America and the Centenary of Greek Independence
Greece is now celebrating her one hundredth "Fourth of July" -- the centenary of her independence from Turkey. The centenary, however, is not a mere national event. It is an occasion for which all the freedom loving peoples of the world are evincing that same universal interest which was so enthusiastically demonstrated during the days of the Greek revolution.
On March 22nd, one thousand Ahepans sailed to Greece to participate in the centennial celebration. They are a part of America's contribution to this historic pageant. Accompanying the expedition of the Ahepa were two distinguished Americans, Senator William H. King of Utah and Honorable Henry Morgenthau, former Ambassador to Turkey, who have left for Greece to pay their homage to the cradle of liberty and learning. In this connection it is also interesting to note that one of the last acts of the late President Taft was to accept the honorary Presidency of the American Committee for the observance of the centenary of Greek Independence. This was the last committee on which the late President served. The Committee, whose treasurer is the well known Otto Kahn, is helping to arrange for festivities and church observances for the centennial in all the principal cities of the United States. As a tribute to Mr. Taft, a movement has been commenced among native Americans and American-Greeks to erect a Temple of Youth in Athens for the physical and moral education of the young Grecian manhood, which would be known as the William Howard Taft Memorial.
It is appropriately fitting that such eminent Americans should so genuinely participate in the observance of this historic occasion. The American Revolutionary War in 1776 and the Greek War of Independence of 1821, when a handful of men carried on an epic struggle for freedom against fifty million Mohammedans, were fought for the same basic principles and ideals. These two great wars not only resulted in the respective independence of the American and Greek peoples, but they established the example and provided the moral stamina for all subsequent movements for the liberation of the subjugated peoples of the world.
Greeks all over the world, but principally the Greeks of America, shall never forget the contributions of America to Greek Independence. It was President Monroe, who, in his famous message to Congress in 1823, first took official cognizance of, and expressed the sympathy of the United States for the Greek struggle for freedom. The Greeks shall never forget the eloquence of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and Edward Everett, who so gallantly championed the cause of Greek freedom in the halls of Congress and at the bar of public opinion. And not only did America contribute her sympathy. Samuel Gridley Howe, Jonathan Miller, Colonel George Jarvis, John R. Stuyvesant and many others offered their very lives for the freedom of Hellas. Mindful of all these sacrifices, and in an effort to at least partly repay their debt of gratitude, sixty-seven thousand three hundred Greek boys, out of a possible population of a half million American-Greeks, volunteered in the United States Army during the World War -- a number representing by far the largest contribution proportionately of any foreign race. These mutual expressions of common appreciation and affection everlastingly cemented the bonds of friendship between the greatest democracy of modern times and the first democracy of antiquity.
President James Monroe on the Greek Independence
In his annual message to Congress, delivered on December 3, 1822. President Monroe spoke eloquently and from the heart concerning Greece and the Greek cause:
"The mention of Greece fills the mind with the most exalted sentiments, and arouses in our bosoms the best feelings of which our nature is susceptible. Superior skill and refinement in the arts, heroic gallantry in action, disinterested patriotism, enthusiastic real and devotion in favor of public liberty, are associated with our recollections of ancient Greece. That such a country should have been overwhelmed, and so long hidden as it were, from the world, under a gloomy despotism, has been a cause of unceasing and deep regret to generous minds for ages past. It was natural, therefore, that the reappearance of these people in their original character, contending in favor of their liberties should produce he great excitement and sympathy in their favor, which have been so signally displayed throughout the United States. A strong hope is entertained that these people will recover their independence, and resume their equal station among the nations of the earth. That she may obtain that rank, is the object of our most ardent wishes."
© Order of AHEPA