Ambassador Pyatt’s Remarks for Greece Bicentennial Event on USS Constitution

Boston, MA, March 25, 2021

As Delivered (prerecorded)

Kalispera sas.  I’m Geoff Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Greece.  On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I want to thank the Hellenes and Philhellenes “Steering Committee” and the Pontian Society “Panagia Soumela” of Boston for inviting me to join your commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Greek independence.

Today, the United States joins Greek people around the world to celebrate the birth of the modern Greek state and the 200-year friendship between our countries.  The Greek and American revolutions are uniquely intertwined, inspired by our deeply ingrained belief in the system of government the ancient Athenians called demokratía because the power or the right to rule flows from the people.

No one knows this better than the people of Boston, who famously threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor in 1773 to protest unfair taxation without representation.  As the inheritors of ancient Athenian principles, early American philhellenes felt a similar duty to help Greece reclaim its birthright of democracy.  Boston was home to some of the most well-known American philhellenes, including Samuel Gridley Howe, who served as a volunteer soldier and Surgeon General in the Greek army, and Harvard University President Edward Everett, a founding member of the Greek Committee of Boston, which provided humanitarian aid to the Greek people and lobbied elected officials to recognize Greek independence.

It’s especially fitting that you’re commemorating Greece’s bicentennial aboard the USS Constitution, a symbol of the honor, courage, and commitment of America’s sailors that was never defeated in battle.  During the Greek Revolution, “Old Ironsides” joined America’s squadron in the Mediterranean Sea, under the command of Captain Jacob Jones.  While keeping sea lanes open to merchant shipping, the naval squadron also facilitated quiet, informal diplomacy in the Mediterranean and protected private American vessels delivering humanitarian relief and provisions from our philhellenic committees to the Greek people.

William Fleming, a Marine aboard the USS Constitution, wrote extensively about his experiences in a personal journal that is on display at the USS Constitution Museum.  Through him, we know the USS Constitution received both Admiral Constantine Canaris and General Theodoros Colocotronis in 1827.  Of Admiral Canaris, Fleming wrote, “He’s one of the bravest men that the Greeks possess.”  And he described the General as “a very majestic looking man, and a great warrior.”

I recently had the opportunity to visit the new Philhellene Museum in Athens, which is scheduled to open in just a few weeks.  Its exhibit on American philhellenes included something which I found profoundly moving: a copy of a letter that Greek independence fighters in Trieste sent to naval officer David Farragut, the first Admiral of the U.S. Navy, asking for his support.  This is one of many examples of Greeks and Americans reaching out to each other during difficult moments and seeking inspiration.  A cornerstone of our relationship has been the support we have provided each other over the years.

The extraordinary bond between our peoples has endured for two centuries.  During that time, our countries have stood shoulder-to-shoulder through great challenges, even through our democracies’ darkest hours.  Today, the U.S.-Greece relationship is stronger than ever, and our countries are working closely to promote regional peace, stability, and prosperity.

The Greek American diaspora community and especially grassroots organizations like yours put our democratic principles into practice, advancing the U.S.-Greece relationship and playing a vital role in realizing our shared goals.

Greece’s bicentennial is an opportunity to build on the progress we’ve made in recent years to strengthen our alliance.  To honor this important milestone and to complement the Greece 2021 Committee’s commemorative events, the U.S. Mission in Greece has launched a year-long campaign, “USA & Greece: Celebrating 200 Years of Friendship,” that seeks to honor the bonds between our democracies and chart an agenda for our shared future.

My own exploration of Greece’s bicentennial themes has taught me that philhellenes not only love and respect Greece, but are committed to the values of freedom, equal opportunity, and equal justice before the law that generations of our citizens have pledged to uphold and defend.  That’s why I’m proud to count myself among the distinguished American ranks of philhellenes who have long cherished the cry, Zito i Ellada!  Zito i Ameriki!  Efcharisto poli.