U.S. Ambassador April H. Foley Delivers Keynote Address at Hungarian American Coalition’s Mikulás Dinner

Washington, DC – On December 7, the Hungarian American Coalition held its 16th Annual Mikulás Dinner hosted by Ambassador Dr. Ferenc Somogyi and Mrs. Andrea Bors Somogyi at the Hungarian Embassy.  Coalition Chairman Emerita Edith Lauer acted as Master of Ceremonies and greeted the distinguished gathering and special guests, including Hungarian General and Honorary Consuls from all over the United States.  Ambassador Somogyi, who recently began his tour of duty in Washington, welcomed the Coalition to the Embassy for the first time, and expressed his hope for cooperation between the Coalition and the Hungarian Embassy on issues of common interest.

Edith Lauer introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Ambassador April H. Foley.  The Ambassador expressed great personal enthusiasm for her service in Hungary.  She listed the areas in which Hungary has made progress, such as structural reforms, the fight against corruption, attracting foreign direct investment, and advising societies in transition about democracy.  She was very satisfied that a new NATO center for air freight will be established in Pápa, Hungary, and stated that this is a sign of Washington’s recognition of Hungary’s contributions in Afghanistan, Cuba, the Balkans and in NATO.  She expressed confidence that Hungary would soon meet the 10% visa-rejection threshold and other requirements for the Visa Waiver program, which will enable Hungarian citizens to travel to the U.S. without a visa.

Ambassador April H. Foley delivering her speech

After dinner, Maximilian Teleki, President of the Hungarian American Coalition, reported on the major accomplishments of the Coalition in 2007, and provided interesting details of his visits to Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia and Romania.  As he outlined the organization’s plans for 2008, he emphasized the importance of maintaining positive working relations with both governments as well as the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, DC and the US Embassy in Budapest.

The Coalition’s weekend activities began earlier that afternoon, with the traditional White House Briefing, attended by 25 Coalition members and guests.

The program was hosted by Mr. Adam Sterling, Director, Central and Eastern European Affairs of the White House National Security Council, and coordinated by the U.S. State Department’s Carol Volk, Desk Officer for Slovakia and Acting Hungary Desk Officer.  Coalition members were welcomed by Kurt Volker, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.  Mr. Volker provided a broad 30-minute briefing on U.S. regional policy and U.S.–Hungarian relations, and also touched on the issue of energy security and the expansion of Russia’s sphere of influence in Central and Eastern Europe.  Next, Mr. John Becker from the Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, briefed the audience on the current state of restitution issues.  Representatives from the Office for  North Central Europe, Bureau of European Affairs, also gave presentations: David Schroeder, Senior Serbia Desk Officer, Carol Volk, Slovakia Desk Officer, and Aaron Jensen, Romania Desk Officer, reported on the current situation of Hungarian minorities in each country.  The briefing, which lasted more than two hours, also included an opportunity for Coalition Board Members to pose questions and to share personal insights on the subjects raised.

On December 8, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) held its 16th Annual and Board Meetings at the Kossuth House in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Balázs Somogyi, President of the Hungarian Cultural Society of Connecticut (HCSC), took over the rotating chairmanship of the organization.  The Board also elected Honorary Consul László Böjtös of the Hungarian Communion of Friends as Rising Chairman for 2009.

The Annual Meeting re-elected Anne Bader, István Hargitai, George Pogan, Maximilian Teleki and Eva Voisin for three-year terms, and elected as new Board Members Leslie L. Megyeri of Washington, D.C., and Gabriella Nádas of Canton, Ohio.

The afternoon session of the Board included a comprehensive review by Coalition President Max Teleki of the organization’s 2007 activities and plans for 2008.  The Board renewed the three-year Board membership of the following organizations: Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society; Hungarian Americans for Human Rights in Délvidék; Magyar Club of Cleveland; Minnesota Hungarians and Seattle-Pécs Sister Cities Association. 

Three applicants were accepted as new organizational members: the Hungarian Association of Cleveland, OH, the Hungarian Cultural Society of Connecticut (HCSC) and the Hungary-Missouri Educational Partnership of St. Louis, MO (HMEP), along with the following new individual members:   Nora Egger, Budapest and Cleveland; Tibor Purger, Washington, D.C.; Ambassador George Herbert Walker III, St. Louis, MO; Betty June Farkas, and Imre L. Toth.

On Saturday evening following the Board Meeting, the Coalition hosted a private screening for donors and supporters of “Torn from the Flag,” the highly anticipated documentary film about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.  The Coalition took a leadership role in raising funds to complete the film.  Klaudia Kovács, Endre Hüles and George Adams, the creators of the film, attended the screening held at Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) in Washington, D.C.  The audience included 150 people, including Coalition members and those from the local Hungarian American community.

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