Washington, D.C. – President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice and other high-ranking U.S. government officials came to Budapest on June 22, 2006, to honor the spirit of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and to commend the successful democratic transformation of Hungary.
In 2005, the Hungarian Government and opposition political leaders issued letters of invitation to President Bush to participate in the commemoration of 1956. This bipartisan invitation was complemented by efforts of the Hungarian American Coalition (HAC) and many other Hungarian Americans urging President Bush to visit Hungary in this anniversary year. These efforts were greatly helped by the good offices of U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Mr. George Herbert Walker III and Mr. András Simonyi, Hungary’s Ambassador to the United States.
Leaders of the Hungarian American Coalition attended several events of the Presidential visit. Mrs. Edith Lauer, Chair Emerita, Mr. Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer, and Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice, Executive Committee member, participated in the luncheon hosted by the President of Hungary and Mrs. Erzsébet Sólyom and the Prime Minister of Hungary and Mrs. Klára Dobrev, which was held at the Hungarian Parliament in honor of the President’s visit. Mrs. Lauer presented the Coalition’s letter addressed to President Bush to Mr. Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State, in which HAC’s President Maximilian N. Teleki urges the President to “keep the democratic aspirations of the Hungarian minorities as a priority issue” of U.S. relations.
After thanking Hungarian President László Sólyom for his warm hospitality, President Bush then proceeded to greet and shake the hands of all of the approximately 120 guests. As a 56er herself, Mrs. Lauer thanked President Bush on behalf of Hungarian Americans for coming to honor the memory of 1956. The President said: “Thank you for all you do for our nation.” After the luncheon, the two Presidents walked out of the Parliament, where President and Mrs. Bush laid a wreath at the Eternal Flame Memorial of the Revolution.
Later in the afternoon, the President delivered his speech atop Gellért Hill, against the backdrop of a magnificent view of Budapest. Invited guests included past and present members of the Budapest diplomatic corps, Hungarian government officials, and in addition to the Coalition members mentioned above, Mr. John N. Lauer, Mr. Charles Barton Rice, Jr., Mr. Bulcsú Veress, and Honorary Hungarian Consuls Ms. Kaarina Koskenalusta in Chicago and Ms. Emese Komjáthy in Honolulu.
President George W. Bush speaks from Gellért Hill in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, June 22, 2006.
After greeting his audience in Hungarian, President Bush summarized the events of 1956, recognizing the heroism of those who dared to stand against tyranny. “The lesson of the Hungarian experience is clear: liberty can be delayed, but it cannot be denied.” Speaking of the Hungarian American community, he said: “Some 200,000 Hungarians fled into exile in search of liberty. Many found refuge in the United States. These immigrants have contributed to my country in countless ways, and America will always be glad that we opened our doors to Hungarians that were seeking freedom.” The full text of the President’s speech is available at White House’s website: www.whitehouse.gov.