Locals Attend Greek Independence Day Celebration At The White House

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Not everyone can say they’ve attended a party at the White House, but a handful of East End residents now can.

On Thursday, Father Alex Karloutsos and Father Constantine Lazarakis of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons, and their families, along with a few other members of the South Fork community, attended the White House’s annual Greek Independence Day celebration, an event commemorating Greek and American democracy. The holiday falls every year on March 25, but the White House celebration takes place when the president can make room in his schedule.

Father Karloutsos has been coordinating the event with staff at the White House ever since the first celebration was held 29 years ago when Ronald Reagan was in office. Father Karloutsos is in charge of picking out the celebrity chef—this year a crew of chefs from a Greek restaurant in Washington, D.C. was selected—in addition to working with the Social Office, the White House Chief of Staff and the First Lady’s Chief of Staff.

“It’s a great privilege and honor because you see the greatness of our country. And the U.S., no matter what, we are the greatest power,” Father Karloutsos said on Friday. “It’s been a blessing for me and my community.”

Joining Father Karloutsos, Father Lazarakis and their families from the South Fork were Drs. Peter Michalos and Howard Sklarek, Larry Roth and Robert Ross, Howard and Susan Goldsmith, Gary and Lauren Krupnick, and Press News Group Executive Editor Joseph P. Shaw and Photo Editor Dana Shaw.

Famed Greek-American actor John Stamos was also in attendance.

Thursday’s event honored the 194th anniversary of the start of the Greek War for Independence on March 25, 1821. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were joined by Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who spoke about recent violence in Africa, as well as the troubles that have plagued the Middle East.

In his proclamation, available on the White House’s website, Mr. Obama spoke about how Greek principles guided the founders of this country in declaring America’s own independence. Additionally, he noted how many Greek Americans have enriched the United States and strengthened communities here.

“Today, as Greece works to lay a foundation for long-term prosperity, our nation continues to support our friend and NATO ally and to help the Greek people reach for the future so many have sought—one where all women and men are free to pursue their dreams, realize their potential, and secure a brighter tomorrow for their children,” the president said. “Together, we continue the righteous task of perfecting our two nations. On the 194th anniversary of Greek independence, let us celebrate the enduring ties between our peoples and stand with those around the world who long for liberty and the chance to join in the noble work of building a democracy.”

Father Karloutsos also participated in a closed-door meeting with Mr. Obama, in which they discussed civil rights, human rights, religious freedom in Turkey, and the Armenian Genocide that took place in 1915.

“The president offered great hospitality,” said Father Karloutsos. “The president was very, very warm. He’s the perfect host. So when people are in the house, he makes people very, very … comfortable.”

He also delivered a quick message to Mr. Biden, who often frequents Southampton: “I told him, ‘When you come to the Hamptons, you’ll have to visit our church.’ He said he would.”

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