Hungarian American Coalition Leaders Attend D.C. Regional Diaspora Conference

Washington, DC – On March 11, 2017, the Second Regional Diaspora Meeting took place at the Embassy of Hungary in Washington D.C. Approximately 40 Hungarian American community leaders attended the conference, representing organizations based in the South and the Washington D.C. area.  Several Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) leaders participated, including: President Andrea Lauer Rice, President Emeritus Max Teleki, Vice President Stefan Fedor and Board members László Hámos and Erika Fedor.

Preceding the conference, Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi hosted a reception to welcome Dr. Péter Szilágyi, Hungary’s Deputy State Secretary for Hungarian Communities Abroad.

During the conference, Dr. Szilágyi presented a comprehenesive report on the Hungarian government’s current institutional framework and strategy for developing relations with the diaspora. The presentation in PDF format can be viewed here and can be downloaded in PowerPoint format here.  Highlights of the report: the Mikes Kelemen, Kőrösi Csoma Sándor and Julianus programs; the annual Diaspora Council meetings in Budapest; and the grant opportunities offered by the Bethlen Gábor Fund.

Other presentations focused on Hungarian language instruction; the ReConnect Hungarian Birthright program; trade and economic cooperation; ‘Hungarians in the World’ Internet map; the Memory Project visual history archive; Hungarian advocacy in the US; and an update on The Hungary Initiatives Foundation.

In her remarks, Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi emphasized the significance of existing partnership and friendly relations between the Hungarian communities in Washington D.C. and the Embassy of Hungary, and expressed her hope for pro-active, two-way discussion and engagement.

Mr. László Hámos, Coalition Board member and US representative to the Diaspora Council, recounted the results and lessons learned from the Diaspora Council meetings, held annually in Budapest since 2010. He discussed the challenges and opportunities of Hungarian American organizations, and emphasized the importance of comprehensiveness, coordination and mutual respect, and – above all – genuine reciprocity between the diaspora communities and the Embassy of Hungary.  He presented a wide range of engagement possibilities that are now available for organizations to provide feedback and input to Hungary’s diaspora policy.

Coalition President Lauer Rice presented recommendations from previous mentors for the KCSP Internship Program. She and co-founder Réka Pigniczky also updated the participants on plans for the expansion of the Memory Project: Hungarian American Visual History Archive, a program supported by the Coalition. 

Anna Smith Lacey, Executive Director of The Hungary Initiatives Foundation (HIF), discussed HIF’s grant and funding opportunities, emphasizing that HIF will prioritize projects which focus on education and outreach to young people, build cooperation between organizations, target non-Hungarian audiences including the involvement of non-Hungarian institutions and organizations as project partners. She said the ideal HIF project would focus on a long-term goal and vision as well as have the potential for future growth. As two examples, she announced HIF’s continued funding of the Coalition Internship Program and the upcoming Hungarian Americans Together Conference (HATOG), co-organized in May by the American Hungarian Heritage House and the Coalition. 

At lunch, each conference participant placed a yellow rose at the 1956 ‘Budapest Lad’ (Pesti Srác) statue in front of the new building of the Embassy of Hungary. 

Participants of the Regional Diaspora Meeting in front of the Embassy of Hungary and the 1956 ‘Budapest Lad’ (Pesti Srác) statue on March 11, 2017

After the conference, participants accompanied Ambassador Szemerkényi and Dr. Szilágyi to the old building of the Embassy of Hungary for the official commemoration of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution.

Regional Diaspora Conferences are planned annually in various locations across the U.S. 

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