Independence Day Speech (07/02/2013)

Ambassador Smith congratulates Greek and American National Anthem singers John Payne and Addi Lupton (State Department Photo)
Ambassador Smith congratulates Greek and American National Anthem singers John Payne and Addi Lupton (State Department Photo)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Please join me in a round of applause for Ms. Addi Lupton and Mr. John Payne, who just sang the American and Greek national anthems.


I also want to thank our terrific  Marine Security Guard Detachment.
We are proud of your service to our Mission and to our country.

I would also like to thank our many generous contributors who helped make this event possible, including the Hellenic Motor Museum
for the fantastic display of classic American automobiles.

Ministers, Excellencies,
thank you all for coming.

I’m delighted to be here with you this evening as we celebrate
U.S. Independence Day.

This will be my last Fourth of July Reception in Athens, and I want to begin by briefly reflecting on these three event-filled and challenging years.

I am pleased especially to note that relations between Greece
and the United States remain strong and vibrant.

Greece is a vital part of our trans-Atlantic partnership, and the U.S. and Greece have worked together in pursuit of our shared values
in the region and globally.

The past few years have been extraordinarily difficult for Greece
and for the Greek people, but there are many signs of hope.

As a historian, I can’t help but think of a time in the United States,
where we too faced dark days, when our country was divided
and torn by conflicting ideologies.

One-hundred-fifty years ago to this very day, Americans faced off
in one of the bloodiest battles in our country’s history.

The battle of Gettysburg marked the turning point of our Civil War
and what Lincoln called ‘a new birth of freedom’ for our country.

Our country was bruised and battered, but democracy prevailed
and slavery was ended.

So, too, will Greece experience a “new birth” thanks to the resilience
of the Greek people and the indomitable Greek spirit.

Over the last three years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many inspiring young civic, business, and academic leaders who give me confidence that Greece will emerge from the crisis a stronger
and more prosperous nation.

And I commend the current leadership and the coalition for its clear commitment to undertaking the difficult reforms necessary to restore
Greece’s economic strength.

This has been a painful process, but essential if Greece is to return
to economic growth and prosperity.It’s often been said that a country’s greatest asset is its people.

Tonight, we celebrate the diversity of the United States of America
which is on display all around you this evening.

That diversity is also reflected in our Mission in Athens, which is a source
of great pride and strength and reflects the rich mosaic of our country.

An important part of that American mosaic is the Greek diaspora,
which not only has contributed to America’s development, but remains committed to Greece as well.  Last year we saw the creation of The Hellenic Initiative, backed by business executives, lawyers, scientists, and others, which has sponsored a major entrepreneurship award program, donated to Greek NGOs that specialize in social services,
and plans other civic involvement.

And I’m pleased to announce tonightthat the International Orthodox Christian Charities,based in Baltimore, Maryland, in a joint initiative,
has just secured 1.65 million dollars in funding for  Apostoli which provides vital social services to thousands of people across Greece.

Though my time here is drawing to a close, I will continue to follow developments with great interest, and am proud to join the ranks
of friends of Greece who have had the privilege to serve here.

Based on that experience, I can testify to the resilience, creativity, and talent of the Greek people, and I am confident that you will prevail
as you have so many times before, over the great challenges
that have marked your history.

In closing, I also want to pay tribute to the famous Greek tradition of “filoxenia,” which constitutes perhaps the most indelible impression
my family and I will take from our time here.

From the moment of our arrival, my wife Diane and I have been met
with the tremendous warmth and hospitality that makes Greeks so unique.  In our travels throughout this beautiful country, we have enjoyed Greece’s spectacular vistas, rich and fascinating history,
and of course its wonderful cuisine.

We take with us warm memories and a promise that we will return often.

Aγαπητοí φíλοι,η Diane κι εγώ,σας ευχαριστούμε για τη φιλíα και τη φιλοξενíα σας.  Ηταν μεγάλη τιμή να εκπροσωπήσουμε τις Ηνωμένες Πολιτεíεςτης Αμερικής στην Ελλάδα.

Εíμαστε Φιλέλληνες και ελπíζουμε να ερχόμαστε συχνά στην Ελλαδα.

May God Bless Greece,
and may God Bless
the United States of America.