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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 25, 1993
                       REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                     AT GREEK AMERICAN RECEPTION
                            The East Room 

4:38 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: I just wanted to ask Mr. Stephanopoulos to come up here so I could remove all doubt about how I know what to do. (Laughter.) Please sit, ladies and gentlemen; Archbishop.

I have a few remarks, but before I do I want to formally sign this proclamation for Greek Independence Day and present it to the Archbishop.

(The proclamation is signed.) (Applause.)

Thank you. Please be seated. I'd like to welcome all of you here to the White House and say a special word of welcome to Archbishop Iakavos, the spiritual leader of the Greek American community, with whom I have just had a wide-ranging discussion of many of the issues that I know that concern you.

I'd also like to welcome the political leader of the Greek American community, my friend Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland. (Applause.) And to say how delighted I am to sign this proclamation recognizing Greek Independence Day and celebrating the democracy that we share in the United States with Greece.

It is particularly timely that we celebrate democracy today at the very moment that our friends around the world who have been deprived of democracy are working hard against great odds to bring it to full flower. And I know, Archbishop, that our prayers are with the people in Russia today and throughout the world who are working hard to preserve and enhance their own democracy.

Greece, the birthplace of democracy, and the United States have long had a history of friendship and cooperation. The authors of our nation's Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were inspired by Greece's commitment to liberty, to freedom and to democracy.

Indeed, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, and I quote, "Among the confederacies of antiquity, the most considerable was that of the Grecian republics. Today, those ideas continue to strengthen the United States. And, working together, Greece and the United States have worked to advance the cause of freedom around the world.

It is against that backdrop of longstanding and close cooperation between the United States and Greece that I want to say a brief word about two issues that I know concern this audience greatly: Cyprus and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

On Cyprus, I want to give you my personal assurance that I and my administration will stay fully engaged in the U.N. process of negotiations, that we will give our full energies to helping reach a fair and permanent solution to the Cyprus dispute, and that we will not rest until a solution is found.

Already, in the first two months of my presidency, I have had the opportunity to raise the issue of Cyprus in serious discussions in person with President Ozal of Turkey and by a long telephone conversation with Prime Minister Demirel. You can count on the United States to be there until this issue is resolved. (Applause.)

On Macedonia: Here, also, I take seriously the concerns that have been raised by Greece. Like Athens, we believe that a solution to the dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav republic must be found rapidly to avoid the spread of further instability. I have admired the steady hand of Prime Minister Mitsotakis, and I want to work closely with him to find an appropriate solution to this problem.

Progress has already been made on this issue, as I'm sure you know, and I believe we can find a just solution with broad vision and flexibility. Again, you can be sure that the United States will not allow the security of such a close friend and ally as Greece to be threatened in any way. (Applause.)

You know, I come from a state where Greek Americans make up only one-tenth of one percent of our population, and about half of them are in this room today. (Laughter.) But their contributions to our state and to my life have been enormous.

Last night, my good friend from the time I was nine years old, David Leopoulis, spent the night with me in the White House. (Applause.) He campaigned with me all over America. He became the symbol of an ordinary American who was for me -- think of it. Here I was a WASP, not ordinary, supported by a Greek American who was ordinary. (Laughter.) He appeared on television all over the country and worked with out campaign basically to talk about a lifetime of friendship and shared values. And our relationship, in that sense, is a mirror image of the relationship between the United States and Greece.

My personal health for many years has been in the hands of Dr. Drew Kampuris, whose father Dr. Frank Kampuris, is an appointee of mine to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. There are others here in this audience and back home in Arkansas without whom I would not be here today.

My campaign and my administration have gained much from the talents of Greek Americans, including my close assistant and Director of Communications, George Stephanopoulos, who came up here a moment ago, who has become the heartthrob of the teen set of America. (Laughter and Applause.)

George's parents are in the audience today, and they did such a good job raising him I would like to ask them to stand up. (Applause.) We discovered -- we did a little search for Greek Americans on the President's staff, and we discovered, notwithstanding some of their last names, the following fully qualify: My staff secretary, John Podesta; Sylvia Mathews on the National Economic Commission staff. She hails from a little town in West Virginia which just proves that you really are everywhere. (Laughter.) Peter Pappas, my Associate Counsel; and George Tenet, my Special Assistant and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council.

Indeed, you might argue that I could have a reverse affirmative action suit for the over-representation of Greeks on the White House staff. (Laughter.) My good friend from New Jersey, Clay Constantinou is here who was with me from the beginning. (Applause.) There are others here in the audience who helped so much in the election I want to note the presence of Angelo Zicapulous and many others who worked in the campaign for whom I'm very, very grateful.

And I also would like to ask us all to remember in our prayers my most formidable opponent in the Democratic primary, Paul Tsongas as we pray for his recovery. (Applause.)

American politics has benefitted greatly from the involvement of Greek Americans. In the Democratic Party we had last year two great state party chairmen, Phil Angelides in California and Chris Spirou in New Hampshire. They each played an integral part in that election, and I can't help but say -- and I hope the Republicans in the audience will forgive me -- that it was rather unusual for a Democrat to carry either California or New Hampshire, and at least they think it was the Greek influence that put us over the top. (Applause.)

The Greek American community has always taken pride in, and has been known for its commitment to the values that our country desperately needs more of today: commitment to family and neighborhood, to education and hard work, to freedom and the rule of law. These are the values that built America, shared still by the vast majority of Americans. But we know that for America to go where it needs to go, all Americans will have to embrace them again.

And so even as we look beyond our nation's borders to the problems around the world, I ask those of you here in this wonderful house and those whom you represent throughout the country to lead our nation in a re-embrace of these values borne in the democracy of Greece, nourished in the democracy of the United States, now desperately needed in every city and hamlet in this country.

To Greece, the nation that first shaped the political ideals we cherish and to Greek Americans who help us every day, we are greatly indebted. And as I turn to the Archbishop for his remarks, let me say, courtesy of my distinguished language instructor, Mr. Stephanopoulos, Zito ee Ellas.

END4:50 P.M. EST