Senator Chuck Hagel Delivers Keynote Address at Coalition’s 15th Annual Mikulás Dinner
Gov. George Pataki addresses guests celebrating the Coalition’s 15th Anniversary
Washington, D.C. – On December 9, 2006, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) held its 15th Annual General and Board Meetings at the Kossuth House in Washington, D.C. Helen Szablya, Board Member of the Seattle-Pecs Sister City Association, took over the rotating Chairmanship of the organization, and the Board elected Balázs Somogyi of Connecticut, as Rising Chairman for 2008.
At the Annual Meeting the membership re-elected László Fulop, Peter Kovalszki, Andrea Lauer-Rice, Géza Kádár, Jr., Edith K. Lauer, Zsolt Szekeres, Charles Vamossy and Julius Varallyay for three-year terms as Board members.
The Board renewed the membership of the following organizations: American Catholic Clergy Association, represented by Rev. István Mustos; The Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society, represented by Ted Horvath; the Hungarian American Cultural Association; represented by Dr. Sándor Csizinszky; the Hungarian Scouts Association in Exteris, represented by Imre Lendvai-Lintner; the Calvin Synod of the United Church of Christ, represented by Rev. Béla Poznán; theHungarian Communion of Friends, represented by László Böjtös; the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation, represented by László Hámos; the Hungarian Reformed Federation, represented byGeorge Dózsa; and The Bethlen Communities represented by Rev. Imre A. Bertalan.
The following organizations were accepted as new members of the Coalition’s Board of Directors: American Hungarian Foundation, represented by Prof. August J. Molnar, and the William Penn Association, who will be represented by their Chairman, Steve Varga.
The Board also accepted The HungarianAmerica Foundation as a new Coalition organizational member.
The membership request of the following individuals was also approved: Ms. Maria Farkas, Washington, D.C.; Mr. William J. Bero, Fairfield, CT; Ms. Dalma Takacs, Cleveland Heights, NJ;Mr. Stephen J. Varga, Rockville Centre, NY; Mr. Phillip Aronoff, Houston, TX; Prof. Agoston J. Molnar, New Brunswick, NJ; Mr. and Mrs. William and Eva Grady, Naples, FL; Mr. Leslie L. Megyeri, Washington, D.C., and Mr. Imre Lendvai-Lintner, Vienna, VA.
The Board approved the following officers for a two year term: Maximilian Teleki, President,Peter Soltesz, Secretary, Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer, Dr. Géza Kádár, Jr., Legal Counsel. The Board elected Mrs. Andrea Lauer-Rice and Mr. László Fülöp as Coalition Vice-Presidents, and elected the following members to the Executive Committee: George Dózsa, László Hámos, Andrea Lauer-Rice, Zsolt Szekeres, and László Fülöp.
The Coalition’s weekend activities began on Friday, December 8, with the traditional White House Briefing, attended by a delegation of about 25 Coalition members and guests, which this year was held at the Department of State.
In a program coordinated by Ms. Michelle LaBonte, Desk Officer for Hungary, Coalition members were welcomed by Mr. Mark Pekala, Deputy Assistant Secretary, who stressed the importance of the President’s freedom agenda, and commented on the value of Hungary’s recent experience of a democratic transition in the U.S.-Hungarian relationship. Ms. Debra Juncker, Economist, Office of Monetary Affairs, provided an overview of the difficult economic conditions, including the very high deficit, that create a major challenge for Hungary’s development and plans to join the Euro zone. John Becker, Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, stressed that his office pays ongoing attention to both communal and private property restitution issues, and commented on the disappointingly slow action by Romanian authorities in settling Hungarian and other claims. Mr. David Schroder, Senior Serbia Desk Officer, gave an insightful overview of political developments in Serbia, touching upon the recent vote for a new constitution that brought no meaningful change to the Hungarian minority’s aspirations for self-government. Mr. Adam Sterling, Director, Central and Eastern European Affairs of the National Security Council, commented on Hungary’s role as a partner of the U.S. in Ukraine, the Balkans and even Cuba, as well as in Afghanistan, through establishing a Provincial Reconstruction Team. Mr. Sterling and others commented on imminent changes to the Visa Waiver Program, recently announced by President Bush in Estonia. The objective, whose details will be worked out in the coming months in Congress, will balance security concerns with the expansion of the program.
In the 90-minute session, many Coalition members posed questions and shared personal insights on the subjects raised. The White House presenters then answered the questions in detail.
Later that evening, Coalition members and guests attended the traditional Mikulás Dinner hosted by His Excellency Mr. András Simonyi and Mrs. Simonyi at the Hungarian Embassy. Coalition President Maximilian Teleki, who also served as Master of Ceremonies, greeted the distinguished gathering. Ambassador Simonyi spoke about the enduring significance of the transatlantic alliance, the close relationship between Hungary and the United States, and highlighted this year’s special commemorations of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, held in the State Department, the Congress, during President Bush’s visit to Hungary, and the recent White House showing of the film „Children of God.”
Mr. Teleki introduced Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who was the evening’s keynote speaker. Sen. Hagel provided an overview of developments in foreign policy focusing on the common interests of Hungary and the United States and highlighted the bravery of the Hungarian freedom fighters of 1956 against Soviet tyranny. He praised the Coalition’s work of the past 15 years, and the important role the Coalition plays in our community and the United States.
After dinner, Mr. Teleki gave a brief overview of the Coalition’s activities in 2006 and then introduced Gov. George Pataki. The Governor spoke eloquently about the quest for freedom that was instilled in him by the experiences of his family, which migrated from Hungary to New York, and stated that „Americans and especially Hungarian Americans have a moral obligation to ensure that Hungarians living beyond Hungary’s current borders enjoy the same freedoms and have the same opportunities we enjoy here in the United States, and which Hungarians living within Hungary enjoy. This is our task!” The Governor saluted the Coalition’s advocacy work, and praised with great eloquence Hungary’s valiant struggle for freedom in 1956.
The Coalition presented an award to The Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF), on the occasion of the foundation’s 30th Anniversary; and an award to Congressman Tom Lantos for 25 years of dedicated service in Congress and on behalf of Hungarian minorities in Central Europe.
The evening closed with beautiful performances by pianist Ms. Julia Hámos, daughter of Zsuzsa and László Hámos; and by Ms. Charity Tillerman-Dick, granddaughter of Congressman and Mrs. Tom Lantos, who sang Christmas carols in Hungarian and English.