As leaders from around the world met for the NATO Summit and celebration of the Alliance’s 50th anniversary, the Hungarian American Coalition and the Potomac Foundation co-hosted a Gala Dinner on Saturday, April 24, 1999, in Washington DC. US President Bill Clinton and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban served as Honorary Patrons of the event, and Hungarian Ambassador Geza Jeszenszky and US Ambassador Peter Tufo were Honorary Chairmen. The Gala Dinner, “Celebrating the Spirit of NATO,” commemorated both NATO’s founding and the accession of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland to the Alliance. The Hungarian American Coalition and the Potomac Foundation have played active roles in promoting NATO expansion, in the United States and abroad.
In his letter of greeting President Clinton welcomed Hungary as one of three new partners of the Alliance; reaffirmed that the defense of the security, prosperity, and democratic values of its members remains NATO’s primary mission; and acknowledged the contribution of the Hungarian American Coalition in promoting NATO enlargement both in the US and Hungary.
Hungarian Prime Minister, Dr. Viktor Orban, visited the Gala Dinner on his way to the formal celebration held at the White House. He reminded the audience that it was due to the tragic bloodshed of 1956 that Hungary was finally able to gain its freedom in 1990 and its security in 1999 without spilling a drop of blood.
Laszlo Hamos, President of the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation and Board Member of the Hungarian American Coalition, presented the Coalition’s statement expressing deep concern for the increasing hostility and danger faced by the 360,000 large ethnic Hungarian community in the Serbian province of Voivodina, and urging the US government and our NATO allies to protect this Hungarian community from overt or covert ethnic cleansing.
The Gala Dinner, held at the historic Decatur House in Washington DC, was attended by 175 guests. Honorable Peter S. Ujvagi, President of the Coalition, welcomed guests and introduced dignitaries. Remarks were made by Dr. Daniel McDonald, President, The Potomac Foundation, and Edith Lauer, Chairman of the Board of the Hungarian American Coalition.
US Ambassador Peter Tufo provided a detailed assessment of Hungary’s place and role in NATO during the present crisis in Kosovo. He praised Hungary for complying with all of NATO’s requirements despite Hungary’s special situation as the only NATO member that shares a border with Serbia, and is deeply concerned about the safety of the large ethnic Hungarian community in Vojvodina.
Lt. Gen. Nicholas Kehoe, Inspector General of the Air Force, recalled the insights he gained while participating in the Hungarian American Coalition’s three NATO conferences in Hungary during 1997. Rudolf Joo, Deputy Secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in his toast congratulated both the Coalition and the Potomac Foundation on their leadership role in the NATO expansion process.
The leadership of the Coalition expressed its appreciation to corporate and individual Benefactors of the Gala Dinner: The Potomac Foundation, Ilona and Geza Bankuty, The Boeing Company, Edith and John Lauer, MALEV Hungarian Airlines; and corporate and individual Patrons: Ameritech, Ernst & Young, Hungarian Reformed Federation of America, Drs. Marian and Alfred Toth, Drs. Jeanette and Glenn Brown, Mrs. Nash Whitney Schott, and the William Penn Association.
At the end of the evening the Hungarian American Coalition announced a collection to assist the refugees forced to leave Kosovo.