Annual Gala Dinner Marks Coalition’s 20th Anniversary

On May 11, 2011, the Hungarian American Coalition hosted its seventh annual Gala Dinner at the House of Sweden in Washington, D.C., in honor of Dr. János Horváth, Doyen of the Hungarian Parliament, and the William Penn Association under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Pál Schmitt, President of Hungary and Dr. Tibor Navracsics, Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary.

The Coalition recognized Dr. János Horváth for his lifelong dedication to defending and building democratic institutions in Hungary and in the United States, inspiring generations on both sides of the Atlantic. The William Penn Association, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, was recognized for building a thriving fraternal community that has touched the lives of generations of Hungarian-Americans, by supporting churches, schools and community institutions.

Coalition Vice President Andrea Lauer Rice welcomed the distinguished guests attending the event, including the Honorable Pamela Quanrud, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; Mr. Kyle Lierman, White House Office of Public Engagement; the Honorable Tomicah Tillemann-Dick, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State; Ambassador György Szapáry of Hungary; the Honorable George Pataki, former Governor of New York; Ambassador George Herbert Walker, III, Ambassador Károly Dán, Consul General of Hungary in New York; Dr. Jeno Megyesy, Senior Advisor to Hungary’s Prime Minister. Other prominent guests included Ms. Susan Hutchison, Executive Director of the Charles Simonyi Fund for the Arts and Sciences; Mrs. Annette Lantos, Mrs. Katrina Lantos Swett and Mrs. Annette Lantos Tillemann-Dick; Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), Congressman Bob Filner (D-California), Congressman Scott Garrett, (R-New Jersey); Mrs. Edith K. Lauer, Chair Emeritus of the Coalition and Mr. John N. Lauer; Mr. László Megyeri, President of the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America and Mrs. Megyeri; Mr. László Hamos, Chairman of the Board of the Hungarian Reformed Federation of American and President of the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation.

After her welcoming remarks, Andrea Lauer Rice spoke about the Coalition’s history on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. She noted that among the Hungarians who came to the United States in 1956 – freedom fighters and passionate Hungarians – were some who created exceptional organizations within our community and who vowed to ensure that the story of 1956 would never be forgotten. The full text of Mrs. Rice’s remarks is attached to this press release.

Looking ahead to the Coalition’s next projects, Coalition President Maximilian Teleki announced that the Coalition is organizing support for the production of the Hungarian national opera “Bánk Bán”, to premiere at the Los Angeles Opera on November, 16, 2011, under the leadership of Maestro Plácido Domingo. Mr. Teleki played a short video clip from the opera, whose film version was distributed as a gift to all Gala Dinner attendees.

Next, the Gala Dinner honorees were lauded. Ambassador Walker introduced Dr. Horvath as “a man of enormous character, bravery and grit”. Accepting the award, Dr. Horváth spoke about his life’s achievements, mentioning that “because I am a good Hungarian, I am a better American, and because I am a good American I will always be a better Hungarian”. He praised the Coalition’s efforts to promote Hungarian American relations over the past twenty years, and concluded his remarks with his favorite expression: “What exists is possible.”

Mrs. Edith K. Lauer introduced the William Penn Association, enumerating its remarkable record of achievement since the early days in Hazleton, PA, and its evolution into today’s thriving fraternal organization. William Bero, Vice Chairman of the Association, accepted the award and praised the long-standing cooperation between the two organizations.

In closing, Andrea Lauer Rice thanked all major supporter of the 2011 Gala Dinner as well as those present for supporting the work of the Coalition.

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