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Over Three Hundred Guests Celebrate AHI's "Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day"


April 1, 1998 No. 18/98


To mark the occasion of the 177th Anniversary of Greek Independence on March 25, 1998, the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) in cooperation with the Order of AHEPA, the Hellenic American National Council (HANC), and the Hellenic American Women's Council (HAWC) hosted "A Congressional Salute to Greek Independence Day" in the Rayburn House Office Building.

The Congressional Host Committee comprised:

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ)
Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-FL)
Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-CA)
Rep. George Gekas (R-PA)
Rep. Ben Gilman (R-NY)
Rep. Joseph Kennedy, II (D-MA)
Rep. Ron Klink (D-PA)
Rep. Carol Maloney (D-NY)
Rep. Mike Pappas (R-NJ)
Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA)

AHI Founder Eugene T. Rossides, AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis, and HAWC Chair Theodora Hancock welcomed the guests on behalf of the AHI and HAWC. Personal greetings were delivered by Ambassador Loucas Tsilas of the Hellenic Republic, Ambassador Andros Nicolaides of the Republic of Cyprus, Senator Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Andrews (D-NJ), Rep. Bilbray (R-CA), Rep. Bilirakis ((R-FL), Rep. Cunningham (R-CA), Rep. Gilman (R-NY), Rep. Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Pappas (R-NJ), Rep. Slaughter (D-NY), and Rep. Wamp (R-TN). Each speaker highlighted the decisive contribution of Hellenism to western civilization and praised the close U.S. relationship with Greece. There were also several calls for U.S. recognition of Greece's sovereign territory in the Aegean and for the removal of Turkish troops from Cyprus.

Children from the Hellenic Academy in Potomac, MD, provided the emotional highlight of the evening. Dressed in traditional Greek costume, the children sang the American and Greek national anthems. This was an uplifting moment much savored by the Ambassadors, Senators, Representatives and 300 plus guests. These included AHI delegations from California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia as well as from Greece. The event was also well attended by congressional staffers.

A splendid addition to the evening was the news that on the very anniversary of Greek independence the House of Representatives passed by an overwhelming vote an amendment providing for the waiver of the US visa requirement on Greek citizens visiting the US. This means that Greek citizens will henceforward be able to visit the US without obtaining visas. A particularly gratifying aspect of this vote was that the AHI heard from several congressional staff sources that AHI's efforts had been pivotal in this success.

The AHI is particularly grateful to Rep. Mike Pappas who acted as congressional coordinator for this event.