Zsolt Szekeres Honored by Hungarian Government

Washington, DC – In an intimate ceremony attended by family and friends, Zsolt Szekeres was presented the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary. The event took place on Friday, July 30, 2010, in the Panorama Room of the Foreign Ministry building in Budapest.

Foreign Minister János Martonyi congratulating Mr. Zsolt Szekeres

Gabriella Kereszty, Special Advisor to the Foreign Minister, introduced Zsolt as an ultimate force for good, an “eminence gris“ in Hungarian American relations …whose many activities in the past several decades provided the most outstanding example of unselfish, quiet diplomacy.” She stressed the importance of his special efforts through the Hungarian American Coalition’s Congressional Internship Program to serve as mentor to dozens of young Hungarians whose interest in public service took them to Washington, D.C., and then back to service careers in government and NGOs in Hungary.

Foreign Minister János Martonyi lauded Zsolt’s many accomplishments in a very personal way. He said that it is an unusual honor to give this kind of laudatory speech about someone who is not only laudable, but also a friend. Martonyi spoke about the many services Zsolt, together with his allies in the organizations he helped found (the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation and the Hungarian American Coalition) has provided over the decades to advance the cause of Hungarian minorities and Hungary’s good name in the world. He stressed that Zsolt is not only a good, successful and thoroughly modest man, but he is also a true Hungarian, from tip to toe.

Following the presentation of the Officer’s Cross, a letter from EU Parliamentarian, Bishop László Tőkés, was read by Mr. Csaba Nemes, Director of Bishop Tökés’ office in Budapest, congratulating Zsolt and thanking him for his many services over the years on behalf of Hungarian minorities.

In his characteristically modest remarks of thanks, Zsolt recalled the words of Charlie Thomas, former US Ambassador to Hungary, who told him emphatically in 1990 that “the future is now.” In those exciting early days of the Antall government, it was a time for commitment and action, just as it is in today’s Hungary.

The award ceremony brought together all four Szekeres siblings and their families for the first time in 14 years: Zsuzsa from Paris, Szabolcs from Brussels, and János and his wife Judit, from Washington, D.C. Zsolt’s wife, Katica Avvakumovits, and their sons, Péter and János were proud observers of the ceremony. Others present were Jeff Levine, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Hungary; Péter Józsa, Director of HHRF Budapest; Ajna Pfenninberger and László Vass Jr.; Dr. and Mrs. László Vass; Dr. Bulcsu Veress; Dr. and Mrs. József Kajdi; Mr. Géza Simon; and former Congressional HAC interns Anna Stumpf (now US Desk Officer of the Foreign Ministry), Péter Wendl and Viktória Zoltán, as well as Norbert Konkoly, Béla László and Dr. Zoltán Fehér of the American Department in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry; and Melinda, Ilona and Botond Szekeres.

Later, at a dinner hosted by Ajna and László Vass, Péter Józsa presented Zsolt a framed certificate with signed messages from many friends and admirers from Ohio to Székelyföld.

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