East Room, March 24, 2017, 2:37 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: I love the Greeks. Oh, do I love the Greeks. (Laughter and applause.) Don’t forget, I come from New York. That’s all I see, is Greeks. They are all over the place. (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, Reince. Very much appreciated. Reince was the most successful leader the RNC – that’s called the Republican National Committee – has ever had. And now, as my really terrific and hardworking Chief of Staff, he has really one of the number-one – and I guess you’d have to say, he’s one of the top Greeks in the country. And I know a lot of them right in the audience – they’re my friends. (Applause.)

And the list also includes, as you know, George Gigicos – (applause) – George. George is great. I said, make sure that microphone is absolutely perfect, George. He never lets me – the Director of White House Advance. And George Sifakis – (applause) – where’s George? And these guys are with me right from the beginning – the Director of the Office of Public Liaison. It’s a great team. It’s a great, great team. Can’t do any better.

They helped organize this wonderful event with the Greek Archdiocese of America and so many local parishioners. And I want to thank you all. You’re here, you’re all over the audience. I want to thank you all.

Your Eminence and Father Alex, it is a true privilege to host you at the White House. I was deeply honored to have you both at my inauguration – it was a great day – and I am grateful for your presence here today. I also want to thank you for awarding Reince and George the highest honor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – the Medal of Saint Paul.

To everyone in the youth choir who just performed – they were beautiful. (Applause.) I heard that music. I heard that music. With such elegance and grace, you’re amazing – you really are. Beautiful, beautiful sounds. I know you made your parents very proud. And you make all of us proud, right?

Today we commemorate an event that we have marked with a national day of celebration for 30 years: Greek Independence Day. Very important. President Ronald Reagan started this wonderful tradition, and we are thrilled to continue it, and always will. Greek Independence Day celebrates the rebirth of liberty for the Greek people. It commemorates the fight for the Greek Independence that began on March 25th, 1821. After nearly 400 years of outside rule, the Greeks longed to regain their sovereignty.

This love of freedom and democracy has formed a lasting bond between our two countries. It is a bond that has its origins in Ancient Greece – “the birthplace of Democracy.”

American President James Monroe and the great American statesman Daniel Webster both supported Greece’s struggle for independence. And it was a tough, tough struggle, you know that. Then-Representative Webster honored the role of Greece in forming civilization, and said that “We, like the rest of mankind, are greatly her debtors.”

In years to come, we don’t know what will be required to defend our freedom, but we do know that it will demand great, great courage – a courage from all of us – and we will show it, and I have no doubt about that.

Drawing inspiration from our history and those who come before, we will rise to any occasion. We have a country that, as you know, has certain difficulties, has certain problems. We will solve those problems and we will quickly solve those difficulties. Just watch. (Applause.)

I want to thank you all for coming to the White House today. We celebrate Greek history, and we applaud the tremendous contributions of your people to our beloved country.

May God bless you all. And with that, I would like to recognize His Eminence. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)