“America is a mosaic … and each of us is part of that mosaic,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), granddaughter of Polish immigrants, to representatives of the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) during a Capitol Hill reception, September 19. At the event, the Coalition — representing 18 national, membership-based organizations including the Hungarian American Coalition — honored Mikulski, Congressman Richard Durbin (D-IL), Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Congressman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) “for their outstanding contributions in advancing U.S. interests by assisting the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe.”
“What a great country we live in,” stated Durbin to the 150 attendees. Durbin emphasized the “opportunities for new alliances” between the U.S. and the former Soviet bloc nations, and the CEEC’s vital contribution to that process. “As I reflect on 14 years of services, one of the things I am most proud of is that when democracy finally started to lift the Iron Curtain, that in a small way I played a part in it,” he said.
Senator McConnell also noted the opportunities afforded by the breakup of the Soviet Union, and praised the Coalition for advocating to members of Congress and the Administration the importance of increased U.S. aid to that region. “You helped open the eyes of both [the Bush and Clinton] administrations to the need to recognize the reality of those countries’ independence,” McConnell said.
Congressman Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, praised the Coalition’s work in advocating passage of the NATO Enlargement Facilitation Act. At Gilman’s request, the Hungarian American Coalition testified on behalf of the CEEC in support of the legislation — to authorize $60 million to facilitate NATO membership for countries deemed eligible — before the House International Relations Committee on June 20. “You’ve worked hard and with significant success,” he said.
Presenting the CEEC’s plaque to Congressman Gilman was Coalition Board member Frank Koszorus, Jr. “Congressman Gilman knows that … we must continue to be engaged and assist those Central and East European countries which stay the course, strive to strengthen their democratic institutions and respect the human rights of their citizens,” he said.
The Coalition is a nationwide nonprofit organization which promotes public understanding and awareness of Hungarian-American issues. The Coalition is a lead member of the CEEC, whose 18 member organizations collectively represent nearly 22 million Americans tracing their heritage to Central and Eastern Europe.