Washington, DC – On May 2, 2019, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) honored Ambassador Colleen Bell, at its 15th annual Gala Dinner.
His Excellency János Áder, President of Hungary, was Honorary Chairman of the event, held at the House of Sweden in Washington, DC. Gala co-Chairs were: Governor George Pataki, Mrs. Edith K. Lauer and Ambassador György Habsburg.
Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Coalition President, greeted the many distinguished guests from the Washington DC area and leaders from across the Hungarian American community. The evening began with Mrs. Lauer Rice showing a video commemorating the 30th anniversary of the year when communism fell in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and they began their transformation into free market democracies after more than 40 years of isolation behind the iron curtain. The timeline of the revolutions across Eastern Europe and the challenges these countries faced during their transition were also presented. Mrs. Lauer Rice ended the video by saying, “We know we must remain vigilant as freedom and democracy are not given freely but must be fought for and protected.” This captures the essence of the Coalition’s work in the field of human rights and advocacy on behalf of Hungarian minorities.
After dinner, Mrs. Lauer Rice briefly presented the Coalition’s history as it related to the significant anniversaries being celebrated this year: 30 years since the fall of communism, 20 years since Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO and 15 years since Hungary joined the EU. However, she pointed out, there is still work to do in terms of human rights advocacy in light of the several recent setbacks, such as the Ukrainian language law or the ban of the singing “foreign” anthems in Slovakia.
Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice then paid tribute to Mr. László Hámos, President and founder of the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation and a founding member of the Coalition, saying that „He was one of a kind and leaves behind an incredible legacy. We will do our best to follow in his enormous footsteps”.
In her remarks, she briefly presented the Coalition’s two scholarship programs – the Dr. Elemér and Éva Kiss Scholarship and the Bognár Family Hungarian Scholarship Fund – and showed a video on the John N. Lauer Leadership Training Program (LTP). Mrs. Lauer Rice thanked the Hungary Initiatives Foundation and the Pannonius Foundation for their generous support of the LTP. She then invited Mr. Max Teleki, President Emeritus of the Coalition, to introduce this year’s honoree, Ambassador Colleen Bell.
Mr. Teleki praised Ambassador Bell’s many accomplishments through which she touched the Hungarian communities throughout Hungary. He complimented Ambassador Bell’s efforts to visit all national parks and every major city of Hungary. Mr. Teleki expressed that the “personal level of diplomacy” that Mrs. Bell practiced was what made her stood out. As he put it: “she made you feel as if you were the one that she was speaking to and she was listening to the concerns, whichever those might be”.
Mr. Teleki thanked Ambassador Bell’s family: her father, brother, husband and children who accompanied her to the award ceremony and who supported her in her remarkable work. A video was shown to further familiarize the attendees with Ambassador Bell’s career, advocacy efforts and her work as United States Ambassador to Hungary.
In accepting the award, Ambassador Bell mentioned how gratifying it was for her to receive recognition from an organization such as the Coalition “so deeply rooted in history and tradition and its commitment to the friendship between our two countries”. She said: ” I accept this award with a deep sense of pride and a healthy dose of humility that I will take with me to inspire a sense of duty to continue to help benefit both of our countries and the friendship among us”. She then thanked President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry for their support and recognized Prime Minister Orbán for his willingness to maintain an open, even though sometimes difficult dialogue. She pointed out the importance of cooperation, as “Hungary and the EU remain indispensable partners to the US in stimulating economic growth and addressing regional and global challenges”.
The evening concluded with toasts delivered by Ambassador Dr. László Szabó, Ambassador of Hungary to the United States, Dr. Ágnes Virga, Coalition Chairman of the Board and Ambassador Dr. Réka Szemerkényi, Executive Vice President of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
Gala guests included: honoree Ambassador Colleen Bell and Mr. Bradley Bell, her family members and friends; Ambassador Dr. László Szabó, Ambassador of Hungary to the United States and his wife Dr. Ivonn Szeverényi, Dr. László Brenzovics, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and President of the Hungarian Cultural Association of Transcarpathia (KMKSZ) and Mrs. Erzsébet Sepella-Brenzovics; Mr. György Kóta, Consultant to the Prime Minister’s Office in Hungary; Ambassador Dr. Réka Szemerkényi, Executive Vice President of CEPA; Mr. Peter B. Doran, President & CEO of CEPA; Ms. Susan Hutchison, former Director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences; Ambassador April H. Foley, Chairman of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation; Ambassador Dan Fried, former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; Ambassador Richard Sweet; Mrs. Annette Tillemann-Dick; The Honorable Wess Mitchell, Former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and his wife Mrs. Elizabeth Mitchell; Mr. Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council; Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew G. Boyse and his wife Mrs. Eleanor Boyse; and Mr. Marc Dillard, incoming Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Hungary.
Other prominent guests included: Ambassador Stuart Holliday, President and CEO of Meridian International Center; Mr. Dávid Korányi, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasian Energy Futures Initiative and Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center; Mr. Edward Loo, former Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Budapest; Mr. Andy Webster-Main, former Consul at U.S. Embassy Budapest and his wife Mrs. Erin Webster-Main, Deputy Counsellor of Political and Foreign Affairs of the US Embassy Budapest; Ms. Ilona Teleki, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
Also in attendance: Coalition board members Mr. Max Teleki, President Emeritus of the Coalition and Mrs. Wendy Teleki; Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer; Coalition Vice President Mrs. Erika Fedor, founder of the American Hungarian Heritage House; Coalition Vice President Csilla Grauzer, Honorary Consul of Hungary in Minnesota and President of the Minnesota Hungarians; Coalition Chairman of the Board Dr. Ágnes Virga, former President of the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts and her husband Mr. Ray Gillespie; Mrs. Anne Bader; Mrs. Enikő Basa Molnár; Dr. Péter Forgách and his wife Mrs. Kathleen Forgach; Mr. and Mrs. Tibor and Emese Purger and Mr. Julius Varallyay.
Representatives of the Embassy of Hungary were also in attendance, including Mr. Péter Gyombolai, Hungarian Diaspora Liaison and his wife Mrs. Eszter Gyombolai; Mr. Béla Gedeon, Press and Public Affairs Attaché; Ms. Mónika Varga, Consul; Ms. Éva Lukonits, Press and Public Diplomacy Officer; Dr. Krisztina Osvát, Counselor in charge of outreach to the Hungarian American community; Ms. Dóra Zombori, Energy and Political Military Officer.