Letter from the President 2009

“Looking back at 2008 – and forward into 2009”

Dear Coalition Members:

In the New Years Day issue of the Washington Times, an editorial written by Dr. Lee Edwards, Chairman of the Victims of Communism Foundation and a close Coalition friend, reminded us of what we saw in 1989, the year of “miracles”. Twenty years ago Hungary opened its borders with Austria and allowed East German refugees to freely follow their destinies. Laszlo Tokes, a young, courageous Hungarian minister sparked local protests in Transylvania that led to mass demonstrations in Bucharest; Ceausescu finally met his end. As Dr. Edwards stated, „Communism, the dark tyranny that controlled more than 40 nations and claimed the lives of an estimated 100 million victims during the 20th century, suddenly collapsed in Eastern and Central Europe without a shot being fired.” Twenty years have gone by, a new world has emerged, and many who played important roles in these changes are no longer with us.

In 2008 we lost statesman Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Tom Lantos never wavered in his commitment to the entire Hungarian nation. As an advocate for our concerns and as friend of our Coalition, he is irreplaceable.

We also must acknowledge with great sadness the passing in July of our long-time tireless community leader, Reverend Imre Bertalan, and in August of Peter Soltesz, an invaluable member of the Coalition’s Board. He was a friend to many of us and his valued counsel and contributions will be sorely missed.

Despite these losses and the grief that accompanies them, we have a great deal to be thankful for.

As I enter my third term as President, I look back at the accomplishments of last year with a sense of gratitude for all the support that I received from Coalition members and a broadening circle of Coalition friends both here and in Hungary.

We hosted our Annual Gala Benefit on April 18 at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC, to honor Dr. August J. Molnár, founder and president of the American Hungarian Foundation of New Brunswick, recognizing five decades of distinguished service to the Hungarian-American community. Proceeds of the benefit are supporting the “Dr. Elemér and Éva Kiss Scholarship Program.”

We organized and co-hosted the opening of a week-long exhibit, “Carl Lutz and the Legendary Glass House in Budapest.” The exhibit honors the memory of Carl Lutz, Swiss Consul in wartime Hungary, whose intervention saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazi death camps.

We participated in a ceremony honoring the memory of the victims of Communism worldwide, hosted by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington (VOCMF) DC. The ceremony included tributes to the Congressman Tom Lantos. VOCMF board member, Edith Lauer, presented Mrs. Annette Lantos with the VOCMF Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, awarded posthumously to Tom Lantos for his lifelong dedication to fighting totalitarian tyranny and promoting freedom and democracy.

In 2008 the Coalition continued funding the Posonium Literary Awards, established in 2000 by Edith and John Lauer of Cleveland to recognize the outstanding contributions of Hungarian authors and artists to the cultural heritage of the historic Hungarian community of Slovakia. We also funded the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Magyary Zoltán Foundation’s Charles Simonyi Research Scholarship Fund to award grants of 3,000,000 HUF each to five outstanding Hungarian researchers.

The Coalition awarded internships to six interns and managed their activities in Washington DC as part of the Coalition’s Congressional Internship Program.

We continued our „Advocacy and Policy Initiatives” program providing timely information on issues of interest to officials of the National Security Council, the State Department, members of Congress, and our membership.

The Coalition continued its work with diplomatic staff in Washington and Budapest and with members of Congress to help achieve a milestone of public diplomacy: inclusion of Hungary in the US „Visa Waiver Program”, which allows Hungarian citizens to travel to the United States without a visa for up to 90 days, beginning in January of 2009.

The Coalition maintained ongoing contact with Hungarian community leaders in Romania, Slovakia and Vojvodina, to be informed about events affecting the Hungarian communities of the region. We also coordinated activities with member organizations and European Parliament representatives to obtain information about human right issues, particularly in Serbia and Slovakia.

We co-sponsored the CSIS Conference on “New Allies and the New U.S. Administration: Priorities for CEE-U.S. Relations.” We hosted three National Conferences entitled “Hungarian Americans Together,” in Washington, DC, Ligonier, PA, and New Brunswick, NJ, to find ways of cooperation among Hungarian-American organizations with shared missions, including the promotion of Hungarian heritage and culture in 2009.

Lastly, as President I attended numerous functions, meetings and events on behalf of the Coalition both in the United States and in Hungary. In November I visited Sub-Carpathia on a fact finding mission, visiting schools, homes for the elderly, and meeting Hungarian minority leaders in the region. I also spent 16 days in Budapest participating in the work of the International Board of the Constellation Energy Institute, and attended the International Centre of Democratic Transition’s international Board Meeting and conference on globalization.

For the full list of the Coalition’s 2008 projects and accomplishments, please visit the Coalition’s website’s „Projects and Accomplishments 2008” section.

To start off in 2009, the Coalition and numerous other Hungarian American organizations will be celebrating Inauguration Day with a community reception, hosted by the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America, at the Kossuth House in Washington.

In the spring of 2009, our fifth Gala fundraiser will honor John C. Whitehead, former Deputy Secretary of State, to recognize his contributions for the benefit of Hungary over the past 50 years. This Gala will be Co-Chaired by Governor George Pataki, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Ambassador George H. Walker III.

Also in 2009, we will also be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the opening of the Hungarian-Austrian boarder and the 10th anniversary of Hungary’s NATO membership. Another planned program is implementation of our 4th Public Policy and Training Seminar, sponsored by the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. The participants in this program are expected to be editors and journalists in rural and smaller Hungarian communities.

The Coalition will actively engage the new Congress and the incoming Obama-Biden Administration in addressing key areas such as the plight of Hungarians in Vojvodina and Slovakia; the restitution of church properties in Romania; implementation if the Visa Waiver program; addressing the problem of anti-Americanism in Hungary; actively discouraging anti-Hungarian rhetoric and violence in all the countries with historic Hungarian communities; advocacy for legislation in Romania and Slovakia to grant the rights to self-government to minority communities; and briefing policymakers and incoming Ambassadors to Central and East European countries on issues of concern to the Coalition.

In conclusion, after serving as the Coalition’s President for four years, I am pleased to report that we continue to earn the respect of policymakers as one of the most effective advocacy groups in Washington and Budapest on behalf of the Hungarian-American community. As I stated last year, I do not say this to impress you as my friends and colleagues, but rather to “impress upon you” that our continuing organizational work, day by day, project by project, is creating both a strong legacy and a bright future.

Each year has both challenges and opportunities, given the global financial crisis and the potential impact it may have on individual and organizational “giving.” We must be prudent, yet aggressive in our pursuit of establishing greater financial stability for our organization’s future. My responsibility is to find ways for us to continue our good works. I will look for your support and leadership to broaden and strengthen the ties that bind our Coalition and its future.

Köszönöm az eddigi és a jövõbeni támogatásukat!  Boldog Új Évet kívánok!

Maximilian Teleki

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