Washington, DC – On December 3, 2022, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) held its Annual General and Board Meetings at the Kossuth House in Washington DC. The previous evening, Coalition members and guests attended the 31st annual Mikulás Dinner hosted by Ambassador Szabolcs Takács at the Embassy of Hungary.
The event began with Master of Ceremonies Dr. Endre Szentkirályi and Ms. Noémi Bánhidi singing traditional Mikulás songs.
Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rice, Coalition Board Member Dr. Péter Forgách, Lt. Col. Ret. Andy Hutchison, Coalition Chairman Emerita Edith K. Lauer and Mrs. Susan Hutchison at the Coalition’s 31st Annual Mikulás Dinner at the Embassy of Hungary (Washington DC) on December 2, 2022
Ambassador Takács welcomed the guests, recognizing the Coalition’s role as a vibrant, proactive organization in building bridges between Hungary and the United States. He congratulated the Coalition for its accomplishments in 2022, highlighting the Hungarian Freedom Fighter Statue that was dedicated on October 23 in Millennium Gate Museum (Atlanta, GA). He expressed gratitude to the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation for protecting the rights of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin, emphasizing the difficult situation of Hungarians living in Transcarpathia during these dire circumstances caused by the war. He also thanked the Coalition for setting up its Ukraine Relief and helping refugees from Ukraine.
After dinner, guests saw a video presentation about the Coalition’s Ukraine Relief Fund. Mrs. Lauer Rice delivered her remarks expressing some concerns on the political relationship between the US and Hungary. She pointed out that we have much more in common than issues that divide us.
In the areas of security and military cooperation, economic ties and area of cultural exchanges, we see an optimistic picture of cooperation and partnership. She emphasized the importance of Hungary’s membership in NATO and the Coalition’s past NATO advocacy as well as the scholarship and internship programs in both directions implemented by the Coalition, its members and partners.
Mrs. Lauer Rice also emphasized person-to-person cooperation and community building as the Coalition’s main strengths and highlighted two projects of the Coalition this year – the previously mentioned Ukraine Relief Fund and the 1956 Hungarian Freedom Fighter statue in Atlanta, GA. A video showed highlights of the dedication ceremony at Midtown Atlanta’s Millennium Gate Park on October 23, 2022.
She concluded her remarks “with a message of hope – perhaps not coincidentally the message of this advent week. Hope that we can continue to forge strong ties across every level and facet of our relationship between Hungary and the US. Hope that every country would soon be rid of the evils of communism. Hope that the war in Ukraine will come to a peaceful end. And hope that we all come together in the spirit of celebration, community and Christmas.”
The evening’s keynote speaker was Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, President of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Ambassador Bremberg built his speech around reflecting on the importance of preserving and protecting our freedom. He described how, in addition to the current geopolitical crises Europe is facing with the war in Ukraine, Europe and the whole West is “falling into a sense of nihilism losing a sense of belief in ourselves, in our own goodness, in our shared values and in the importance of freedom.”
Ambassador Andrew Bremberg delivers his keynote remarks at the Coalition’s 31st Annual Mikulás Dinner at the Embassy of Hungary (Washington DC) on December 2, 2022
He said: “We even hear some say that our greatest enemies at times are our fellow Americans. This way of thinking must be rejected. We in all Western democracies have always had and always will have internal and at times, tense political differences and that is a sign of strength, not weaknesses within democracies. I have many policies and political views and can argue them with my fellow Americans – some of whom I might even view as my political opponents – but they are not and can never be my enemy.”
He concluded by saying that “as we prepare to enter this Christmas season, I hope that we will have a renewed sense of gratitude, and thankfulness for all that we have been given. And as we do so, I pray that we can reawaken the conscience of the Western world… we must look for inspiration from those who have successfully fought and defended freedom in the past, and we must reach out and support those fighting for freedom today.”
The Mikulás Dinner was attended by: Ambassador Szabolcs Takács and Ms. Emese Gaál; the evening’s keynote speaker, Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, President of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Ambassador April H. Foley, former Ambassador of the United States to Hungary and Chairman of the Board of The Hungary Foundation; Mrs. Susan Hutchison, Former Executive Director of the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for the Arts and Sciences and Lt. Col. Ret. Andy Hutchison; Coalition President Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice; Chair Emerita Edith K. Lauer; Coalition President Maximilian N. Teleki, Coalition President Emeritus; Coalition Board members and guests. Our guests also included delegations from ReConnect Hungary and Hungarian Human Rights Foundation’s Human Rights Workshop Participants, as well as the 7th RETURN US Alumni New York and Washington DC Trip organized by Civic Enterprises.
The dinner concluded with more Hungarian Christmas caroling led by Ms. Noémi Bánhidi, Program Coordinator of the Coalition, and a toast from Mrs. Susan Hutchison.
At the Annual Meeting held on Saturday, December 3, Chairman of the Coalition Dr. Endre Szentkirályi presented his report on the Coalition’s strengths and areas of improvement. Next, Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rice presented the organization’s 2022 projects and activities. The Annual Meeting voted to renew the terms of the following individual Board members: Anne C Bader; Csilla Grauzer; Enikő M. Basa; George Pogan; Tibor Purger; Dr. Endre Szentkirályi; Max Teleki; Eva Voisin and Dr. Ágnes Virga. Ms. Emese Varga, one of the founders of Béla Bartók Hungarian School of Boston (Boskola), was elected as new Board member. The Board also approved Dániel Szabó (San Antonio, TX), Miklós Szabó (Austin, TX), Katalin Hartai (Budapest, Hungary) and Philip Bognár (Fenton, MO) as new individual members.
In the afternoon, the Board renewed the three-year terms of the following organizational Board members: Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society; HungarianHub; Minnesota Hungarians, Inc.; and Seattle-Pécs Sister Cities Association.
Dr. Endre Szentkirályi remained the Chairman of the Board for 2023. Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice was re-elected as President. Piros Pazaurek, HungarianHub, and Éva Voisin, Honorary Consul General in San Francisco, CA, were elected as new Coalition Vice Presidents. They join Dr. Ágnes Virga, Csilla Grauzer and Gyula Várallyay in their ongoing role as Coalition Vice Presidents. George Pogan was re-elected as Secretary and Zsolt Szekeres as Treasurer.
The members of the Coalition’s Executive Committee were elected as follows: Ms. Anne C. Bader, Ms. Csilla Grauzer, Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Mr. George Pogan, Mr. Zsolt Szekeres, Dr. Endre Szentkirályi and Dr. Ágnes Virga.
The Board meeting concluded with Andrea Lauer Rice expressing her gratitude to all Coalition leaders, members and supporters for their tireless work.