“Freedom or Death” is a slogan that both Americans and Greeks uttered in their respective revolutionary struggles. The two peoples also share an identity based on Western civilization, which started in ancient Greece. Thomas Jefferson called ancient Greece “the light which led ourselves out of Gothic darkness.”
The American people have been on the side of Greece since its War of Independence, starting in 1821. During that struggle, philhellenic committees were established at East Coast colleges to help the Greeks. Americans helped the Greeks fight for their freedom because of their connection to ancient Greek ideals and their Christian religion. Those committees are still a part of the fabric of American higher education today as fraternities and sororities.
The Greeks of 1821 had felt the weight of almost 400 years of Ottoman oppression and had enough. They longed to freely practice their religion and to freely educate their children in their own language.
Today is Greek Independence Day. It is a day of celebration not only for Greeks, but also for all freedom-loving people who strive for the dignity inherent in self-expression and self-determination.