Recognizes Greek Independence Day
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
March 25, 2002
1:27 P.M. EST
Your Eminence, I can't spend enough time with you. (Laughter.) I love your gentle
soul, and I love your guidance and your advice. And any time you want to come
back, just give me a call. (Laughter.) I'm so glad you're here. And I want to
thank you all for joining us to celebrate this important day for Greece.
I want to honor the heritage of liberty that both the Greeks and the Americans
share. There's no better place to do this than in the White House, the symbol
of liberty and the symbol of freedom.
I want to thank the Greek Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs for being here,
as well. I appreciate you coming. I want to thank the Ambassador -- the Greek
Ambassador to the United States, and the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus
to the United States, as well. You all are welcome here. Thank you for coming.
It's great to see you again.
I'm glad to see Ambassador George Argyros is here, as well. I never thought
he'd get through the confirmation process. (Laughter.) But he is my Ambassador
to Spain, and is doing a very fine job. I appreciate so much the Director of
the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, for being here, as well. (Applause.)
One hundred and eighty one years ago, our nation supported the cause of Greek
independence. And we have admired the progress Greece has made since. Yet well
before we recognized the independence of modern Greece, the Greek heritage had
a great impact on American independence. Many of America's founders knew Greek
history better than our own. They drew on Greece's political heritage in framing
our Constitution. America's love for liberty has deep roots in the spirit of
The spirit of liberty has always had enemies. It's important for us to remember
our history, that there are some who can't stand liberty and freedom, as we
learned so tragically on September the 11th. The terrorists who attack us hate
the very idea of human freedom. They cannot stand the thought of freedom of
religion. It must make them very nervous to know that a Methodist is standing
next to His Eminence -- (laughter) -- in a free society, in a society that welcomes
people to worship freely, and as they so choose. They hate freedom of speech.
They can't stand the thought of people speaking their minds. They hate our system.
They also thought we were weak and soft. And they're wrong, and they're learning
it every day. They learned it in Afghanistan, where we went into that country
not to seek revenge, but to seek justice. And this weekend, little girls went
to school for the first time -- some little girls went to school for the first
time in Afghanistan, showing the world that we didn't go into Afghanistan as
conquerors, but as liberators.
And they're going to find out how tough we are. Because I want to assure you
all that we're going to hunt 'em down, one by one, until our homeland is secure,
until freedom is secure, to make sure our children and our grandchildren can
live in a free and peaceful world. (Applause.)
One ancient Greek statesman put it this way. He said, "We are free to live
exactly as we please, yet we are ready to face any danger." He might as
well have been talking about the United States of America. Fortunately, we don't
face danger alone. There are other people who love freedom, as well, in this
world. Greece and America have been firm allies in the great struggles for liberty.
Greece was one of only a handful of countries that fought alongside the United
States in every major 20th century war. And Americans will always remember Greek
heroism and Greek sacrifice for the sake of freedom.
As the 21st century dawns, Greece and America are -- once again stand united;
this time in the fight against terrorism. Greece is a part of the coalition
of nations helping bring justice to those who would harm us, harm the people
of Greece, harm anybody who love freedom. The United States deeply appreciates
the role Greece is playing in the war against terror. We thank Greece for access
to the military base in Souda Bay, Crete, and for providing a naval frigate
for patrolling the Arabian Sea.
And just as Greece has stood side by side with the United States, the United
States stands ready to encourage the continued warming of Greek and Turkish
relations. We welcome the resumption of diplomatic talks on Cyprus, and hope
that they will lead to a final settlement that strengthens regional peace and
America and Greece are strong allies, and we're strategic partners. Our nation
has been inspired by Greek ideals, and enriched by Greek immigrants. Today about
1 million Americans claim Greek origin. They've made a mark in every field.
America is better for the 1 million Americans who live here.
In my administration, John Negroponte heads our United Nations, and he's doing
a fine job. And as a part of my war council, the National Security Council,
sits George Tenet, whose advice and steady hand have been invaluable to our
Today we honor Greek independence and the Greek spirit, a spirit of liberty
and a spirit of courage, a spirit that values family and education and public
service and faith; a spirit that has helped make America what it is today.
It is my honor to welcome you all here. May God bless Greece, and may God continue
to bless America. (Applause.)