Hungarian American Coalition Holds 2018 Annual Meeting

Washington, DC – On December 1, 2018 the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) held its Annual General and Board Meetings at the Kossuth House in Washington DC, after hosting its 27th annual Mikulás Dinner the previous evening at the Embassy of Hungary.

Ambassador Dr. László Szabó, Ms. Susan Hutchison, Coalition President Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Coalition President Emeritus Mr. Max Teleki and Ambassador April H. Foley at the
27th Annual Mikulás Dinner

The Coalition’s weekend activities began on Friday, November 30, with a briefing with State Department officials at the Cosmos Club in Washington DC, with more than 20 Coalition Board members and guests. Briefing officials included: A. Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; Matthew Boyce, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; Sarah K. Becker, Hungary Desk Officer; and Danielle Stoebe, Executive Assistant to Assistant Secretary Mitchell.

The following topics were discussed off the record: U.S. bilateral relations with Hungary; pressing issues in Central and Eastern Europe; the Russian invasion and ongoing aggression in Ukraine; and the U.S. policies on human and minorities rights in the Carpathian Basin.

On November 30, more than 100 Coalition members and guests attended the traditional Mikulás Dinner hosted by Ambassador Dr. László Szabó at the Embassy of Hungary.

Master of Ceremonies Endre Szentkirályi greeted the distinguished gathering and special guests, including hosts Ambassador Dr. László Szabó and his wife Dr. Ivonn Szeverényi; the evening’s keynote speaker The Honorable Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council; Ambassador Dr. Réka Szemerkényi, Executive Vice President at the Center for European Policy Analysis; Governor George Pataki; Ambassador April H. Foley, former Ambassador of the United States to Hungary and Chairman of the Board of The Hungary Initiatives Foundation; Mrs. Anna Smith Lacey, Executive Director of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation; Ms. Eszter Sándorfi, Head of the Department of North America at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFA); Dr. Ágnes Virga, Coalition Chairman of the Board; Mrs. Annette Lantos Tillemann-Dick; Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, President of the Coalition; Ms. Susan Hutchison; President Emeritus Maximilian Teleki and Mrs. Wendy Teleki; and Chair Emerita Edith K. Lauer;

Next, Ambassador Dr. László Szabó welcomed all the guests, and delivered a message about the continuing stability brought about by the Hungarian parliamentary elections held this year, obtaining a 2/3 majority for the third time in a row. He then went on to say that the stability of Hungary has been demonstrated by the absence of any early election since 1990 – which is unique in the region. Ambassador Szabó also praised the excellent work that has been done by the Hungarian American Coalition in order to help the Hungarians in the US to preserve their identity. „Being an American and a Hungarian at the same time, I believe this is a match nobody else can provide in the world. With your talent, with your innovations, with your history on building on that and have the American ingenuity of selling yourself, and becoming good and better than the others, competitiveness. We have so much to learn from each other and the synergies, the slight differences between the Hungarian culture and the American culture provides, these are very unique.” – said Ambassador Szabó.

After the dinner, a video was shown commemorating the 25th anniversary of the passing of József Antall, the first democratically elected, non-communist Prime Minister of Hungary since 1948, followed by Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rice’s remarks.

Mrs. Lauer Rice talked about the importance of the greater Hungarian community, and their opportunity to accomplish greater things together. She demonstrated the significance of belonging together by the example of József Antall, who declared that “in spirit” he wanted to be the Prime Minister of 15 million Hungarians – including the 5 million living in minority and diaspora communities all across the world.  She also referred to the worsening situation in Ukraine for the local Hungarian minority, and the incredible work of people, like László Brenzovics, the only Hungarian Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, or Dr. Ildiko Orosz University Rector, who are determined to do everything in their power to solve these problems.

Mrs. Lauer Rice provided a detailed description of the achievements of the Coalition’s recently renamed John N. Lauer Leadership Training Program (LTP) and its unique role of teaching participants about the model of civic engagement in the US as well as demonstrating how they can replicate these efforts at home, in their own community. The last example of the power of community given by the President was the support of the whole Coalition to one of their own – Réka Pigniczky and her family – as they struggle with the devastating loss of their beloved daughter, Luca. All examples demonstrated that together the Hungarian community can make a difference and cause a ripple effect that touched so much more. Mrs. Lauer Riceconcluded her speech by showing a video on the diverse activities and accomplishments of the Hungarian American Coalition

Mrs. Lauer Rice then introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, The Honorable Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council. In his remarks, Mr. Wilson expressed his dissatisfaction with the current state of the alliance between the United States and Hungary, and talked about the reasons why he identifies with a strong sense of identity and spirit of the Hungarian-American community. After giving a summary about the history of the relationship between the two countries since the fall of the iron curtain, – through the prism of his professional carrier – he detailed the roots of the current tension and the gap of difference and misunderstanding opening between Budapest and Washington. Mr. Wilson then laid out several guiding principles and possible solutions on how to bolster the US-Hungarian alliance, including deepening the understanding between the two nations, and forging a strategic partnership based on common values and goals. “Hungary has made it clear that it is part of the West not just by culture, but by choice – in 1848, 1956, and 1990.” – Mr. Wilson emphasized. A video on Mr. Wilson’s remarks is available here.

The evening’s keynote speaker, The Honorable Damon Wilson delivering his remarks

The dinner concluded with Hungarian Christmas caroling led by Ms. Noémi Bánhidi, Program Coordinator of the Coalition and a Mikulás toast from Coalition Chair Dr. Ágnes Virga and Governor George Pataki.  A video on Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice summarizing this year’s Mikulás Dinner is available here.

At the Annual Meeting held on Saturday, December 1, Chairman of the Coalition Ágnes Virga greeted all members before presenting her formal report of the Coalition’s remarkable accomplishments in 2018.  Next, members heard the detailed report given by Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rice about the organization’s 2018 projects and activities.  The Annual Meeting voted to renew the terms of the following individual board members: Mr. László Bőjtös; Mrs. Ágnes Fülöp; Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice; Mr. Géza Kádár, Jr; Mr. Zsolt Szekeres; Dr. Péter Kovalszki; Mr. Charles Vámossy; Mrs. Edith K. Lauer and Mr. Julius Várallyay.

In the afternoon Board Meeting the three-year term of the following organizational board members were renewed: American Catholic Clergy Association; American Hungarian Foundation; Calvin Synod of the United Church of Christ; Hungarian Communion of Friends; Hungarian Human Rights Foundation; Hungarian Scouts Association in Exteris; Kossuth Foundation; The Bethlen Communities and the William Penn Association. The Board also approved Tímea Antal (Los Angeles, CA), Béla Feketekuty (Bethesda, MD) and Ildikó Nagy (New York, NY) as new individual members as well as Daytona Beach Hungarian Club (Daytona Beach, FL) and Creative Cultural Exchange Inc. (St. Louis Park, MN) as new organizational members.

Dr. Ágnes Virga remained the Chairman of the Board for 2019 and Ms. Csilla Grauzer, was elected as Rising Chair for 2020. The Coalition Board reelected Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice as President appointing Mr. Endre Szentkirályi and Mr. Julius Várallyay as new Vice Presidents of the Coalition and also voted to renew the term of Mr. Stefan Fedor. The following officers were also reelected for a two-year term: Mr. Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer; Mr. George Pogan, Secretary and Mr. Géza Kádár, Jr., Legal Counsel.

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

At the Board meeting, members shared their insights on the meeting with Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell, and also discussed the position of the Coalition on the Ukrainian situation and the European defense cooperation.

Mrs. Emese Latkóczy Lazzarotti, Director of the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF) reported on the developments of the Minority Safepack Initiative, and Mrs. Gabriella Vajtay, program manager for Reconnect Hungary showed a short video on ReConnect Hungary Transylvania and asked the participants to support and promote the program.

Ms. Csilla Grauzer then presented the developments of her project ‘Medical Supplies Donation Program’ to Hungary, which is part of her non-profit Creative Cultural Exchange, Inc.’s Power Of Positive Impact (P.O.P.I.). In the framework of this program, they collect, organize and facilitate the shipment of basic medical supplies donations for mission purposes to hospitals in need throughout Hungary or in regions with Hungarian minorities mainly in Transylvania, Romania and Subcarpathia, Ukraine. Ms. Grauzer reported that, to date, they have shipped $600,000 worth medical supplies to the region.

Mr. Gabe Rozsa also gave an update on the current state of Kossuth House. Finally, Board members conferred about the Coalition’s approach for the commemoration of 30th anniversary of the fall of communism and the approaching 30th anniversary of Coalition’s foundation.

Mrs. Erika Fedor, Coalition Chair Emerita Mrs. Edith K. Lauer, Coalition Rising Chair Ms. Csilla Grauzer, Coalition President Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice and Coalition Chair Dr. Ágnes Virga at the
27th Annual Mikulás Dinner

The meeting concluded with Andrea Lauer Rice saying a special thank you to all Coalition leaders, members and CIP interns who had worked so hard throughout the year.

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