Hungarian Mayors End Twelve-Day Stay In Cleveland Public Policy Training to Continue in Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC – Eight Hungarian Mayors arrived to Cleveland on July 2, just in time to celebrate a typical American Fourth of July with an outdoor picnic, and a late-evening boat ride to Lake Erie complete with fireworks.

Thus began the first phase of the Hungarian American Coalition’s Public Policy and Training Workshop, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. The Hungarian participants represented all political parties and towns of various sizes: Borbála Bögre of Tiszatarján, László Dióssy of Veszprém, Nándor Litter of Nagykanizsa, István Mészáros of Bácsbokod, Imre Nagy of Eger, Miklós Szabó, Vice President of the General Assembly of Győr-Moson-Sopron County, and Erzsébet Udvardi, Mayor of Kisbér.

The Mayors enjoyed the generous hospitality of eight Cleveland families: Carolyn and Jim Balogh, Györgyi and László Böjtös, Ted Horvath, Steve and Katherine Kekedy, Edith and John Lauer, Sandy and George Pogan, Zsuzsa and István Szappanos, and István Toth and Zsuzsa Sasvari.

The centerpiece of the Cleveland program was intensive English classes offered six hours each day by Ashland University.

Other activities included a day-long visit to Amish country, an open-air concert by the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom, a baseball game, an all-day sight-seeing tour of Cleveland, a day-trip to Niagara Falls, two outstanding presentations on American social policy and Cleveland’s novel efforts on nurturing high-tech economic development, a visit to Ashland, Ohio, for meetings with the Mayor, University leaders and the Ashbrook Foundation, a meeting with Cleveland’s Mayor Jane Campbell, and an enthusiastic reception by more than 100 Cleveland-area Hungarian Americans held at the beautiful Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Museum.

“For us, whose country started on the difficult road to democracy only 15 years ago, this experience in Cleveland has been invaluable, as we have seen a great deal that we can put into practice at home,” commented László Dióssy, the leader of the Mayors’ Group.

Eger Mayor, Imre Nagy, expressed surprise at the high quality of the program: “What we experienced here far surpassed my expectations. Our host families made us feel like relatives.”

Erzsébet Udvardi, the Mayor of Kisbér noted: “I see life in America much more balanced, relaxed and normal than our hectic existence in Hungary. People are open; they treat each other with patience and respect. We, Hungarians, need to learn from this example.”

Edith Lauer, coordinator of the Coalition’s Cleveland program declared: “It was a great pleasure to welcome these eight outstanding mayors to Cleveland. In the process of making lots of new friends for their cities and for Hungary, they gained valuable insight by first-hand observation into some public-private partnerships that make American society so unique.”

The Hungarian mayors began the second phase of their program in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, July 15th, under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of State, International Voluntary Visitors Program.

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