View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 10, 1996
                       REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON
                           IN EXCHANGE OF TOASTS
                           The State Dining Room

8:25 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. President Stephanopoulos, Foreign Minister Pangalos, Education Minister Papandreou, Members of the Greek delegation, to all of our distinguished guests from the United States and from Greece.

Hillary and I are delighted to welcome President Stephanopoulos to the White House. Mr. President, throughout your long career in public life, you have shown an extraordinary devotion to democracy and to serving the people of Greece. As a member of parliament, as well as Minister for the Interior, Welfare and State, you established a record of exceptional integrity and judgment. As President of the Hellenic Republic, you have represented Greece with dignity and wisdom, befitting the history of your great nation. Hillary and Chelsea were so warmly received by you and by all the Greek people recently. I thank you for that, and it now gives us very great pleasure to return the hospitality to you.

We are especially happy to have the President here at this particular point in the friendship between our two nations. Aristotle speaks at length about how friends strengthen one another by sharing virtues and characteristics. Well, Greece has turned to President Stephanopoulos for leadership, and I have my own Stephanopoulos. (Laughter and applause.) Mr. President, I think we're both doing pretty well.

Though thousands of miles separate our two nations, America has very deep roots in Greece. The evidence is all around us. Most of you came to dinner through the North Portico, built in Greek revival style during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Next door, the Treasury, is the largest Greek revival building in the world. There are many other examples nearby. The Lincoln Memorial was originally modeled on the Parthenon. And the architecture we see outside is only the most visible expression of the values we share.

The earliest generations of our leaders who founded our traditions and built our institutions, as the President said earlier today, were deeply influenced by Greek thought, by the passion for truth and justice that had been handed down from the ancients. They studied history's first democracy in the original Greek. I wish I were as well educated. Some were so moved by the struggle of modern Greece for independence that they left home to join in that distant fight for freedom. In 1824 Daniel Webster asked on the floor of the House of Representatives, "Does not the land ring from side to side with one common sentiment of sympathy for Greece?"

In this century, the relationship between our nations deepened as we fought together in two world wars. Then the desire to help preserve freedom in Greece moved President Truman to stand firm against isolationism and for our postwar engagement abroad. His actions led to the Marshall Plan, the establishment of NATO, and a half century of unparalleled success for democracy. We stood together in Korea, in the Gulf War. We continue to work shoulder- to-shoulder today in the former Yugoslavia. Our alliance shows the truth of the Greek proverb: Ou thniskei zeilos eleutherias; the passion for freedom never dies.

Tonight we also thank Greece for the greatest of all gifts it has given us -- wonderful Greek Americans. Our society has been enriched beyond measure by them, whether an aria sung by Maria Callas, films by Elia Kazan, the brilliant tennis of Pete Sampras, in business, in the arts, in our public life. Greek Americans have brought such energy and grace to the life of our nation, and we are all profoundly grateful. In public life, we treasure men and women like Senator Sarbanes and Senator Snowe, former Governor Dukakis and former Senator Paul Tsongas. People who have shown a deep dedication to serving the United States. And I know that all America is grateful to the more than one million Greek Americans who have built our communities, our businesses and our cities. Because of what they have done, America is a stronger and a greater nation.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us raise a glass to the great partnership between our nations, the heritage we share, and the Greek-American community that is one of our greatest blessings. Zito I ellada, and God bless America.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)

PRESIDENT STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, ladies and gentlemen.

I thank you most decidedly, Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, for the warm hospitality you extended to me during my State Visit to Washington, D.C.

I wish to thank you all the more since in honoring my person you undoubtedly express the feelings of the sincere friendship and esteem that both you personally and the great American nation as a whole feel towards the Greek people.

Ties of friendship and shared ideals between our two peoples go back to more than a century, indeed, to the very foundation of modern Greece. Soon after the start of our War of Independence, committees of support were created throughout the United States at the instigation of Edward Everett, while other great Americans, such as John Adams, President James Monroe, Daniel Webster and General Houston were outspoken in their support for the Greek revolution.

Moreover, quite a few Americans, the first, Ben Jarvis, did not hesitate to cross the Atlantic and came to Greece to fight for the freedom of the Greek people, some never to return.

Later on, our two peoples were to fight side-by-side in two world wars and at other critical junctures of world history. We did so because we were united by our common ideas -- the principles of freedom, democracy and the humanist values that were expressed for the first time and with wondrous fullness in ancient Greece.

Speaking of the second world war, allow me, Mr. President, to recall that in a repulsing fascist aggression, Greece gave the allies their first victories in the common struggle for freedom and democracy. It did so at the cost of tremendous suffering as Greece mourned more than 400,000 dead out of a population of 7 million.

Having said that, I should also recall the assistance that the United States offered to Greece in the aftermath of the second world war in order to safeguard her freedom and to help rebuilding her shattered economy. It is not only for their economic strength and their technological and scientific leadership that modern Greeks and I, myself, admire the great American nation and the United States. We admire them even more for their faith and firm commitment to the great universal ideals of freedom and democracy and to the safeguarding of democratic institutions. It is this, more than anything else, that has given them a leading role in our modern world.

As we are waiting for the new century -- indeed, the new millennium -- to begin, as we face new challenges in our perennial quest for a more just, humane and prosperous planet, we know that our two nations can count on each other to continue their long tradition of cooperation. We know very well that, as in the past, our two peoples will be able, in the future as well, to tap the same vast, inexhaustible resources of goodwill, spiritual kinship in pursuit of the realization of our common vision. In this, we shall be greatly helped by the presence in your country, of a large number of Americans of Greek descent who, while being loyal and devoted citizens of their American fatherland, have not forgotten that they have their roots in Greece.

Tomorrow, as I embark on a tour of American cities where millions of these proud Americans of Greek descent live, work and contribute to the greatness of this country, I shall take with me strong, fond memories of this most gracious hospitality extended to me and the honors bestowed upon my country. And I shall be able confidently to stress to everybody that the traditional Greek American friendship and cooperation are stronger than ever before.

Ladies and gentlemen, together with the expression of my deep appreciation, I would like to ask you to raise your glass to the health and personal happiness of the President of the United States of America and Mrs. Clinton, to the wonderful Greek American community, this living bond between our two countries and to the continued progress, prosperity, and success of the American people.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)

END 8:38 P.M. EDT