László Böjtös, Council Member of Hungarian Communion of Friends, Cleveland’s Honorary Consul of Hungary, is New Chairman of the Board
On December 6, 2008, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) held its 17th Annual General and Board Meetings at the Kossuth House in Washington, DC. Honorary Consul László Böjtös of the Hungarian Communion of Friends took over the rotating chairmanship of the organization. The Board elected Stephen J. Varga, Chairman of the Board of the William Penn Association, as Rising Chairman.
The Annual Meeting re-elected Dr. László Varju for a three-year term, and elected Dr. Peter Forgach of Buffalo, NY as new individual Board Member.
Dr. Robert R. King with Kay King and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur
The Board renewed the Board memberships of the following organizations: Hungarian (Magyar) Club of Chicago, Manhattan Hungarians, and the National Council of Hungarians from Slovakia, and elected a new member, the Hungarian Cultural Society of Connecticut, for a three-year period.
The Board of Directors also renewed and confirmed the following roster of officers: Maximilian N. Teleki, President, George Pogan, Secretary and Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer, Andrea Lauer Rice, Jr. and László Fülöp as Vice Presidents for a two-year term. The Board also voted the following members of the Executive Committee to serve for a period of two years: Andrea Lauer Rice, László Hámos and Dr. Balázs Somogyi. The Board accepted George K. Szilagyi of Hollywood, Florida as a new member of the Coalition.
The afternoon session of the Board included a comprehensive review by President Max Teleki of the organization’s 2008 activities and plans for 2009. Mr. Teleki reported on his recent trips to Hungary and Sub-Carpathia, and emphasized the importance of coordinated action by members of the Coalition in carrying out an ambitious agenda in the area of promoting Hungarian education and culture.
The Coalition’s weekend activities began on Friday, December 5, with the traditional White House briefing, attended by a delegation of approximately 30 Coalition members.
The briefing was hosted by Mr. Adam Sterling, Director for Central and Eastern European Affairs, National Security Councils, Ambassador April H. Foley, US Ambassador to Hungary, Ms. Claire Pierangelo, Office Director, Office of North Central European Affairs, Department of State; Mr. Calvin “Pete” Peterson, Serbia Desk Officer, Department of State. The briefing was coordinated by Ms. Jamie La More, Hungary Desk Officer, Department of State.
Later that evening, Coalition members attended the traditional Mikulás Dinner hosted by Ambassador Dr. Ferenc Somogyi and Mrs. Andrea Bors Somogyi at the Hungarian Embassy. Coalition Vice President Andrea Lauer Rice, Jr. acted as Master of Ceremonies and greeted the distinguished gathering and special guests, including Dr. Robert R. King, Staff Director of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Mrs. Kay King, Director of the Office of Interparliamentary Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Mr. Lee Edwards, President of the Victims of Communism Foundation, Ambassador Tom Robertson, Mr. Peter Ujvagi, State Representative for the 47th District of Ohio, Ambassador Keith Smith of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Ms. Jesica Lindgren of ResCare, Inc., and Hungarian General and Honorary Consuls from all over the United States. Ambassador Somogyi welcomed the Coalition’s distinguished guests to the Embassy and highlighted the role of the Coalition on issues affecting Hungarian-American relations.
Mr. László Hámos, President of the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation, introduced the evening’s keynote speaker and Coalition awardee, Dr. Robert R. King, commending his years of service, in particular the cause of Hungarian minority rights. In the 1970’s, Dr. King spent seven years at Radio Free Europe in Munich, and wrote Minorities Under Communism: Nationalities as a Source of Tension Among Balkan Communist States, published in 1973 by Harvard University Press. He was appointed a White House Fellow, working on Soviet and East European Affairs under President Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Beginning in 1983, he was appointed Chief of Staff to Rep. Tom Lantos, and served for the next quarter-century, in Mr. Hamos’ words, as “the principal alter ego to the single American legislator of greatest positive impact in championing the rights of Hungarian minorities and other oppressed peoples around the world.” Throughout, Dr. King held key posts on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, most recently as Staff Director.
“For anyone who has crossed paths with Bob King,” said Mr. Hamos, “he exhibits three striking qualities: knowledge, intelligence and modesty. Whenever we came to him trying to explain the intricacies of a particular human rights abuse, a few words from this man revealed that he knew at least as much, if not more than we did…”
In his remarks, Dr. King reflected on the eventful years at Radio Free Europe and later at the office of Congressman Lantos, witnessing the remarkable transition of Hungary from drab communist satellite into a free and independent country, and the demise of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu during the revolution sparked by Hungarian minority leader Bishop László Tőkés.
Coalition President Max Teleki joined Mr. Hamos in presenting Dr. King with an award on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Hungarian American Coalition with the following text: “In recognition of his lifelong commitment to the study of the people and politics of East Central Europe, and untiring professional efforts to apply the lessons of scholarship to promote a responsible and effective U.S. human rights policy, which speaks up for national minorities unable to speak up for themselves”.