Like the revolution which took place in America 45 years earlier, Greece would embark on a journey forever linking our two countries in their struggle for freedom and independence.
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America drew upon the ideals and principles forged in ancient Greece in constructing our nation. Thomas Jefferson said of the ancient Greeks, “to whom we also are all indebted for the lights which originally led ourselves out of Gothic darkness.” All who cherish a free and democratic government are beneficiaries of Greece’s legacy and thus should consider themselves Philhellenes. This is why Americans fought and died alongside the Greeks during their struggle for freedom in the Greek War of Independence. The Greeks received the support of Jefferson, President James Monroe, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and U.S. Representatives Daniel Webster and Henry Clay.
Throughout history, Greece and the United States have stood shoulder-to-shoulder to face the challenges of an ever-changing world. Greece had been allied with the United States in every major conflict of the 20th century. The strong alliance continues into the 21st century. Greece, via Souda Bay, Crete, and other military capabilities, has contributed significantly to NATO and United States missions, including peacekeeping operations, in an ever-increasingly important region of the world. Greece continues to do so amid two crippling crises, economic and migratory. And we can be equally proud how the people of Greece have responded–with care, compassion, and philotimo deemed worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
In celebration of the 196th anniversary of Greece’s independence, AHEPA family chapters, districts, and our communities, are working together to promote parades across the country, to secure Proclamations from state and local governments, and are organizing flag-raising ceremonies at various State Capitols and City Halls. Indeed, AHEPA members worldwide promote and sustain the celebration of this historic day for all Hellenes.
In closing, I thank President Donald J. Trump, who hosted a White House reception and issues a Proclamation in recognition of Greek Independence Day yesterday, and express gratitude to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who hosted a dinner at the Blair House Thursday night on the occasion of Greek Independence, and in honor of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, and where I had the honor to attend. Also, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement calling Greece a “valued NATO ally” and stating Greece will have the United States’ continued support as it makes necessary reform to meet its economic challenges. The American Hellenic community is also grateful to the members of Congress who took the time to commemorate Greek Independence Day with speeches on the Senate or House Floors. In the U.S. Senate, a resolution that commemorates Greek Independence authored by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), passed on Wednesday. We thank the U.S. Senate for its passage and are grateful to Senators Menendez and Barrasso for their sponsorship, along with the resolution’s 26 co-sponsors.
Finally, I also ask Hellenes throughout the Diaspora to take a moment to acknowledge and pay their respects to those who sacrificed which allowed freedom and democracy to take root–once again–in Greece in 1821.
Zhto H Ellas!