Thursday, July 1, 2021, 8:30 p.m.
Thank you very much, President Horner. It is with great pride that I accept this honorary doctorate from Deree, an institution that combines Greek roots with the very best of American educational practices, fostering further our countries’ historic people-to-people ties.
I should start my brief remarks on this warm evening by acknowledging the passing of Sue Horner, whose contributions to the growth of the American College of Greece, and to women’s empowerment, have shaped education on both sides of the Atlantic.
I know that Sue remains a source of inspiration for the many who benefited from her guidance and leadership, and for the Athens’ education community writ large.
Faculty, students, family and friends: I am deeply honored to be with you tonight, in person, to celebrate Deree’s graduating Class of 2021.
Graduates, as you reach this milestone in your lives, I know the challenges of the past year and a half will add to the sense of accomplishment you feel. You’ve made it through college in the midst of a once-in-a-century crisis, demonstrating resilience, seriousness, and compassion. You have a lot to be proud of.
Now, you are stepping out onto the world at a time of momentous changes, but also great promise. And I find it very fitting that your graduation coincides with the 200th anniversary of Greek independence.
Imagine for a minute the uncertainty that Greek women and men must have felt fighting for their freedom and the right to govern themselves against the much larger Ottoman Empire two centuries ago.
They and the American philhellenes who fought alongside them, were not much older than most of you. They were guided by their belief in democracy, human liberty, and the rule of law. They were determined to create something new, something better for all.
You, too, will now have the opportunity to create something new and better.
You graduate today not just as citizens of Greece, but as citizens of a world that is more connected than ever before in human history. In your hands, you have powerful technological tools that have enabled instantaneous communication and are helping to grow human knowledge and innovation at a pace never seen before.
Almost every challenge we face today, from curbing the climate crisis to ensuring the privacy and security of new technologies, and protecting our democratic institutions requires international cooperation.
You, graduates, are better prepared than most to address these challenges because your Deree education has taught you to tackle problems that demand fresh, global perspectives.
For nearly a century, the United States has been Europe’s partner of first choice. And nowhere is that more true than here in Greece, where I began my tenure as Ambassador five years ago by celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.
As President Biden expressed during his visit to Europe last month, our transatlantic relationship will be more important than ever as we work together to tackle the global issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored.
These challenges include improving health security for all of our nations, accelerating robust and sustainable global economic recovery, ensuring that our democratic values govern the use and development of new technologies, advancing human rights and dignity, and standing united against the harmful activities of authoritarian regimes.
You will all be an important part of this transatlantic effort.
Your Deree education was founded on the principle that openness to unfamiliar people, cultures, and ideas will make you better leaders and innovators. Now it’s time for you to put those principles into practice!
As Americans and Greeks, we have much in common. The American and Greek revolutions two centuries ago were uniquely intertwined, and the celebrated Greek values of filótimo, filoxenía, and democratía form the foundation for the 200-year friendship that unites our peoples. They are values that Americans recommit to every year when we celebrate our Fourth of July, just a few days from now.
The flame of democracy and freedom that was first lit here in Athens 2,500 years ago continues to light the way for our modern nations, fueling a long history of friendship and cooperation, and guiding our common course as partners and allies in Europe.
I know America will continue investing in Greece’s talent and creativity. Over five years, I’ve seen many more U.S. technology and innovation companies make the choice to call Greece home. They have committed to hiring and training Greek college graduates, drawn by the talent that this country’s labor force offers and eager to empower Greece’s next generation of leaders.
The U.S.-Greece relationship is stronger today than ever before. The depth of this relationship across a broad range of sectors—investment, defense and security, clean energy, education—makes me deeply optimistic about our shared future.
The United States is committed to ensuring that the relationship that has united our peoples for two hundred years will continue to bear fruit for decades to come as we, together, work to make this world and this region more secure and prosperous.
So I hope that you will see the relationship you started with the United States here at Deree as just the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
Your generation will of necessity be a generation of innovators, travelers and problem-solvers. And the world will benefit from your leadership as well as your commitment to our democratic values.
You have already proven that you will not settle for the status quo. Together, you are prepared to build something new, something better, and America will support you in this effort as your partner, as your friend, and as your enduring ally.
Happy graduation, Class of 2021!