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AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day

Featured AHI Hosts Annual Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) celebrated the 198th anniversary of Greek Independence Day by hosting its annual “Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day,” March 27, 2019.

The common democratic ideals held by Greece and the United States were reaffirmed by several members of Congress at the event which was held in cooperation with the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

AHI President Nick Larigakis served as Master of Ceremonies. He welcomed the guests and thanked Representatives Bilirakis and Maloney for their support to organize the reception and for their ongoing efforts to promote Greek American issues in the U.S. Congress. He also spoke about how Turkey continues to be a source of instability in the region and maintains more than 40,000 of its NATO troops illegally on Cyprus.

Members of Congress who addressed the audience included (in order of appearance): U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Chris Pappas (D-NH), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Gus Bilirakis, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who is a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations; U.S. Reps. John Sarbanes (D-MD), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

Special guest speakers were: Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the U.S. Marios Lysiotis, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Greece Theodoros Bizakis, and AHEPA Executive Director Basil N. Mossaidis.

The speakers each thanked AHI for hosting the event and emphasized their admiration for Hellenic culture and the valiant and inspirational struggle for Greek Independence achieved in 1821 and the strong U.S.-Greece relationship that exists today. They also expressed their support for the burgeoning trilateral relationship between Greece, Cyprus and Israel; support for a proper settlement of the Cyprus issue and concern about Turkey’s provocative behavior in the region, and support for religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

During the evening, there was a presentation of traditional Greek dances performed by the Byzantio Greek Dance and Cultural Arts Program under the direction of of Aris and Anna Yortzidis. Sophia Pelekasis sang the American and Greek National Anthems.

The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center and think tank that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.

Excerpts of Remarks by Members of Congress

Congresswoman Maloney: Thank you, Nick and everyone at the American Hellenic Institute for hosting this evening and for your great work. Greek Independence Day is a day of joy and pride for a great people. I’m very proud to represent a large, vibrant Hellenic American community in Astoria, Queens. And I’m honored that they have bestowed me with the nickname “Bouboulina” after the great warrior for Greek Independence. I had the privilege of visiting her home in Greece. In 1996, my constituents inspired me to create the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, one of the most bipartisan and active caucuses in Congress…The caucus celebrates Greece’s amazing history, and its contributions to democracy, art, science, literature, you name it. We also work together to maintain and strengthen what is already one of our country’s most important alliances. The U.S. and Greece are working together in many areas that have a profound effect on the word—energy, the economy, trade, national security—to name a few. In the Mediterranean, Turkey continues its slide into authoritarianism, posing a threat to the true democracies of the region, like Greece…And yesterday, I reintroduced a resolution supporting the return of the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece where they belong. The marbles are vital pieces of Greek history that belong to the Greek people, and I continue to advocate for an agreement for their return. As we celebrate a great moment in Greek history this month, Greeks have many reasons to be positive about its future. Greece and the Greek people are critical allies and dear friends of the United States and today I’m very proud to stand with you to celebrate the anniversary of Greek independence. Thank you all for your friendship.”

Rep. Pappas: “Like many Greeks, I was in the restaurant business growing up. There are certain common values, such as hospitality, that define our culture and the spirit of 1821. The United States stands with Greece. I am very much proud to be a part of this community. Zito Hellas!”

Rep. Schneider: “We have an extraordinary Greek community in Chicago. I very much consider myself an ‘honorary’ member of the Greek community. Greek-Americans are very important to Chicago as a whole. I am thrilled to be a part of the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance (CHIA). Zito Hellas!”

Rep. Bilirakis: “Thank you Nick and AHI for carrying the torch. We have great relations over the years. AHI has influenced the current government in a pro-American way. It is great to have Secretary of State Pompeo and the United States government recognizing the importance of the tri-partite alliance between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel. However, we still need to be vigilant as the Aegean is constantly under threat from the Turkish aggression. I am very confident that the U.S. will back Greece and take appropriate action on the issue of F-35’s. Also, we have to guard against President Erdogan’s threats against the Hagia Sophia.”

Senator Van Hollen: “Nick is certainly raising stakes and expectations. I would like to thank the members of the community, Nick Larigakis, members of the embassy and those of the Greek defense attache’s office. It is important that the Cyprus issue is resolved, and Turkey’s increasing authoritarianism be addressed. We need to make sure all of NATO is on board. I think Hellenic culture is remarkable. The Greeks have made tremendous contributions in politics, academia, and culture, among others. I am very blessed to have a Greek wife as well as kids imbued in Hellenic culture.”

Rep. Sarbanes: “I would like to thank AHI. I applaud Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Maloney and Bilirakis for creating a strong and diverse Hellenic caucus. Our Hellenic legacy is an extension of our forefathers. Currently, Greece is emerging from an economic crisis while Cyprus’ frustrations continue. It is essential that organizations which advocate for Greece and Cyprus come to the Hill.”

Rep. Pallone: “The members of the Hellenic Caucus will continue to be there supporting Greece and Cyprus. It is important to our government to object to actions by the Turkish military. Moreover, it is incumbent of us to support Cyprus’ right to explore its natural resources as well as the emerging tri-partite alliance between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel.”

Rep. Bilirakis: “Thank you Nick and AHI for carrying the torch. We have great relations over the years. AHI has influenced the current government in a pro-American way. It is great to have Secretary of State Pompeo and the United States government recognizing the importance of the tri-partite alliance between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel. However, we still need to be vigilant as the Aegean is constantly under threat from the Turkish aggression. I am very confident that the U.S. will back Greece and take appropriate action on the issue of F-35’s. Also, we have to guard against President Erdogan’s threats against the Hagia Sophia.”

Senator Van Hollen: “Nick is certainly raising stakes and expectations. I would like to thank the members of the community, Nick Larigakis, members of the embassy and those of the Greek defense attache’s office. It is important that the Cyprus issue is resolved, and Turkey’s increasing authoritarianism be addressed. We need to make sure all of NATO is on board. I think Hellenic culture is remarkable. The Greeks have made tremendous contributions in politics, academia, and culture, among others. I am very blessed to have a Greek wife as well as kids imbued in Hellenic culture.”

Rep. Sarbanes: “I would like to thank AHI. I applaud Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Maloney and Bilirakis for creating a strong and diverse Hellenic caucus. Our Hellenic legacy is an extension of our forefathers. Currently, Greece is emerging from an economic crisis while Cyprus’ frustrations continue. It is essential that organizations which advocate for Greece and Cyprus come to the Hill.”

Rep. Pallone: “The members of the Hellenic Caucus will continue to be there supporting Greece and Cyprus. It is important to our government to object to actions by the Turkish military. Moreover, it is incumbent of us to support Cyprus’ right to explore its natural resources as well as the emerging tri-partite alliance between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel.”