Public Papers

Remarks on Signing the Greek Independence Day Proclamation


Welcome to the Rose Garden on this beautiful day. We're so pleased to have you all here. Thank you for the welcome for His Eminence and me. It's a pleasure to welcome you, many of you, most of you, back to the White House.

First, may I pay my most sincere respects to Archbishop Iakovos, a true spiritual leader for whom we have enormous respect. And I'm just delighted that he's here with us today. And I want to thank our Cabinet Minister Ed Derwinski, who is so well-known in Greece, and Ambassador Zacharakis, who is here. And also our congressional contingent: Mike Bilirakis, over here; George Gekas was to be here, but he may have been kept away by work. And of course, Senator Arlen Specter is with us today. I would like to welcome Mr. Angelopoulos from Athens, who presented me this commemorative medal in the Oval Office just a minute ago. We are delighted you are here, sir.

This Greek-American -- this Greek Independence Day -- I say Greek-American day because Americans of Greek heritage celebrate it -- it's a wonderful day for the Greek-American community and for all of us who cherish freedom. Greece can never be just another country to the United States. And the U.S. and Greece are the firmest of friends, the strongest of allies. And I might take this opportunity to salute Prime Minister Mitsotakis, with whom I have a very cordial relationship, most cooperative relationship. I talked to him just the other day on the phone.

We are committed to maintaining the close cooperation that has developed with his government, and we will continue to serve as a catalyst in the U.N. Secretary-General's effort to negotiate a fair and a permanent settlement to the Cyprus issue. In our view, there is one Cyprus, and we are going to continue to heal the division that scars this lovely island. Now, we have consistently made clear our view that the time has come to settle this question, and I am going to continue to give it my personal attention. We're also sensitive to Greek concerns about the breakup of Yugoslavia. And I've been in touch again, I mentioned, with my dear friend Prime Minister Mitsotakis about this highly sensitive issue. And as his Government works towards a solution to this, it can be assured of our support.

Neither Greece nor America is a stranger to the struggle for freedom. And as allies in NATO we've worked in common cause to preserve the peace. Today we remember that our ideals and values have been preserved at high cost, the valor and sacrifice of our nations' finest young men and women. Greek heritage is, in so many respects, American heritage. And I'm deeply moved to realize how important it is to interpret for future generations the significance of our independence days. We must not forget, and we cannot let our children forget, lest the struggle be repeated. And so we celebrate these anniversaries of freedom, and we tell the old stories in order to preserve that which we value so highly.

This morning I want to commend the Greek-American community for the way you've preserved your traditions. The Greek-American culture continues to provide a model for greatness. I can cite many examples, but I want to particularly commend the value that this wonderful community places on family and on tradition. Through your commitment to strong families, those great traditions have endured, and your culture has thrived in this new land. These values, the ones that we pass along from one generation to the next, are the greatest of all legacies. But these are not just a comfortable luxury. They are a vital part of the social capital that a nation must possess if it's to be great, but more significantly, if it's to be good.

Today as we join with you to commemorate the 171st anniversary of Greek independence, we also celebrate Archbishop Iakovos' 33d year as Archbishop of the Americas. As His Eminence was at the forefront of the march for civil rights, now the Greek-American family is at the forefront in the modeling for today's generation those enduring personal and family values that are the necessary underpinning for continued democracy and freedom.

I still remember Archbishop Iakovos' benediction at our convention in 1988, and he prayed in a nonpartisan way, I want to say. But he prayed that we would, and here was the words, ``Carry, renew, and redefine the legacy and mandate to keep this Nation under God in an unending quest for unity, justice, moral integrity, and spiritual alertness and readiness.'' On this Greek Independence Day, let that be the prayer and the challenge to us all.

And now it is my real pleasure to put pen to paper and proclaim Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy.

Note: The President spoke at 11:18 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Christos Zacharakis, Greek Ambassador to the United States, and Panayiopis Angelopoulos, Greek industrialist. The proclamation is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.