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Remarks to the Greek Parliament in Athens, Greece

July 18, 1991

Thank you, sir, for the welcome, and may I pay my respects to President Karamanlis; Prime Minister Mitsotakis; president of the Parliament, Mr. Tsaldaris; Mr. Papandreou, who I had the privilege of meeting not so long ago; and members of the Vouli.

Let me first thank you for the extraordinary honor of speaking to you. It means a great deal to follow in the footsteps of such great men as Dwight Eisenhower and General Charles de Gaulle, who spoke here.

No American can come to Athens without feeling a kind of sacred awe. All that Americans are, all that Americans stand for, all that we hold most dear has roots right here, in the great city and the great country where democracy was born 2,500 years ago.

Every American student learns to appreciate the magnificence of the Parthenon and the Delphi, the cool Aegean Sea. And we learn that the great disciplines -- philosophy, theology, drama, literature, mathematics, biology, zoology, and of course, politics -- were born on these shores. I expect all the rest of them are alive, but I'm sure politics is still alive on these shores. We see in your monuments and museums the seeds from which our Republic of freedom grew up.

After 2,500 years, mankind is only beginning to grasp the magnitude of what your forefathers achieved. Through dozens of generations, through the rise and fall of great empires, through wars and plagues, through depressions and economic revolutions, through the triumphs and travails of human affairs, one thing has endured: the dream of democracy.

And so today, as old despotisms melt away and a commonwealth of freedom arises around the globe, we can truly say that our future -- the world's future -- began right here.

Although I have not visited -- well, I visited Greece in 1960, and then once again, I believe, in '79. I haven't been here that much lately, but I feel at home here. I have the honor to share this Chamber today with a man who symbolizes ancient Greek principles and modern Greek courage, President Constantine Karamanlis.

Then Prime Minister Karamanlis hosted President Eisenhower back in 1959, and has done business with every American President since Harry Truman. He restored democracy to Greece in 1974, and made it possible for Greece to assume its present stature as a bulwark of stability.

He built firm relations with the West and helped secure Greek membership in the European Community. He ensured that Greece would play an important role in the Atlantic alliance. And he enlarged Greece's international responsibilities, its international influence, its international importance.

To honor this great man and to stress the special quality of our renewed relations with Greece, I now would like to invite your President to join us in Washington next year for a state visit. And I hope you will accept, Mr. President. I hope you will accept so that the American people can express their heartfelt gratitude to you, their admiration for you, and their respect for Greece.

And today, I also want to repeat my invitation to another great man -- a man I admire and respect -- your Prime Minister, Constantine Mitsotakis. And I have asked him to make an official visit to our Capital. And this trip would let the whole world know that our friendship, like the ideals that link us, will endure.

As I stand here today, I'm happy to say that our relations are stronger than ever. We have tightened our economic ties with agreements on customs and civil aviation and tourism. We've made great progress together in the international fight against terrorism. And with this visit, I hope that we can make this special relationship stronger still.

We can build a more vibrant economic relationship. While the United States is the largest external investor in Greece, we want to do more. We want to ensure that American capital and know-how will be able to contribute to lasting Greek prosperity. And I, therefore, asked our Secretary of Commerce to lead a Presidential trade and investment mission to Greece this autumn.

We can strengthen our security relationship. We already have forged solid ties through NATO. This year, the United States will provide $350 million in security assistance to Greece. We've just agreed to lease you two Knox-class frigates. And we will expedite the shipment of 10 F 4D aircraft to you; will deliver 18 more this fall. These agreements express our determination to stand by you, now and in years to come.

You stood squarely with the international coalition that liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. This kind of cooperation is not new. In the Persian Gulf, as in Korea and the two World Wars, Greece sided with the forces of freedom.

Now, we face a new world, a world in which military confrontation is being pushed aside by constructive economic competition, a world in which nations struggle to build and perfect democracy. Although we have no road map to guide us through this world, we have a sure compass in principles that both our nations hold dear: the peaceful settlement of disputes, free enterprise, an open world economic system and, underlying it all, democracy.

Here in Greece, you command an especially vivid view of the world. Here in your unique location at this historic time, we can see the challenge, and the promise, of what we refer to as the new world order.

To the north, Europe's first post-cold war crisis has erupted. The peoples of Yugoslavia struggle to secure newfound freedoms and overcome the pull of ancient hatreds. The international community, rallied by the bold initiative of the EC, appeals to the Yugoslavs to chart a new future -- a democratic future -- through peaceful negotiations. We call upon the leaders there to spare their people from dreadful civil war.

As an EC country and a stable democracy, you can help nations, such as Albania and Bulgaria, who struggle along the road to freedom. Struggle they might, but look back at very recent history. And who would have predicted that these countries now want to go down freedom's road, democracy's road? Your Balkan neighbors, including Yugoslavia, look to you for guidance and help and hope.

A kind of youthful optimism flourishes everywhere. The emerging democracies of Europe, peoples throughout the Soviet Union, men and women, young and old, throughout the world, aspire to achieve the ideals first sketched out here in Greece.

But ideals are important only if they can shape actions. You understand this. We are encouraged that your Government is advancing new ideas to foster stability in the Balkans and the Aegean. The opportunity for a new era of accommodation in this region beckons. With that in mind, I must report that my meeting with Mr. Gorbachev yesterday was in that spirit of cooperation as the Soviet Union seeks to do more according to democratic principles.

I'm hoping that the arms control agreement that we worked out yesterday with Mr. Gorbachev -- the first to reduce the strategic arms in history -- proves to be a benefit to all the countries around the world, particularly in this region.

You and Turkey face a great challenge: to resolve these old disputes that divide you. More than 60 years ago, Eleutherios -- and I've got to watch my pronunciation -- Venizelos signed treaties of friendship and commerce with the father of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk. I pray that your two nations might follow the example set by these giants.

Today, with new leaders of vision, your nations enjoy a unique opportunity to overcome the misunderstandings of the past. You can begin to heal the deep wounds that scar Cyprus, that divides families and friends on that island.

In the new world that I have discussed, none of us should accept the status quo in Cyprus. And today I pledge that the United States will do whatever it can to help Greece, Turkey, and the Cypriots settle the Cyprus problem, and do so this year.

In the end, the ties that bind the United States and Greece go far deeper than economic or military necessity. You see, as many of you know, Greek-Americans have enriched our country enormously, in every profession, in every region, in every walk of life. Two distinguished businessmen and old friends who have accompanied me on this trip -- Alec Kortelas and Alex Spanos -- both of whom have made a tremendous imprint in our country. And of course, our able Ambassador Michael Sotirhos serves our Nation well.

And we have subtler ties, too. Cities across America take their names from such places as Athens and Corinth and Delphi and Sparta. And near one of my favorite fishing spots lies the town of Marathon, Florida. And of course, my country would not exist if your forefathers had not developed the world's most revolutionary idea -- democracy. Our founding fathers studied your history closely and revered deeply the works of the ancient Greeks. Thomas Jefferson, the author of our Declaration of Independence, once observed, "Greece was the first of civilized nations, presenting examples of what man should be."

Yet, we also must remember that the powers of ancient Greece fell because they could not set aside old hatreds, because they refused to acknowledge common ties, common principles, common acts, common aims. We must resolve not to repeat their mistakes.

Tomorrow, I have a wonderful opportunity. I shall visit the Acropolis and stand near the temples where our ancient forefathers charted ideals for the ages. And as we gather here today, let us agree to build a new Acropolis, a monument not of marble or steel but of something far less fragile: a monument of deeds and ideals, a new world order erected upon timeless ideas born right here.

That new world order can help us achieve our dreams of collective security and individual liberty. Every nation must assume some of the burden of building this order. And every nation must accept its responsibilities for building a sound international economy. And every nation must do its duty to preserve freedom and enterprise.

America and Greece have special responsibilities in this quest -- the United States as the world's strongest democracy, Greece as the world's first. But if we engage fully in the changing world beyond our borders, we can build an order in which all nations enjoy prosperity, democracy, and peace.

Eleutherios Venizelos once claimed that "America has realized the ideals of Ancient Greece. No two elements come closer to each other than do the Greek and the American." That tremendous compliment also outlines our common challenge: to work even more closely in securing a new world order dedicated to freedom and enterprise.

We live in exciting times. Who would have dreamed that the changes taking place in the Soviet Union would offer this promise of freedom and democracy? Who would have dreamed that the captive nations of Eastern Europe are free and are on the path that you set many thousands of years ago: the path to full and free and fair and open democracy? So, for those that are gloomy about the present, I say you shouldn't be. There's plenty of room to be optimistic. And I'm delighted -- I feel more of a sense of optimism coming to democracy's birthplace.

I want to thank you for the extraordinary honor of inviting me to address this special session. And I stand here surrounded by the grandeur and echoes of the ages, a proud son of the ideals that your land gave the world. And so, like all friends of liberty, I leave you now, and I must say "zito i ellada" [long live Greece]. Thank you very, very much.

Thank you all. Thank you, sir.

And let me just -- please be seated. I'd like to present to your President and your Prime Minister, and really to the Greek people, a replica of our Declaration of Independence, a document that symbolizes our profound ties to you and our timeless debt to the people and the legacy of Greece.

Once again, thank you all very much.

Note: President Bush spoke at 3:49 p.m. in the Greek Parliament building. In his remarks, he referred to President Constantinos Karamanlis and Prime Minister Constantinos Mitsotakis of Greece; Athanasios Tsaldaris, president of Parliament, who introduced President Bush; Andreas Papandreou, president of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement; the Vouli, the Greek unicameral Parliament; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union; Eleutherios Venizelos, former Greek Prime Minister and statesman; and Michael Sotirhos, U.S. Ambassador to Greece. Alec Kortelas, Florida Republican Party finance chairman; and Alexander G. Spanos, president and chairman of the board of directors of the San Diego Chargers football team. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

George Bush, Remarks to the Greek Parliament in Athens, Greece Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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