Washington, DC – On May 19, 2017, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) honored Ambassador April H. Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary between 2006 and 2009 and Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Hungary Initiatives Foundation (HIF), at its 13th 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.
Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rice welcomed the distinguished guests: Ambassador April H. Foley and her children and their spouses, Mr. Gifford Foley and Mrs. and Mrs. Katherine Foley, Mr. James Foley and Mrs. Tara Foley, and Ms. Catherine Foley; her brother-in-law Ambassador Thomas C. Foley and Mrs. Leslie Foley; Gala Co-Chairs Mrs. Edith Lauer, Chair Emerita of the Coalition, and Mr. John Lauer, Honorary Economic Consul to Hungary; Ambassador Kurt Volker, Executive Director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership of Arizona State University; Ambassador Richard Swett; Ambassador Dr. Réka Szemerkényi, Hungary’s outgoing Ambassador to the United States and her husband, Mr. Szabolcs I. Ferencz; Mrs. Annette Lantos and her daughter Mrs. Annette Lantos Tillemann-Dick; Ambassador Colleen Bell, former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary; Mr. Timothy A. Betts, Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements at the State Department, former DCM in Budapest and his wife, Mrs. Helen Betts; Mr. John Lipsky, former acting Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and Mrs. Zsuzsa Kárász Lipsky; Mrs. Anna Smith Lacey, Executive Director of HIF; Dr. Tamás Fellegi, former Minister of National Development in Hungary and Board Member of HIF; and Mr. Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President at the Atlantic Council.
Other prominent guests included: Mr. Max Teleki, President Emeritus of the Coalition and his parents Mr. and Mrs. István and Beatriz Teleki; Ms. Alice Balla, President of the Hungarian Club of Colorado; Rev. Emese Asztalos, associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Daytona Beach and Ms. Piros Pazaurek; Mrs. Éva Kovács of the St. Stephen Catholic Community in Washington; Mrs. Joe Anne Barnhart, Executive Director of the Magyar Foundation of North America and her colleagues; Mr. Matt Mowers, Senior White House Advisor and Ms. Cassie Spodak; Mr. Ryan Williams, Senior Vice President of Communications at FP1 Strategies and Ms. Annie Starke.
Also in attendance were Coalition board members Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer; Coalition Vice President Mr. Stefan Fedor and Mrs. Erika Fedor, founders 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, President of the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts; Mrs. Anne Bader; Mr. Gabe Rozsa, Chairman of the Kossuth Foundation; and Mr. Julius Varallyay.
Many Embassy of Hungary staff were also in attendance: Mr. Zsolt Hetesy, Chargé d’affaires; Brigadier General Zsolt Sándor, Defense, Military and Air Attaché and Mrs. Katalin Sándor; Ms. Krisztina Osvát, Counselor in charge of outreach to the Hungarian American community; Ms. Dorottya Mártonffy-Nagy, Commercial and Economic Attaché; Mr. Péter Gyombolai, Counselor, Hungarian Diaspora Liaison and Mrs. Eszter Gyombolai; Mr. Béla Gedeon, First Secretary, Political and Public Affairs Officer and Dr. Mónika Varga.
After her welcoming remarks Mrs. Lauer Rice together with Max Teleki and Ágnes Virga announced a surprise award ceremony on behalf of the Board of Directors and members of the Coalition, they expressed their gratitude to outgoing Ambassador Dr. Réka Szemerkényi for her dedicated and inspired service, representing the best interests of Hungary as Ambassador to the United States in 2015-2017, and for her genuine interest and warm friendship for the Hungarian diaspora in the United States.
In accepting the award, Ambassador Dr. Réka Szemerkényi thanked the Coalition for its friendship and said. “One of the greatest assets we have in Hungarian-American relations is this fantastic Hungarian-American community across the United States; I very much appreciate your friendship, your openness in receiving me and I really hope that this strong friendship that we have built will continue.”
Next, Mrs. Lauer Rice reported on the latest developments of the Memory Project initiative, launched in 2016 by Mrs. Lauer Rice and Réka Pigniczky, Coalition member and documentary filmmaker, and showed a compilation video entitled ‘What are your first memories of emigration?’. The Memory Project commemorates the spirit of 1956 through 100 video interviews with Hungarian-Americans who were witnesses and participants in the 1956 events.
In her remarks after dinner, Mrs. Lauer Rice presented the major achievements of the Coalition in 2016, highlighting the organization’s 25th anniversary and the commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 last year which involved Hungarian-American communities across the United States. She emphasized the importance of the Coalition’s ongoing educational programs, with a special focus on its flagship project, the Coalition Internship Program, and mentioned some of the remarkable alumni. Mrs. Lauer Rice said: “Thank you to each and every one of you for your support for these oftentimes life-changing programs. A very special thank you to the Hungary Initiatives Foundation for their continued support in making the Coalition Internship Program such a success.”
After Mrs. Lauer Rice’s remarks, Mrs. Edith K. Lauer introduced Ambassador April H. Foley, the Coalition’s 2017 honoree, praising her accomplishments as ambassador, Chair of HIF and skillful business executive, and thanked Ambassador Foley for her continued strong commitment to US-Hungarian relations and her genuine love of their homeland. Before Mrs. Edith Lauer’s laudation, a short video interview with Ambassador Foley was shown (the video is available here).
In accepting the award, Ambassador Foley thanked everybody for their attendance, with a special recognition to her children and friends from Waccabuc, NY and Smith College, and emphasized her love of Hungary and its culture by saying: “My love affair with Hungary started in 2006 and it is just never going away: it has been such a source of joy and fulfillment in my life”.