Hungarian American Coalition Holds 2023 Annual Meeting

Coalition Chairman Emerita and Treasurer Receive Hungarian Government Awards at
32nd Annual Mikulás Dinner
Hunor Kelemen Provides Keynote Address

Washington, DC – On December 2, 2023, 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 32nd annual Mikulás Dinner hosted by Ambassador Szabolcs Takács at the Embassy of Hungary.

The event began with Mistress of Ceremonies and Honorary Consul of Central Florida Piros Pazaurek greeting the hosts and guests.

Folkdance performance by Anna De Cheke Qualls, member of the Tisza Ensemble of Washington, and Bence Hajdu, Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Program participant

Ambassador Takács welcomed the guests, recognizing the Coalition’s important role in building bridges between Hungary and the United States and thanked Coalition President Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice for her excellent service as she recently stepped down as US President of the Hungarian Diaspora Council for the past four years.

In his speech he stressed the importance of the partnership between Hungary and the United States despite political differences. He underlined Hungary’s commitment to NATO and global peace, and reflected on the war in Ukraine and the terrorist attack by Hamas.

Ambassador Takács’ remarks were followed by a folkdance performance by Anna De Cheke Qualls, member of the Tisza Ensemble of Washington, and Bence Hajdu, Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Program participant hosted by the Coalition and the Tisza Ensemble.

After dinner, guests saw a video presentation about the Coalition’s accomplishments in 2023. Following the video, Mrs. Lauer Rice reflected on the Coalition’s projects this year and emphasized that the Coalition’s activities are focused in three areas: education and culture, human rights advocacy and community outreach.

She said: “The Hungarian American story – when I think about it – is one of resilience, of perseverance and its unwavering commitment to preserving our unique identity, especially across the generations. This is sometimes difficult when political landscapes seem divergent, but it is precisely at this moment that it is even more crucial that we all see connections and bridges. While governments may not always see eye to eye, it is our responsibility as individuals and as a community to foster understanding and collaboration. Let us recognize that unites us and work together towards building stronger bridges together.”

Hunor Kelemen delivers his keynote remarks at the Coalition’s 32nd Annual Mikulás Dinner at the
Embassy of Hungary (Washington DC) on December 1, 2023

The evening’s keynote speaker was Mr. Hunor Kelemen, President of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) and former Deputy Prime Minister of Romania, who came to Washington DC on a one-week visit. He was accompanied by Mr. Loránt Vincze, Member of the European Parliament on behalf of the RMDSZ and President of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN), and Mr. Bálint Porcsalmi. The week of meetings was organized by the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation.

In his remarks, Kelemen shared information on the daily struggles of the 1.2 million Hungarians living in Romania.

He emphasized that Hungarians in Romania are facing many more threats in 2023 than at the time of his last visit to Washington DC, over 8 years ago. The elections in 2024 will be crucial. He stated that “the war between Ukraine and Russia has brought up some fears in our region that we thought are already past us. The insecurity between ethnic groups has increased; the inflation, the energy crisis, the psychosis because of the war is creating fear and insecurities; people are angry and they don’t see a safe future for themselves. Under these circumstances, extremist, fascist political parties are getting stronger”.

He stressed: “What I have told to decision makers here in the United States at the State Department and also in Congress, that currently you cannot look at minority rights as human rights only. Ensuring the rights of ethnic minorities is actually a question of security. If the relationship between the majority and the minority is not peaceful, then that is going to create problems, conflicts and tension.”

After Mr. Kelemen’s remarks, two founding members of the Coalition, Mrs. Edith K. Lauer, Chair Emerita and Mr. Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer, were awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit (Magyar Érdemrend Középkeresztje) by Ambassador Szabolcs Takács on behalf of Katalin Novák, President of Hungary. The laudations were read by Ms. Zsuzsanna Fekete, Hungarian Diaspora Liaison. Before the award ceremony, two videos highlighted their accomplishments. The videos are available here and here. Both Mrs. Lauer and Mr. Szekeres looked back on the last several decades of their close, personal friendship and Coalition activities, and credited the important role of many individuals and organizations in forming a true Coalition across the Hungarian American community.

Mr. János Szekeres, Coalition President Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Mrs. Kriszta Lauer Nagy, Coalition Chair Emerita Mrs. Edith K. Lauer, Coalition Treasurer Mr. Zsolt Szekeres (both awarded with the Commander’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit),and Mrs. Katica Avvakumovits 

The dinner concluded with Hungarian Christmas caroling led by Mrs. Noémi Bánhidi, Program Coordinator of the Coalition, who was joined by several Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Program participants from Cleveland, OH, New York, NY and Washington DC; and toasts from Mrs. Susan Hutchison, Mrs. Eva Voisin and Julius Várallyay, who stressed the importance of the two honorees’ leadership and impact within the community.

The Mikulás Dinner was attended by: Ambassador Szabolcs Takács and Ms. Emese Gaál; the evening’s keynote speaker, Mr. Hunor Kelemen; Ambassador April H. Foley, former Ambassador of the United States to Hungary and Chairman of the Board of the Hungary Foundation; Mr. Loránt Vincze, Member of the European Parliament on behalf of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania and President of the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN); Mr. Diego Morales, Secretary of State of Indiana; 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; Vice Presidents Ms. Csilla Grauzer and Dr. Ágnes Virga; and Coalition Board members and guests. Our guests also included Honorary Consuls: Dr. Chris Ball (CT), Mr. Dennis Bechara (FL), Ms. Csilla Grauzer (MN), Dr. Peter Forgach (NY), Mr. Herbert Hughes (LA), Mr. John E. Parkerson (GA), Mr. György István Simon (UT), Mrs. Eva Voisin (CA) and Honorary Consul-Elects, Aurelia Skipwith Giacometto (MO) and Sidonia Nicolae (IN) as well as participants of the 8th RETURN US Alumni New York and Washington DC Trip organized by Civic Enterprises. 

At the Annual Meeting held on Saturday, December 2, Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rive presented Chairman of the Coalition Dr. Endre Szentkirályi’s report in his absence on the Coalition’s strengths and areas for improvement. Next, she presented a detailed account of the organization’s 2023 projects and activities and plans for the coming year. The Annual Meeting voted to renew the terms of the following individual Board member: Dr. Péter Forgách.

In the afternoon, the Board renewed the three-year terms of the following organizational Board members: Civic Enterprises; Hungarian (Magyar) Club of Chicago; and the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts. Dr. Endre Szentkirályi remained the Chairman of the Board for 2024.

The Board meeting concluded with Andrea Lauer Rice expressing her gratitude to all Coalition leaders, members and supporters for their tireless work.

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