Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, two U.S. Congressional delegations, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, friends of Ronald Reagan, and the extended family of Congressman Tom Lantos were all in Budapest during the June 28-30 period, a week of signal events for Hungarian-American relations.
On June 29, to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Ronald Reagan, a statue of the former President was unveiled in front of the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. The following day, Secretary Clinton inaugurated the Budapest-based Tom Lantos Institute in the Hungarian Parliament. Both were official ceremonies attended by hundreds of guests.
Among them were several members of the Board of the Hungarian American Coalition, including some who have made major contributions to the present structure of the Tom Lantos Institute. Board members visiting Hungary were: László Hámos, Zsolt Szekeres, Maximilian Teleki, Julius Varallyay, Dr. László Varjú, Les Megyeri and Eva Voisin.
The week of events began June 28 with the First Annual Conference on Democracy and Human Rights co-hosted by the Tom Lantos Institute, the International Centre for Democratic Transition (ICDT), and the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Coalition President Max Teleki serves on both the Board of the ICDT and the Executive Committee of the Board of the Tom Lantos Institute.
The same day the Common Sense Society, a member organization of the Coalition, organized a discussion with Ronald Reagan’s special advisor and Attorney General Ed Meese and moderated by the president’s speechwriter, Peggy Noonan. (The Common Sense Society, a Budapest-based discussion group of young Hungarians active in public life, includes many who have worked in Washington and New York under the Coalition’s internship program.) [Video of the event]
Also on June 28, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission of Hungary, and The Ronald Reagan Foundation co-hosted a conference at the Hungarian Parliament to commemorate Ronald Reagan’s legacy. Speakers were: Representative Kevin McCarthy, US House Majority Whip; Head of the Congressional delegation; Zsolt Semjén; Zsolt Németh, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; and János Horváth, Hungarian-American and Member of the Hungarian Parliament.
A gala dinner followed in the Parliament’s Hunter’s Hall, with Mr. John Heubusch, Executive Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, serving as Master of Ceremonies. US Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Tsakopoulus Kounalakis gave welcoming remarks; the Honorable Edwin Meese delivered the keynote address. Mr. Meese recalled the profound impact of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 on President Reagan, who called on the public to “honor the memory of the brave Hungarian men and women who fought courageously to achieve the realization of their aspirations in the face of overwhelming military force.”
On June 29th in the afternoon the new Ronald Reagan statue was unveiled in Szabadság Square, site of the U.S. Embassy, with the participation of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and most ministers of the Hungarian Government. Other speakers at the ceremony were Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State and Zsolt Semjén.
That evening the Government of Hungary hosted the “Freedom Dinner” for over 300 participants at the Museum of Fine Arts. The event paid tribute to the values represented by Ronald Reagan and Tom Lantos, and underscored Hungary’s commitment to the ideals of freedom and liberty.
On June 30, the notables and guests gathered in the Upper House of the Hungarian Parliament to inaugurate the Tom Lantos Institute. In her speech, Secretary Clinton recalled Tom Lantos’ principled work on behalf of liberty and human rights: „Those of us who knew, loved, and admired Tom saw in him the physical moral embodiment of the values that we share, and the commitment to freedom that means so much to the American and Hungarian people.”