Friday, March 25, 2011
H.E. Archbishop Demetrios at The White House with President Barack Obama
Remarks of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America
On the Occasion of Greek Independence Day of March 25, 1821
The White House
March 25, 2011
It is a joy and a privilege that we are your guests at the White House once again as we mark the 190th anniversary of the Greek Revolution of 1821 and the 25th anniversary of the celebration of Greek Independence Day at the White House. Thank you for the honor that your invitation bestows, not only on us, but also on all Greek Orthodox Americans.
The day of Greek Independence is celebrated throughout the Greek-American community with joyous gatherings and solemn declarations that God has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the humble, even as we read in the Gospel (Luke 1:52). Our presence here at the home of the leader of the free world is both a celebration of this sacred word and its actual fulfillment.
The proclamation that you signed today tells the same story of an incredible reversal of fortunes. Prior to March 25, 1821 the Greek people were in a condition of abject oppression lasting four centuries. Under the Ottoman occupation they lived in poverty and religious oppression, deprived of human dignity. From them, in essence, every good thing had been taken away.
Everything, that is, except their faith. They never lost their faith in the God who exalts the humble and opposes the arrogant. With that faith came heroic courage. With that faith came a spirit of amazing self-sacrifice. With that faith came the visionary foresight to hope and to strive for a day when their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren could without fear sing songs of victory and freedom and rejoice over the exaltation of the lowly and the overthrow of the haughty and mighty.
Mr. President, your proclamation honors those faithful patriots of 1821. But it also issues a challenge to us in our world of the present day. Every March 25th we celebrate the miraculous reversal of fortunes, not only for a single generation of Greeks, but as an expression of divine justice that will occur, by God’s grace, in every generation. We cannot champion this idea without also asking ourselves where are we at the present time. To the extent that we do not raise our voices on behalf of the downtrodden and the oppressed, to the extent that we do not share our blessings with the needy and destitute, to the extent that we do not provide freedom and dignity to the enslaved and the exploited by tyrannical regimes, to that same extent we seat ourselves alongside the arrogant and mighty, with the result that we invite upon ourselves their same ultimate fatal destiny.
For this reason, Mr. President, please know that you and your family remain in our fervent prayers as you lead our great nation. May God grant you wisdom and courage as you contend daily with tremendous challenges in our own land and around the world. May your voice be strong and clear in advocating for democracy and freedom for all people, based on the principles of self-determination, religious freedom, and the rule of law.
We take this opportunity today to thank you personally for your continued specific leadership in matters relating to the rights of our Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey, for the safety and freedom of religious minorities in places of oppression, for satisfactory and fair political solutions in Cyprus and the FYROM in the Balkans, and for the success of democratic movements in all parts of the world.
Not only do we thank you, Mr. President, but we also offer the support of the Greek Orthodox community of America in your efforts to provide aid to the victims of the huge catastrophic events, like the tsunami in Japan, to establish stability to our economy, and environmental well-being to our planet, and to assist the peoples of Northern Africa, Near, Middle and Far East in their noble fights for freedom and democracy. Indeed, in every way that you are laborious for the reversal of fortunes of the oppressed, we ask for the honor of being your fellow-laborers. For this is for us the truest celebration of the spirit of the Twenty-Fifth of March and the Day of Greek Independence.
Again, Mr. President, thank you, and may the blessings of the Lord be richly upon you, your beloved Family, and our noble Nation.