Promising a “significant celebration” next year when the pandemic will have passed, President Joe Biden welcomed about 40 Greek American community leaders on a Zoom session to commemorate Greek Independence Day.
The virtual event was hosted on the evening of March 25, 2021 and lasted for about 25 minutes, with Biden sharing his love for Greece and personal stories from his decades-long relationship with the Greek American community.
The White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki opened the session, which included remarks from Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, she recounted her own family story about her great-grandfather, who arrived as an immigrant from a small Greek village and ended up working hard and graduating from Georgetown Medical School.
Biden told the audience that he phoned Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to express his wishes to the Greek nation, and also told him that “We would not have had a United States of America were it not for all we learned about Greek history and all that the Greeks have handed down.”
He went on to share his fondness and personal relationships he has had over the years with the Greek American community and noted a special friendship with the late Senator Paul Sarbanes, whom he called a “great, great friend and an educator to him.”
He credited Sarbanes with getting him involved in seeking a solution to the decades-old Cyprus conflict— “I still haven’t given up on it,” he interjected.
Biden also said he found “inspiration in the courage and principled leadership of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which has long fought for social justice.”
He then addressed Archbishop Elpidophoros and told him that he had “big shoes to fill,” recalling his close friendship with his predecessor, Archbishop Demetrios and also shouting out his close friend Fr. Alex Karloutsos, whom the President said he called personally to with him Happy Greek Independence Day.
Biden also recounted his first trip to Turkey where he met Ecumenical Bartholomew, calling him one of the most Christ-like figures he’s ever met and extending to him an invitation to visit the White House when he is scheduled to visit the United States this fall to inaugurate St. Nicholas at Ground Zero.
The by-invitation-only Zoom session included members of the Greek American community, including members of Congress (Reps. John Sarbanes, Dina Titus and Gus Bilirakis), as well as community leaders including Nick Larigakis from the American Hellenic Institute, Andrew and Mike Manatos, AHEPA President George Horiates and Executive Director Basil Mossaidis, Daughters of Penelope Executive Director Elena Saviolakis, Hellenic American Leadership Council Executive Director Endy Zemenides, as well as numerous representatives from Church-based organizations.
Many prominent businesspeople were also on the Zoom, including John Georges from New Orleans and Athan Stephanopoulos, President of Now This Media.
Gregory Pappas, publisher of The Pappas Post, as well as founder of the Greek America Foundation, was also a participant and provided notes for the writing of this piece.
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