On December 3, 2011, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) held its Annual General and Board Meetings at the Kossuth House in Washington, DC. Sándor Krémer of the Hungarian (Magyar) Club of Chicago took over the rotating chairmanship of the organization. The Board elected Dr. Péter Kovalszki, President of the Hungarian Communion of Friends, as Rising Chairman.
The Annual Meeting renewed the Board membership of Dr. László Varjú of Chicago, IL and Dr. Péter Forgách of Buffalo, NY.
The Board elected the Hungarian Society of Massachusetts to serve on the Coalition’s Board of Directors and renewed the Board memberships of the following organizations for a period of three years: National Committee of Hungarians from Slovakia, Hungarian Cultural Society of Connecticut and the Hungarian (Magyar) Club of Chicago.
The Board accepted Gábor and Edina Varsa, of Laurel, MD and Dr. Lee Edwards of Washington, DC as new members of the Coalition. The afternoon session of the Board included a comprehensive review of Coalition activities during 2011 and future plans for 2012 by President Max Teleki.
The Coalition’s weekend activities began on Friday, December 2, with the traditional White House Briefing, attended by a delegation of approximately 20 Coalition members.
Later that evening, 110 Coalition members and guests attended the traditional Mikulás Dinner, hosted by Ambassador György Szapáry 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 H. E. Pál Schmitt, President of Hungary and Mrs. Katalin Schmitt, Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulus Kounalakis, US ambassador to Hungary, Ambassador Donald Blinken and Vera Blinken, Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Ambassador George Herbert Walker III, Ambassador April H. Foley, János Horváth, Doyen of the Hungarian Parliament, Ambassador Robert R. King, and Dr. Kay Atkinson King, Tomicah S. Tillemann, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, US Department of State, Jenő Félegyházy-Megyesy, Senior Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister of Hungary, Dr. Lee Edwards, President of the Victims of Communism Foundation, Annette Lantos, Annette Tillemann Dick, Ambassador Kurt Volker of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, Adam Liptak, Legal Correspondent of the New York Times, Damon Wilson, Vice President of the Atlantic Council, John Lipsky, Distinguished Visiting Scholar, International Economics Program, Johns Hopkins University and Zsuzsa Kárász Lipsky, and Hungarian General and Honorary Consuls from all over the United States.
In her keynote address, Ambassador Kounalakis highlighted the excellent relations between the peoples of the United States and Hungary and stressed the importance of the role of civic organizations such as the Coalition in maintaining and fostering cultural, economic and political ties between the two nations.
President Schmitt spoke about the vital role of the Hungarian Diaspora, especially at a time when Hungary is undergoing significant changes, as it enacts a new constitution and passes cardinal laws that profoundly affect the institutional infrastructure of the country. President Schmitt quoted several passages of Hungary’s new constitution. He too stressed the excellent relations between Hungary and the United States.
The evening concluded with an award ceremony for Mrs. Edith K. Lauer. In his laudation, Ambassador Szapary introduced Mrs. Lauer by saying that “this award is a long overdue formal expression of a nation’s sincere gratitude. Mrs. Lauer is a testament to selflessness, magnanimity and patriotism – both Hungarian and American – at its best.” President Schmitt presented the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary to Edith K. Lauer, thanking her for more than twenty years of service to the Hungarian nation.
In her acceptance remarks, Mrs. Lauer stated that she feels extremely fortunate because for over 20 years she has been privileged to do the work she loves, having the genuine support of family, friends and colleagues, and tonight receiving the blessing of her homeland. She concluded by saying “When I accept this award on behalf of the Coalition, I am not merely being polite: I am utterly convinced that the excitement and deep desire I felt in 1989 of helping the newly democratic Hungary establish an effective network of contacts with US decision-makers would have never been fulfilled without the institutional framework, the leaders and the members of our Coalition.”