On December 6, 2014, the Hungarian American Coalition held its Annual General and Board Meetings at the Renaissance Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington DC, after hosting its 23rd Annual Mikulás Dinner the previous evening at the Embassy of Hungary.
The Coalition’s weekend activities began Friday, December 5, with the annual White House Briefing, attended by a delegation of 37 Coalition Board Members and guests. Representatives of the U.S. government included: Ivan Weinstein, Hungary Desk Officer, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR), Department of State; Dr. Jeffrey Zavadil, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), Department of State; Nathaniel P. Dean, Director for Central and Northern European Affairs, National Security Council and Matt Nosanchuk, Director for Outreach, National Security Council.
The following topics were discussed: US-Hungarian relations and current tensions in the bilateral relationship; the inflammatory remarks by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) regarding Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán; and US policy towards Central-Eastern Europe.
Areas of particular concern included latest developments on the renationalization of the Székely Mikó High School in Romania which was rightfully returned in 2000 to the Hungarian Reformed Church; and the fate of Mr. Attila Markó and Mr. Tamás Marosan, the former officials of the .Special Committee on Church Property Restitution who were convicted to three year suspended prison sentences for their role in restoring the property to the rightful owner.
On Friday evening, 96 Coalition members and guests attended the traditional Mikulás Dinner hosted by Ambassador György Szapáry at the Hungarian Embassy. Master of Ceremonies Andrea Lauer Rice greeted the distinguished gathering and special guests, including Dr. György Schöpflin, Member of the European Parliament and the European People’s Party, Governor George E. Pataki, Dr. and Mrs. Tamás Fellegi, President of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation, Mr. Csaba Latorcai, Deputy State Secretary for Priority Social Affairs, Ambassador György Szapáry, Dr. Ferenc Kumin, Consul General of New York, Dr. Lee Edwards, President, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Mrs. Susan Hutchison, Executive Director of the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, Mrs. Anne Bader, Founder of the International Cybersecurity Dialogue, Mrs. Zsuzsanna Kárász Lipsky, Dr. Katalin Kővári and Dr. William Carter, Mr. László Hámos, President, Hungarian Human Rights Foundation, Mr. Károly Jókay, Executive Director, Hungarian Fulbright Commission, Mrs. Heather Haines, Meridian International Center, Mr. Ádám Liptak, New York Times, Honorary Consuls Mr. László Bőjtös (OH), Mr. and Mrs. Philip Aronoff (TX), Dr. István Gergátz (FL), Mr. John Parkerson (GA), Mrs. Csilla Grauzer (MN), Mr. Chris Domeni (NC), Mrs. Eva Voisin, (CA), Mr. and Mrs. Stefan Fedor, American Hungarian Heritage House, and Mr. Gabor Rozsa, Chairman of the Board of the Kossuth Foundation.
Front row from left to right: Julius Varallyay, Edith Lauer, Emese Latkoczy, László Hámos, Amb. György Szapáry, Anne Bader, Balázs Somogyi, Max Teleki, Zsuzsanna Karasz Lipsky, Andrea Lauer Rice, Csilla Grauzer, Peter Kurz, Erika Bokor, Steve Kurz, Susan Hutchison, Anna Smith Lacey, Zsolt Szekeres, Gov. George Paraki and Peter Kovalszki
The event began with Ambassador György Szapáry’s welcoming remarks thanking the Coalition for the work done on behalf of Hungary. Following his remarks, a video entitled ‘1989: Year of Miracles’ was shown in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Europe.
Andrea Lauer Rice recalled the highlights of Coalition projects and accomplishments in 2014. Next, Coalition President Maximilian Teleki presented two special awards: the first honored outgoing Ambassador Szapáry for his devoted service in advancing the friendship between the peoples of Hungary and the United States in the spirit of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The second recognized Mrs. Enikő Molnár Basa for her many contributions to the success of the Coalition’s Congressional Internship Program, in her role as the interns’ “guardian angel”.
In an impassioned speech, Mr. Teleki addressed the inflammatory remarks made by Senator John McCain regarding Hungary and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Quoting New York Times reporter David Adelmann, that politicians and governmental bodies are not reliable sources to determine whether or not human rights are violated, Mr. Teleki agreed that the real test is to ask those people directly affected in any human rights situation. Accordingly, the US does not have a right to overrule a democratic process and the will of the people directly affected. It needs to accept that in free and fair elections on three occasions in the past year, the Hungarian electorate voted overwhelmingly to support the current government.
Mr. Teleki then recognized George Pataki, former governor New York, and asked those present regardless of party affiliation to join him in encouraging Mr. Pataki to run for the US Presidency in 2016.
After thanking guests for their support of the Hungarian American Coalition, Mr. Teleki introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. György Schöpflin. In his address, Dr. Schöpflin claimed that the relationship between the US and Hungary is characterized by asymmetry; what is said in the US is perhaps taken too seriously in Hungary. He acknowledged that the current bilateral relationship has serious problems, which are based partly on concrete issues, but are also a matter of perception. Dr. Schöpflin also pointed out that all democratic countries are different, including Hungary; they will never practice democracy in the exactly the same way as in the US. According to Dr. Schöpflin, “The world has its Hungarian version and it is not worse than anyone else’s.”
Andrea Lauer Rice also commented on current tensions between the two countries and compared the US-Hungary partnership of the past 25 years to the Silver Anniversary in a marriage: although the “honeymoon” may have ended, “shared values and long-term commitment” still remain. She called upon the media to report truthfully on events in Hungary; and promised that members of the Coalition will continue their work as unofficial ambassadors to overcome the gap between the two “estranged partners”.
On Saturday, December 6, the Coalition’s Board Meeting, László Fülöp took over the rotating chairmanship of the organization and reelected the following officers to serve a two-year term: Maximilian Teleki, President, Andrea Lauer Rice, Vice President. George Pogan, Secretary, Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer. Eva Voisin, Honorary Consul of San Francisco, CA, was elected as Rising Chairman. New members of the Executive Committee are: Peter Kovalszki, Tibor Purger, Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice.
The Board also elected Stefan Fedor to serve on the Coalition’s Board of Directors as individual Board member. Civic Enterprises joined the Board as a new member organization. In other actions, the Board renewed the memberships of Dr. Péter Forgách, and of the following organizations: Hungarian Cultural Society of Connecticut, Hungarian (Magyar) Club of Chicago and the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts.
The Board also accepted Almast Bedrosian, Lewis Center, OH; Stephen Kurz, New York, NY; Miklos Fogarasi, Middletown, CT; Istvan Dobozi, Gaithersburg, MD; and Arthur Allan Bartfay, Columbus, OH, as new Coalition members, and the American Hungarian Heritage House, Ashburn, VA, as a new member organization.
The afternoon session of the Board included a review of the Coalition’s activities during 2014 and discussions on plans for 2015, as presented by Chairman of the Board, Dr. Péter Forgách and Max Teleki.
Mr. Endre Szentkirályi reported on Cleveland State University’s new Hungarian programs, directed by a Fulbright Scholar, and an online Hungarian language course that will soon be available. He also announced the Hungarian Scout Jubilee Camp to be held August 2015 for an expected 800 participants in Fillmore, NY.
Mr. Peter Kurz presented material on the “Puli on the Moon” project and asked Coalition leaders to assist this unusual project with publicity and funding. Team Puli Space represents Hungary in the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP), a worldwide, international competition to challenge and inspire entrepreneurial teams to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration and to send an automatic robot (rover) to the Moon. With their success, Team Puli aims to offer another fantastic example that nothing is impossible for Hungarian engineers and the Hungarian nation can compete with anyone anywhere in the world. Further information on the project can be found at the following link: http://pulispace.com/
Mr. Tibor Purger reported on the recently held elections in the Carpathian basin and their relevance to Hungarian minorities.