President Obama hosted a reception in honor of Greek Independence Day at the East Room of the White House on Friday April 2nd, 2014.
The US President invited Greek government officials and prominent Greek-Americans to the White House on the occasion of the 193rd anniversary of Greek Independence which was marked on March 25th. Vice-President Biden and Greek Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos also attended tonight’s event. It was the 28th time the holiday has been celebrated at the White House.
President Obama welcomed his guests in Greek by saying “Kalispera Ellines” (Καλησπέρα Έλληνες) and “Zito e Hellas” (Ζήτω η Ελλας).
“On Greek Independence Day, we honor the deep connections between our two nations and celebrate the democratic ideals at the heart of our shared history,” said President Obama who also praised the Greek American community.
Although the President’s Greek party was a little late as he was traveling to Europe last week, on March 25th the White House issued a Presidential Proclamation, noting Greece’s role as the foundation for American Democracy, and hailing the nation as “a valued NATO ally.”
The President also called “upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” The proclamation, entitled “ Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy, 2014″ sent a message that the US and Greece have a strong historical bond and recognized the contributions of Greek-Americans to the US. Read the full text here.
The White House reception included a traditional Greek menu. The buffet of many Greek delicacies was highly praised by attendees on twitter. John Podesta, an Obama advisor wrote:
First time Skordhalia served in the White House. Happy Greek Independence Day!
— John Podesta (@Podesta44) April 4, 2014
Erik A. Cosselmon, Executive chef at San Francisco’s Kokkari Estiatorio and Mario Ortego, Executive Chef at Palo Alto’s Evvia had been at the White House since Wednesday, working with White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and their teams. The two restaurants are owned by the same culinary group, and have gotten high marks from critics.
The party menu “of course included lamb chops,” Cosselmon said to the official site of record about White House food initiatives.
“There’s also octopus, spanakotiropita, lots of tzatziki, melitzanosalata, zucchini cakes, and feta cheese.”
VP Biden calls Greek PM Samaras
The day before the celebration, Vice President Biden called Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras “to congratulate Greece in advance of Greek Independence Day celebrations at the White House.
“The Vice President expressed appreciation for the valuable role Greece continues to play as a strategic partner and NATO ally. He welcomed Greece’s continued economic progress as the government carries out its reforms, and pledged enduring U.S. support for returning Greece to economic growth and prosperity,” the White House said in a readout of the call.
The two leaders discussed the on-going situation in Ukraine, including support for the upcoming May elections and the need to stand united against Russian aggression. They also discussed the importance of transatlantic cooperation on energy security. Finally, Vice President Biden expressed appreciation to Greece for its support for a just and lasting settlement that reunites Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
The Greek-American Selfie
Attendees of the event did not miss the opportunity to snap photos and also get an Oscar-like group selfie with VP Joe Biden.
— Laura Evans (@lauraevansfox5) April 5, 2014
A national holiday in Greece, Greek Independence Day commemorates the nation’s declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821 after being occupied for 400 years. It also marks the Feast of the Annunciation in the Greek Orthodox Church. The holiday is celebrated by Greek Diaspora across America and all around the world.