Ambassador Tsunis’s Remarks at Credentials Reception

Jefferson House Residence, Athens

May 10, 2022

As Prepared

Kalispera everyone, esteemed guests.

I am incredibly happy to welcome you this beautiful spring afternoon to the Jefferson House residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Greece.

I look forward to when my wife, Olga, and our three children – James, Eleni, and Yanna – join me here and you all have a chance to meet them.

At the top, I would like to take a moment and acknowledge all of the great work and achievements over the past several years of Ambassador Pyatt, our DCM, David Burger, and the amazing team at our Embassy and Consul General Lee’s in Thessaloniki.  We would not be where we are today without it.  Theirs is a remarkable legacy leaving behind the solid foundation we have to build on.

As you know, I am a proud Greek-American with deep ties to Greece.  And it is an honor of a lifetime to return to my roots and to have the opportunity to serve America here.

I am incredibly grateful to my parents who taught me to never forget my roots and the Hellenic ideals of goodness (kalosini), agape, and above all, the love of honor (philotimo).  Along with democracy, I believe these values are some of Greece’s greatest gifts to the world.

I had the great honor of presenting my credentials to President Sakellaropoulou this morning at the Presidential Palace.  As I told the President, there could be no better time to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Greece.

The U.S.-Greece relationship has never been stronger nor more consequential — as a sovereign European state faces a full-on invasion so close to us.

An unprovoked war of choice that has claimed so many innocent lives, and that has tragically brought to ruins Mariupol, a bastion of Hellenic identity.

On Sunday, we celebrated the 77th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and the victory of Allied forces over Fascism and forces of tyranny.  It was also an occasion to reflect on Greece’s role in this victory.

As you all know, Greece was the first Allied power to defeat an Axis force.  The Greek people inspired the world with their strength of character when they courageously stood up and said “Oxi” to Mussolini on October 28, 1940, a day Greeks proudly commemorate as their entry into World War II every year.

As Putin’s war of choice rages in Ukraine, as Secretary Blinken said, we must increase our resolve to resist those who now seek to manipulate historical memory to advance their own ambitions.

Putin has tried to twist history to justify his unprovoked and brutal war.  Those who genuinely study history know President Zelenskyy and the brave people of Ukraine embody the spirit of those who prevailed during the Second World War.  They are defending their sovereignty, their democracy, and Ukraine’s rightful future in a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

Through the multiple threats we face, NATO remains the cornerstone of U.S. and European defense policy.  The success of our transatlantic alliance, more important now than ever, lies on the collective aspiration of all NATO members to protect peace around the world and the values of freedom, democracy and self-governance that we all share and hold dear.

We are at the forefront of the struggle between democratic values, born right here in Athens, and the voices of tyranny and authoritarianism.  Our collective response today will determine the future of our world tomorrow.

All democracies globally have a sacred obligation to foster democratic ideals and stand united against these forces of darkness that seek to overturn the international rules-based order upon which our collective security and prosperity is based.

At times like these, it is useful to turn for guidance to the Ancient Greeks.  Epictetus once asked, “Where is good?  In our reasoned choices.  Where is evil?  In our reasoned choices.”

We must always choose to do what is right, based on our reasoned choices and not merely as potential rewards.  To stand, as Prime Minister Mitsotakis has so aptly put it, “on the right side of history.”

It’s more critical than ever that the United States and Greece and our transatlantic allies work together.  That includes advancing shared goals for strengthening democracy throughout the Balkans.  We commend Greece’s leadership role to that end because it fosters regional prosperity and stability.

Though we have accomplished much, there is room for us to further deepen our cooperation or, to use the wonderful Greek term, synergia, which I think comes much closer to the spirit of what I’m getting at.

In that spirit, I am fully committed to working with everyone here, Prime Minister Mitsotakis, the entire Greek government, the people of the Hellenic Republic, and the incredible Greek diaspora to advance our shared goals for peace and prosperity — together.

As you know, President Biden is a great friend of Greece.  And the United States strongly supports Greece’s growing leadership role in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Balkans, Black Sea region, and beyond.

Next Monday, May 16, President Biden will welcome Prime Minister Mitsotakis to the White House.  I will proudly accompany the Prime Minister and his delegation for this historic visit.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has invited the Prime Minister on behalf of the bipartisan Congressional leadership to address a Joint Meeting of Congress on May 17.  This is the highest honor that our legislature can bestow upon a visiting foreign leader.

These invitations were extended because what happens in Greece matters – not just for Greece and the United States.  It matters for the entire Eastern Mediterranean region, and much more.

Our work together strengthens NATO.  It makes the European Union more prosperous and secure.  That strength and unity is more important now than ever.

Our work together, our synergia, is founded on our shared democratic values, the values, born here in Athens, that brought freedom to our peoples — and the world.

I am grateful to President Biden and Secretary Blinken for the confidence they’ve placed in me.  And while proud and excited, I take very seriously this obligation and responsibility I’ve been entrusted with.

No matter the challenge or the opportunity, we are all in this together, and only by working together can we succeed.  So I look forward to continuing our partnership, and getting to know you all better in the weeks and months ahead.

These are consequential times, and we must work to solve the challenges collectively.

Along with my entire team at the Embassy, we’re committed to taking this remarkable U.S.-Greek partnership to greater heights, working with our democratic and peace-loving friends and allies for peace and stability.

Our children, all of our children, deserve no less.