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23 May, 2024
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Celebrating Greek independence, a White House tradition

Examining the significance of White House celebrations and the political impact of the Greek American community

Athanasios Ellis

Athanasios Ellis

On Thursday, President Joe Biden hosted a ceremony at the White House celebrating Greek independence. Some have questioned the usefulness of these annual gatherings, claiming that they lack substance and serve only public relations purposes.

Even if Greek Americans are not as powerful as some claim or believe, one cannot deny the simple fact that they are one of the very few ethnic communities that US presidents have been organizing such an event for every year.

It is no small thing that the leader of the world’s strongest political, military and economic power recognizes the role of Greek Americans and Greece.

The celebration has developed into a White House tradition for almost four decades now – it was started by Ronald Reagan in 1986 – and that in itself says something. Actually, it says a lot.

Whatever the reason – a sincere moral recognition of the community’s positive role, or a cold political calculation of the benefits a president can derive from a specific segment of the voting population as well as some major donors – one cannot but conclude that Greek Americans are a force to be reckoned with. And that, by extension, benefits their mother country in so many ways.

The latter has evolved over the years, and under different leaders representing the whole ideological spectrum, into a credible partner and reliable ally in a strategically important but extremely volatile region, making this special bond between the two countries even more important.

Obviously, Washington will make its geopolitical decisions based on its own global and regional interests. And they will not always coincide with Greece’s.

Yet, when it comes to issues in Greece’s region, whatever the calculations made by the US, the presence of Greek Americans will not be totally ignored.

It is not only the leadership shown by personalities like Mike Dukakis, the former Democratic nominee for president, or Paul Sarbanes, the revered senator of 30 years, or John Brademas, the majority whip in the House of Representatives in the late 1970s, or even Olympia Snowe, Paul Tsongas, and so many others.

It is a community that has been an honorable part of the American dream, that has many successes to show, that is respected and its influence recognized to such an extent that so many presidents of different parties felt the obligation to show their appreciation every year around this time.

How we make the best of this reality is the challenge for both the community and, more importantly, Greece.

Cyprus  |  Greece  |  USA  |  diplomacy

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