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President Trump Hosts Celebration for Greek Independence at The White House
by Demetrios Rhompotis
For the 32nd consecutive year, the President of the United States met this year on March 22 at the White House with the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America and Greek-American leaders to commemorate Greek Independence Day.
The Irish-American community (one in seven Americans), and the Greek-American community (one half of one percent of Americans), are the only two ethnic groups that have such an annual meeting with the President.
President Donald Trump told participants that the tradition of the White House hosting Greek Independence Day celebrations was one which would continue for many more years: “I’ll be here for another seven!”
He went on to say that Greece is the basis of Western Civilization, referring to the “cultural and historical kinship” between the West and the ancient Greeks. President Trump linked that kinship to the present, pointing out that “we see Greece’s enduring influence through so many Americans of Greek descent who contribute so much to this nation that we love.”
He also noted how America’s founding fathers looked to the history of the Greek city states when drafting the U.S. Constitution. “All around us here in the United States, we see the profound influence of Greek culture, art, and philosophy,” said the President. “And like our ancestors, we too will draw strength from the bonds of history and culture that unite our countries and shape our destinies.”
Archbishop Demetrios, while thanking Trump for his hospitality and support, called for U.S. backing on key issues such as religious freedom in Turkey (home of the Ecumenical Patriarchate), ending division in Cyprus and in resolving the name dispute between Greece and FYROM.
Greek and American flags lined the entrance of the guests to the White House. The mellifluous sounds of live bouzouki and violin welcomed them, while young dancers in traditional costumes gave their best. In the main hall, a US Marines band performed various tunes, among them Pentozali!
This Greek Independence celebration was first started by the late President Ronald Reagan in 1986 with the help of Father Alex Karloutsos, Tom Korologos and Andy Manatos and has become a White House tradition ever since.
A year later, in 1987, Reagan issued Proclamation 5623 on Greek Independence Day: “Those who framed our Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution whose bicentennial we celebrate this year, drew upon the political and philosophical experience of the ancient Greeks and their followers through the centuries. By joining in the independence celebration of the Greek people, we pay special tribute to the democratic values that we in the United States, together with our friends and allies such as Greece, are committed to defend.”
This year too, President Donald Trump signed a Proclamation honoring Greek Independence and the contributions of the Greeks to the United States of America:
On this celebration of Greek Independence Day, we reflect on the common bonds of history and heritage that connect the United States and Greece. Our nations share cultural, economic, and defense interests, but the foundation of our abiding friendship is our unwavering commitment to liberty and our shared love of democratic institutions.
As the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, Greece has a rich and glorious heritage, resplendent in its influential contributions to literature, philosophy, and science. The ancient Greeks fostered the timeless ideal of human liberty, which inspired our Nation’s Founders as they drafted our Constitution and established our Republic. The legacy of ancient Greece carries on today, as liberty continues to serve as a beacon of hope to all who long for a better life.
It was an honor to welcome Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to the White House last year. His visit underscored the importance of our bilateral relationship and our ongoing strategic cooperation on issues such as law enforcement, counterterrorism, and matters of defense, energy, commerce, and trade. Greece continues to meet its NATO obligations on defense spending and serves as a gracious host for our naval forces at Souda Bay. Our Greek-American partnership is strong, and we are grateful to have such a tremendous ally and friend in Greece.
Our nations continue to expand our economic and commercial ties, creating jobs and opportunities for investment and trade on both sides of the Atlantic. This year, the United States is proud to serve as the honored country at the 2018 Thessaloniki International Fair. This historic business and trade exhibition will showcase American technology, enterprise, and innovation, and will further enhance the partnership and cooperation between our great nations.
In 2018, we also celebrate 70 years of Fulbright Greece, a program of educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Greece. Fulbright Greece, the oldest Fulbright program in Europe, is the flagship international exchange program sponsored by our Government. Since 1948, the program has awarded grants to more than 5,500 Greek and American citizens to study, teach, or conduct research, enriching both of our countries.
The United States and Greece have an enduring bond based on mutual respect, shared values, and an abiding commitment to freedom and sovereignty. More than 1.3 million Americans claim Greek origin. The Greek-American community has made countless positive contributions to our Nation and has played a vital role in maintaining our strong relationship with Greece. On this 197th anniversary celebration of Greek Independence Day, we honor Greece as a strong, faithful ally and valued partner in promoting peace, liberty, and prosperity around the world.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 25, 2018, as Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-second day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.