Washington, DC – On May 3, 2016, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) honored Dr. János Martonyi, Hungary’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, at its 12th annual Gala Dinner. This year’s Gala also marked the 25th anniversary of the Coalition, which was founded in 1991 to provide advocacy and community leadership.
His Excellency János Áder, President of Hungary, was Honorary Chairman of the event, held at the House of Sweden in Washington.
Coalition Vice President Andrea Lauer Rice welcomed the distinguished guests, including Dr. János Martonyi, and his wife Dr. Rozália Rábai; Governor George Pataki, Gala Co-Chair; Co-Chairs Ambassador Richard Swett and Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, Chairman of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice; Ambassador George Herbert Walker and Mrs. Carol Walker; Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi, Hungary’s Ambassador to the United States; Mr. Sunil Sabwarhal, Alternate U.S. Executive Director, IMF and Mrs. Gabrielle Tabori Sabwarhal; Ambassador Thomas Robertson and Mrs. Antoinette Robertson; Mrs. Annette Lantos Tillemann-Dick and her daughter Mercina Tillemann-Dick; Mr. David Kostelancik, the incoming DCM of the US Embassy in Hungary; Ms. Karyn Posner-Mullen, former Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Hungary; and Dr. Lee Edwards, Chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
Other prominent guests included: Mrs. Edith Lauer, Chair Emerita of the Coalition, and Mr. John Lauer; Mr. Stefan and Mrs. Erika Fedor, founders of the Washington Hungarian Heritage House; Mr. and Mrs. Blaise Pasztory; Mrs. Enikő Basa Molnár, Executive Director of the American Hungarian Educators Association and the Coalition interns’ guardian angel. Also in attendance were Coalition board members Zsolt Szekeres, Treasurer; Mrs. Anne Bader; Mr. László Böjtös, Honorary Consul of Cleveland and Mrs. Georgianna Böjtös; Mr. László Hámos, President of the US Section of the Diaspora Council and the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation; Mr. Leslie Megyeri; Mr. George Pogan, Coalition Secretary and Mrs. Sandy Pogan; Mr. Tibor Purger, the Coalition’s Head of Communications; Mr. Gabe Rozsa, Chairman of the Kossuth Foundation; and Mr. Julius Varallyay.
Many Embassy of Hungary staff were also in attendance: Ms. Krisztina Osvát, Counselor in charge of outreach to the Hungarian American community; Ms. Dorottya Mártonffy-Nagy, Commercial and Economic Attaché; Mr. Ferenc Kalmár, Third Secretary, Political-Military Affairs; Ms. Anita Demeter, Consul; Brigadier General Zsolt Sándor, Defense, Military and Air Attaché; and Mr. Péter Rada, Third Secretary, Congressional Liaison Officer.
In her welcoming remarks, Mrs. Lauer Rice emphasized that 2016 marks not only the Coalition’s 25th anniversary, but is also the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which shaped the lives, passion and contributions of so many Coalition founders. After presenting a capsule history of the Coalition in statistics, Mrs. Lauer Rice thanked everyone who has worked with and supported the Coalition in its efforts to strengthen the US-Hungary relationship.
Mrs. Lauer Rice reported on the latest developments of the Coalition’s Memory Project initiative, launched earlier this year by Mrs. Lauer Rice and Réka Pigniczky, Coalition member and award-winning documentary filmmaker. The Memory Project commemorates and celebrates the spirit of 1956 through video interviews with Hungarian-Americans who were witnesses and participants in the 1956 events. The Memory Project, with its latest work in the D.C. area, has just completed its 66th interview.
Following Mrs. Lauer Rice’s remarks, Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi highlighted the major achievements of the Coalition, including its role in Hungary’s NATO accession; the successful negotiation of the Visa Waiver Program; and its ongoing educational programs. The Coalition, Ambassador Szemerkényi said, “has been a major strategic asset for successive Ambassadors, that is, to have friends like you helping to advance Hungary’s national interests here in Washington. This has taken many forms over the years, but one thing has remained constant: we could always count on the support of the Coalition.”
Ambassador Szemerkényi praised Dr. János Martonyi, the Coalition’s honoree, as a true European and an Atlanticist whose leadership and policy decisions have always exuded a confident certainty of Hungary’s place in the world as a member of the democratic European family of nations in a strong alliance with the United States.
In his remarks following dinner, Coalition President Max Teleki introduced Dr. Martonyi, highlighting his commitment to Hungary’s accession to the European Union, NATO and other Western democratic institutions. A short video interview with Dr. Martonyi was shown (the video is available on the Coalition’s home page).
In accepting the award, Dr. Martonyi said that among the many recognitions he has received in his career as civil servant, this award was the most meaningful, because it comes from those who share his commitment to ensure that all Hungarians dispersed throughout the world are part of a free and sovereign Hungarian nation.