– President Biden maintains 38 year tradition –

President Joe Biden attends the Greek Independence Day Reception, Thursday, April 4, 2024, in the East Room of the White House.                          Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON, DC, April 12, 2024 – For the 38th consecutive year, the President of the United States invited Greek-American community leaders, led by the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America, to the White House on the occasion of the celebration of Greek Independence Day. On April 4, 2024 President Joe Biden and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros gave remarks to over 300 Greek-American leaders from across the country and select others who are at the forefront of promoting and protecting the Greek Orthodox Church of America, US-Greece and US-Cyprus relations.

President Ronald Reagan and Archbishop Iakovos

History

This tradition began with the passage by the US Senate and US House of Representatives – for the first time – of legislation designating March 25, 1987 as “Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy.” Then-President Ronald Reagan invited His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos and select others to the Oval Office on March 25, 1987, where he signed this legislation into public law.

“Coincidentally, one of first US Senators to co-sponsor this legislation, and then advocate for its passage in the decades to come, was then-US Senator Joe Biden,” said Andy Manatos, who founded this tradition, along with Father Alexander Karloutsos, and have worked every year for decades to maintain it.

President George H.W. Bush and Archbishop Iakovos

President Bill Clinton and Archbishop Spyridon

President George W. Bush and Archbishop Demetrios

This tradition has continued every year for 38 years under 7 different Presidents of both political parties. It has grown from a small Oval Office ceremony, to remarks by the President to a larger group in the Executive Office Building, to since 2008 a three hour event for hundreds throughout the entire State Floor of the East Wing of the White House with Greek food, music, flags and decorations.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Archbishop Demetrios

President Donald Trump and Archbishop Demetrios

President Joe Biden and Archbishop Elpidophoros

In 2022, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Greece’s independence, Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis gave remarks at this event following his historic address to a Joint Meeting of the US Congress. In 2010 Prime Minister George Papandreou attended and gave remarks. In 2020 this event was cancelled days before due to the outbreak of COVID and in 2021 it was held with the President online.

President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, and Vice President Kamala Harris, left, applaud as Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis delivers remarks to a joint session of Congress, Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Barack Obama, Prime Minister George Papandreou and Archbishop Demetrios

Significance

Only two ethnic groups in the US have achieved this remarkable opportunity every year for decades. One is the Irish-American community which accounts for 10 percent of the US population. The other is the Greek-American community which is less than ½ of 1 percent of the US population.

Vice President Kamala Harris

The day before this year’s event, Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris,who was unable to attend the larger event the following day, met in her White House West Wing office with a small group of Greek-American leaders, led by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros and California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis.

Vice President Kamala Harris meets with Greek American community leaders, Wednesday, April 3, 2024, in her West Wing Office at the White House. In attendance are Samuel “Skip” Keesal, Jr., California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and her husband Markos, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of America Yani Lambraniadis, Nicholas Logothetis, Andrew Manatos, Mike Manatos, Peter Mitchell and Nicoletta Marutsos-Mitchell, and Karen Mehiel. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Vice President Kamala Harris meets with Greek American community leaders, Wednesday, April 3, 2024, in her West Wing Office at the White House. In attendance are Samuel “Skip” Keesal, Jr., California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and her husband Markos, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of America Yani Lambraniadis, Nicholas Logothetis, Andrew Manatos, Mike Manatos, Peter Mitchell and Nicoletta Marutsos-Mitchell, and Karen Mehiel. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Prior to the White House celebration, a lunch in honor of the Archbishop (also an annual tradition) was held at Limani.  Those in attendance included:  the President’s sister Valerie Biden Owens, White House Social Secretary Carlos Elizondo, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain; Ambassador of the US to Greece George Tsunis; Ambassador of Greece to the US Katerina Nassika; Ambassador of Cyprus to the US Evangelos Savva; California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis and Markos Kounalakis; lunch co-hosts Andy Manatos and Mike ManatosDennis and Karen Mehiel; Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Commander Dr. Anthony Limberakis and Vice Commander B Theodore Bozonelis and Helen Bozonelis; Bishop Athenagoras; Chancellor of the Archdiocesan District Protopresbyter Elias Villis; Archdiocese Communications Director Stratos Safioleas; Archdiocese Spokesman Father Evagoras Constantinidies; Senior Advisor to the Archbishop Elaine Allen, and Archdeacon Dyonisios.

Andy Manatos, Valerie Biden Owens and Mike Manatos

Andy and Mike Manatos