President Biden hosted the traditional Greek Independence Day reception at the White House on Wednesday.
Hundreds of Greeks and Greek Americans attended the event to honor the men and women who fought for Greece’s independence against the Ottomans, and to celebrate the bond between the U.S. and Greece.
In a sober moment, the American President began his speech by acknowledging all the families across Greece who are grieving loved ones lost during the train accident in Tempi. “It was a tragic, tragic accident, and they’re in our prayers.”
Biden honored the deep history of the two nations. “To truly know America you have to know a little about Greece to really understand it,” he said.
“Greece is woven into the very foundations of our democracy and of our nation. We see it across this city, from the columns of the Capitol to the — to the figures that flank the Supreme Court, inspired by Themis, and — the Greek goddess of law of justice — of law and justice. And more than that, we feel it in our nation’s soul, because we are governed as “We the People,” Biden added.
Biden: Greek independence is a celebration for Americans and Greeks
The United States is the only nation in the world built on an idea. Every other nation in the world is based on geography, ethnicity, or religion. And it was essentially a Greek idea, he noted.
“Years after American independence, this is the same idea that brave Greek patriots — to fight their own freedom — for their own freedom as well, laying the groundwork for a future that would make both our nations proud.
“So, today and every day, Greek independence is a celebration for Americans and Greeks alike. It gives us the chance to honor this history that binds us to the values that unite us: liberty, equality, dignity, and democracy. And democracy,” Biden said.
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America who represented the Greek-American community at the reception noted that President Biden is not just a friend but true champion for freedom around the world.
“Particularly on behalf of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, who are fighting for their very lives against inhuman and irrational aggression. You have stood with Ukraine on every step of this long and difficult path, and for that we are very grateful,” Elpidophoros said.
He also thanked the American President for his support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. “His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, counts you, Mr. President, as a true friend – we have cause for even more thankfulness. We thank you both for your strong support of the purely spiritual mission of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, a mission of love, peace and hope that is needed now more than ever.”
Among the guests at the White House reception were Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. The Hollywood star joked by saying: “I am not Greek. But I had the good sense to marry one.”
Tom Hanks with President Biden at the White House for Greek Independence Day.
Hanks: "No, I am not Greek. But I had the good sense to marry one." pic.twitter.com/FjkuZruEop
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) March 30, 2023
Wilson performed a Greek song for the guests,
Rita Wilson performing at the @WhiteHouse for Greek Independence Day pic.twitter.com/wEK923Xtu7
— Lena Argiri (@lenaargiri) March 29, 2023
Greece granted Hanks and Wilson citizenship in 2019 citing their “exceptional services to Greece”. The pair brought massive media attention and resources to help with the devastating wildfires of July 2018.
The White House celebration of Greek Independence was first started by 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.
Last Friday Biden issued a proclamation marking Greek Independence Day on March 25 as “A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy.”
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