Hungarian American Coalition Holds 2016 Annual Meeting

Celebrates 25th Anniversary
President Teleki, honored as President Emeritus, retires after 12 years
New leadership elected: Chairman of the Board Dr. Agnes Virga and President Andrea Lauer Rice

Washington, DC – On December 3, 2016 the Hungarian American Coalition held its Annual General and Board Meetings at the House of Quakers in Washington DC, after hosting its 25th annual Mikulás Dinner the previous evening at the Embassy of Hungary.

The The Coalition’s weekend activities began on Friday, December 2, with the annual White House briefing, with a large delegation of 40 Coalition board members and guests.  Briefing officials included: Mr. Asher Mayerson, Staff Assistant, White House Office of Public Engagement; Brian Johnson, Director for Central and Northern Europe, National Security Council; Martin McDowell, Deputy Director of the Office of Central European Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Chip Glass, Director for Russia, National Security Council; and Kyle Lierman, Senior Associate Director and Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Public Engagement. 

The following topics were discussed: U.S. foreign policy in Central and Eastern Europe; fighting ISIS and ongoing cooperation, current reset of U.S.- Russia relations and the Affordable Care Act and its effects.

Areas of particular concern were the outcome and implications of the Warsaw NATO Summit in July 2016 and the fate of Mr. Attila Markó, Mr. Tamás Marosan and Mr. Silviu Crim, former officials of the Special Committee on Church Property Restitution who were sentenced to three years suspended imprisonment for carrying out their official duties in the case by restoring the property to the rightful owner, already mentioned at last two year’s briefings.

On Friday evening, 106 Coalition members and guests attended the traditional Mikulás Dinner hosted by Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi at the Embassy of Hungary. 

Master of Ceremonies Andrea Lauer Rice greeted the distinguished gathering and special guests, including the Honorable Dennis Ross, U.S. Representative and his wife, Mrs. Cindy Ross; Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi; Governor George Pataki, former Governor of New York; Ambassador April H. Foley, former Ambassador of the United States to Hungary, Dr. Lee Edwards, Chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Ambassador Thomas Robertson and Mrs. Antoinette Robertson; Ambassador Ferenc Kumin; Mrs. Susan Hutchison,  Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, and Ret. Col. Andy Hutchison; Dr. and Mrs. Matt and Lynne Shank, President of Marymount University; Mr. Joseph Foster, Vice President of Marymount University; Mr. András Juhász, Trade Commissioner, Chicago; Ms. Judit Czakó, Economic and Trade Commissioner, New York; Mr. Gábor Takács, Science and Technology Commissioner, New York; Mr. Balázs Erdei, Consul for Trade, Investment, Science and Technology, San Francisco; Mrs. Anna Smith-Lacey, Executive Director of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation; Mr. Marion Smith, Executive Director of Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Ms. Melissa Robel, Foreign Affairs Legislative Analyst of Congressman Ross; Mr Adam Lipták, Supreme Court Correspondent for the New York Times; Mr. Stefan Fedor and Mrs. Erika Fedor, founders of the American Hungarian Heritage House; Dr. Imre Nemeth, Vice President of the American Hungarian Federation and Mrs. Cathryn Nemeth; Mrs. Kinga Hydras, Hungarian Academy, Washington, DC; Ms. Emese Latkóczy Lazzarotti, Director, Hungarian Human Rights Foundation.

Mrs. Lauer Rice also welcomed Honorary Consuls Ms. Csilla Grauzer (MN); Mrs. Eva Voisin (CA); Mr. Phillip Arnoff (TX); Mr. Christopher Ball (CT), Ms. Katalin Pearman (WA), Mr. László Bőjtös (OH).  She also thanked embassy staff for making the evening possible and recognized a few key people from the Coalition including Chair Emerita Edith K. Lauer; Mr. John N Lauer, Honorary Foreign Economic Counselor of Hungary; Coalition President Maximilian Teleki and Mrs. Wendy Teleki; Mr. Steven Teleki and Mrs. Beatriz Teleki, Mr. Dennis Fredericks and all of the Coalition Board members and friends of the Coalition.

A group of Coalition members and friends at this year’s Mikulás Dinner (from the top and left to right): Mr. Zsolt Szekeres, Mr. István Dobozi, Mr. Andy Hutchison, Mrs. Ágnes Fülöp, Mrs. Erika Bokor, Mr. József Megyeri, Mr. István Fedor, Ambassador April H. Foley, Mrs. Susan Hutchison, Dr. Péter Kovalszki, Governor George Pataki, Mrs. Csilla Grauzer, Mr. Max Teleki, Mrs. Edith Lauer, Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Mr. Julius Várallyay, Mrs. Georgianna Bőjtös

In her welcoming remarks, Mrs. Lauer Rice highlighted some of the Coalition’s most important projects and accomplishments in 2016 focusing on leadership training, preservation and promotion of culture, information advocacy and community outreach. The Coalition Internship Program that offers valuable professional experience in various fields for 10 young Hungarian students from Hungary and across the region throughout the year is very successful and will be continued next year.  As part of preserving and promoting Hungarian heritage, she highlighted the importance of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Hungarian American Coalition and the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight recalling the series of events with the involvement of a wide spectrum of the entire Hungarian American community in the United States. 

A compilation video featuring interviews from the “Memory Project” was shown as well. This outstanding project was founded in 2015 by Mrs. Lauer Rice with Coalition member and award-winning documentary filmmaker Ms. Réka Pigniczky and supported by the Coalition.  The Hungarian American Visual History Archive features close to 100 Hungarian-Americans who immigrated to the U.S. after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and World War II, including many of the Coalition’s founders and leaders. The success of the project is indicated by the increasing number of interviewees who would like to share their own stories and make sure that the passion, commitment and love of their homeland will never be forgotten.

Next, Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi thanked Coalition President Max Teleki and all of those who made the evening possible. The Ambassador underlined the importance of a series of visits of high-level Hungarian officials in the U.S. in 2016. Ambassador Szemerkényi also announced that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who also visited Washington DC two times in 2016, has already received an official invitation to the White House for next year by President-elect Donald Trump. She also highlighted the launch of the U.S.-Hungary Business Council and the wide range of cultural events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution in Hungary. Ambassador Szemerkényi concluded her remarks by expressing her hopes for a positive outlook on the future of the Hungarian-American relations.

Mikulás Dinner attendees then enjoyed a musical performance by Little G Weevil, an award-winning Hungarian guitar player, singer and songwriter from Atlanta, GA.

After the dinner, Coalition President Teleki introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Representative Dennis Ross.  In his introductory remarks, Max Teleki pointed out that “the bond between Hungary and the United States is perhaps strongest because our nations share an unwavering commitment to freedom, both as members of NATO, and our commitment to the shared values of a free, sovereign, and prosperous united Europe”. 

Representative Ross delivered his address praising the Hungarian Ambassador’s intellect and passion for freedom that strengthen the bond with Hungary, and according to him, “the future now is brighter than it has ever been for American Hungarian relations.”  Representative Ross also expressed the importance of Hungary’s strategic role for the U.S as he sees Hungary as a leading country in Europe acknowledging its immigration policy.  He concluded his remarks by highlighting the significance of educating younger generations about their heritage and encouraged the community to celebrate together, to never forget their homeland or origins.

After the keynote remarks, former Coalition presidents, Edith Lauer and Zsolt Szekeres presented an award to Max Teleki, in which the Board conferred him the title of President Emeritus in recognition of his outstanding contributions as Coalition president for the last 12 years.

The dinner concluded with Hungarian Christmas caroling led by Ms. Eszter Völner, singer and intern of the Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Program and Ms. Noémi Bánhidi, Program Coordinator of the Coalition. 

At the Annual Meeting held on Saturday, December 3, Chairman of the Coalition Eva E. Voisin greeted all members and in her formal report recalled the organization’s many past accomplishments. Next, members heard the detailed report given by Coalition President Max Teleki about the organization’s 2016 projects and activities.  The Annual Meeting voted to renew the terms of the following individual board members: Mrs. Anne Bader, Mrs. Csilla Grauzer, Mr. Leslie Megyeri, Mr. George Pogan, Mr. Tibor Purger, Mr. Endre Szentkirályi; Mr. Maximilian Teleki; Mrs. Eva Voisin.

At the afternoon Board Meeting the following organizational board members were also renewed: Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society, Minnesota Hungarians, Inc. and Seattle-Pécs Sister Cities Association.  The Board also approved the board membership of Mrs. Enikő Molnár Basa and accepted Eva Sovago (Worcester, MA), Faye Gillespie (Acton, MA) and Emese Varga (Acton, MA) as new individual members and Metroplex Magyar Cultural Circle (Forth Worth, TX) as a new member organization.

Dr. Ágnes Virga, President of the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts, was elected as Rising Chair for 2017. The Coalition Board elected Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice as President appointing Mr. Stefan Fedor and Mrs. Csilla Grauzer as new Vice Presidents of the Coalition and also voted to renew the term of Mr. László Fülöp.

The members of the Coalition’s Executive Committee were elected as follows: Mr. Stefan Fedor, Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Mr. George Pogan, Mr. Zsolt Szekeres, Mr. Endre Szentkirályi, Mr. Maximilian Teleki and Dr. Ágnes Virga.

Mrs. Emese Latkóczy Lazzarotti, Director of the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF) made a special presentation on their organizations efforts to raise funds to help the flood-damaged Árpádhon Hungarian community in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, the continuation of their archive digitizing campaign and a comprehensive report on ReConnect Hungary project for 2017.

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