View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 9, 1996
                             UPON ARRIVAL
                            The South Lawn
                           The White House

10:13 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON: President Stephanopoulos, members of the Greek delegation, distinguished guests. On behalf of the American people, I am delighted to welcome President Stephanopoulos to the White House.

It is an honor to return the warm hospitality the people of Greece showed the First Lady when she visited their wonderful country in March.

Two thousand five hundred years ago, the birth of democracy in Greece lit the landscape of Western civilization. Greek architecture, poetry, philosophy and law set new standards for human achievement -- and new measures for human progress. Today, we Americans share with Greece the glory of that ancient legacy. We join with Greece -- our ally and friend -- in raising democracry's flag around the world.

For half a century, from World War II to the Persian Gulf, our nations have stood together in defense of shared ideals. Now, we are working to build a bright future of security, prosperity and peace. The strengthening of our relations in recent years has paved the way to closer cooperation to the benefit of our own people and all the world.

In Bosnia, our soldiers serve side-by-side to help the peace take hold. Throughout the Balkans, from Albania to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, American looks to Greece to be a force of peace and stability. And we must stand as one against the deadly scourge of terrorism. May I express, once more, on behalf of all Americans our deep condolences to the families and friends of the 17 Greek citizens who were murdered in Cairo last month.

The partnership between America and Greece is reinforced by the bonds of family. All across our country, Americans of Greek descent have added to the richness and the warmth of America's quilt. The values they have brought here to their adopted home -- love of family, faith and community, taking responsibility, working hard -- have flourished in America, and they have helped America to flourish.

Mr. President, among the countless gifts that Greece has shared with the world, few capture the human heart like the Olympics. This year, the United States is proud to host the centennial of the modern Olympic Games. The torch that Hillary had the honor to kindle when she visited your country in Olympia, carries the spirit of the past, the promise of this moment, and our common hopes for the future. May its flame burn as strong as the enduring ties between America and Greece.

Again, Mr. President, we welcome you and ask for your remarks. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, allow me to warmly thank you for your so kind words. It is my particular pleasure to convey to you the warm greetings of the entire Greek people, the greeting the Greek people extend to the friendly American people and its leadership.

I sincerely welcome our meeting, which reflects the excellent relations between the two countries, as well as the friendly feelings of your country for Greece; a country which, like the United States of America, continuously proves its commitment to the ideals of freedom, democracy and international law and order.

The longstanding Greek-American relations are inspired from the ideals of classical democracy, as well as those of modern parliamentiarism. This multifaceted relationship transcends time and goes beyond any conventional concept since it is deeply rooted in a long common heritage.

This relationship is further enhanced thanks to the presence in the United States of America of an important and flourishing community of Americans of Greek descent with a remarkable contribution in every field of life and in all the achievements of your great country.

Mr. President, the close friendship and the common values cherished by our two peoples have their origins in the beginnings of our states, which emerged from bloody struggles for freedom, dignity and human rights.

It is no coincidence that the founding fathers of American democracy -- such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Payne, but above all, the great President Thomas Jefferson -- all of them brought up in classical education, laid the foundations of the then-fledgling, albeit pioneering and dynamic, democracy on Greek culture. The invaluable and unlimited support that the United States provided to my country during its struggle for national independence is a golden page in the history of the continuous commitment of our peoples for universal ideals.

This warm solidarity, which created an indissoluble bond, was underlined by such pioneers as Daniel Webester and Edward Everett, yet it reached its highest form of expression in a letter that President Jefferson addressed to the great Greek writer of the Enlightenment, Heremandius Kourais (phonetic).

Thomas Jefferson wrote at the time, "No people sympathizes more feelingly than ours with the suffering of your countrymen. None offer more sincere ardent praise to Heaven for their success. You are," continues Jefferson, "the first civilized nation that presented examples of what man should be."

It is true, Mr. President, that the Greek people hold the achievements of your great nation in the fields of science and technology in great respect. But it is also true that their admiration becomes even greater when they realize that the efforts of the United States of America, wherever deployed, aim at the implementation of our common principles and at supporting international law and order, our final goal being for justice and peace to prevail.

Today, Greece plays an active role in the changing area of southeastern Europe, while cooperating peacefully and productively in the framework of equity with its neighbors, its partners in the European Union, as well as her friends all over the world. Yet, in this effort, Greece is confronted with certain obstacles. My country deals with them in a peaceful manner, fully abiding by the principles of the United Nations and by international treaties.

As you are aware, Mr. President, the longstanding traditional ties between our nations were further enhanced and solidified during difficult times, such as the two world wars. I firmly believe that our cooperation and our common cause will continue to serve a common policy of peace and friendship in a world that will ultimately live in the framework set by the United Nations' charter -- a world where states will be complying with their international obligations, abstaining from the use of force and the mere threat of use thereof, and where they will solve any differences between them using the peaceful means provided for by the charter.

Mr. President, I am confident that my visit will contribute to an even better mutual understanding between our nations -- we are friends and allies -- as well as to further strengthening of our relations and promoting our cooperation in areas of common interest. My country, Mr. President, has remained committed to its friendships and alliances despite the hardships it has endured through its history. Greece will continue to abide by those principles for which she has made a lot of sacrifices -- principles which found their first and perfect expression in ancient Greek culture.

Thank you so much. (Applause.)

END 10:30 A.M. EDT