Last month President Barak Obama issued a Presidential Declaration on the occasion of Greek Independence Day. This past Thursday April 16th 2015 President Obama proclaimed "Zito e Ellas!" - long live Greece at the annual White House celebration recognizing Greece's independence day. With Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and hundreds of Greek-Americans including Archbishop Demetrios of America, the event was literally a Full House.
Honored guests were welcomed at the White House's East room at 5.15 pm. Vice President Joe Biden offered introductory remarks and welcomed President Obama to address the Greek-Americans.
Among the attendees were many prominent members of the Greek American community including World Council of Cretans President Emmanuel Velivasakis, Pancretan Association of America President John Sargetis, and PAA 1st Vice President John Vomvolakis each respectively with their lovely wives. Notable Cretans from the ranks of the PAA included Washington DC Power Broker Andy Manatos and Chicago political figure and former Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
(l. to r.) PAA Pres. Sargetis, Archbishop Demetrios, WCC Pres. Velivasakis and 1st VP Vomvolakis
"The celebration at the White House is a tribute to all Greeks" said Mr. Velivasakis "Crete is of strategic importance to world security, and Cretans have always demonstrated they are willing to risk it all for justice and democracy!" Speaking with Vice President Biden the importance of Crete's strategic position in the Mediterranean in the fight against terrorism and the significant contribution of Greek Americans to the fabric of Americas strength have always been recognized.
(l. to r.) PAA President Sargetis, Vice President Joe Biden, WCC President Velivasakis.
PAA President Sargetis said "It's an honor to be at the White House, the Peoples House. The invitation by President Obama is a testament to the respect the PAA has earned as the oldest and largest Greek American cultural organization."
We Hellenes have again been able to rise far above the norm as we have in the ancient world, during WWII and the Holocaust, and in our more modern successes in America and around the world," said PAA member Andy Manatos President of the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes and Chairman of the OXI Day Foundation.
(l. to r.) WCC Pres. Velivasakis, Coordinated Effort of Hellenes Andy Manatos, PAA 1st VP John Vomvolakis
Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis led the delegation of Greek officials to the White House. Presidents do not usually meet and chat with finance ministers. However President Obama broke with protocol and had an informal chat with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis during the reception hosted at the White House in order to honor Greece's Independence. It is certainly a powerful gesture of solidarity with debt ridden and cornered Greece. Surrounded by a reception guests at a discrete distance, Obama and Varoufakis talked with each other for over 10 minutes.
President Obama and Fiance Minister Varoufakis.
The informal chat with the President makes Varoufakis the first official of the newly elected Greek government to interact with the US President amid crucial negotiations between Greece and its international creditors.
The US administration has indicated their support of the current Greek government calling for a fast and equitable solution to the debt crisis in Greece. President Obama expressed "the solidarity" of the US administration to Greece and "agreed to continue our cooperation," Varoufakis said adding that they also agreed that "flexibility is something that both sides must show".
Finance Minister Varoufakis who comes from a Cretan family also spoke with PAA 1st Vice President John Vomvolakis thanking the PAA "for helping Greece in her time need" and emphasizing, "we still need the support of Greek Americans". Of course Varoufakis is a central figure in negotiating a fair and equatable solution for the crisis in Greece. Everything in his manner - dress code, body language, and approach prove him the consummate Cretan.
Minister Varoufakis spoke at the esteemed Brookings Institute earlier in the day regarding the Crisis in Europe the interesting discussion may be seen by clicking here or visiting:
Brookings Institute at brookings.edu