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March 25 marks Greek Independence Day, when Greeks celebrate gaining freedom from the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Prior to the revolution, the Ottomans occupied Greece for about 400 years. During this time, Greeks were oppressed and persecuted for their religion and culture.

Greek Independence Day is observed in both Greece and America with parades and celebrations. It has also become an opportunity to reflect on the influence the two countries have had on each other over the centuries.

Every year, the White House issues a proclamation acknowledging Greek Independence Day and encouraging celebration. In last year’s proclamation, President Obama illuminated the similarities between Greece and America as countries that fought for independence: “As Americans and Greeks, we are heirs to a long legacy of hard-won freedom and justice.”

He also recognized the influence of Greek democracy on the founding of America. “In our Nation’s earliest days, we sought wisdom from Greek history and philosophy, and we found hope within the pages of timeless Greek texts.” Obama pointed out that just as Americans used Greek principles to found their new nation, Greeks “drew inspiration from America’s revolution” in their struggle for freedom.

This is a day to celebrate not only Greek independence, but also the unique bond that our two countries share.

Read the full proclamation.