On April 16, 2009, the Hungarian American Coalition hosted its fifth annual gala dinner at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in honor of John C. Whitehead, Former Deputy Secretary of State and former Co-Chairman of Goldman Sachs. The Coalition recognized Mr. Whitehead for his commitment to public service, diplomacy, and his contributions to Hungary’s quest for freedom during the October of 1956. General Colin L. Powell, Governor George Pataki, and Ambassador George H. Walker III co-chaired the gala.
A Virtual “Who’s Who” of Washington and New York were among the many distinguished guests attending the event, including Ambassador Arthur Hartman, former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Kurt Volker, Ambassador to NATO, H.E. Ambassador Ferenc Somogyi, Hungary’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ambassador Donald Blinken, Ambassador Richard Solomon, President of the US Institute of Peace, Dr. John Lipsky, First Managing Director at the IMF, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Mr. John Lauer, Chairman of Diebold Incorporated and Mrs. Edit Lauer, Chairman Emeritus of the Hungarian American Coalition. The guests also included Mrs. Annette Lantos, Ambassador Richard Swett and Dr. Katrina Swett, Chairman of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, The Honorable William Webster, former director of the CIA and FBI, Ambassador Istvan Gyarmati, President of the International Center for Democratic Transition, Dr. Lee Edwards, Chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Dr. August Molnar, President of the American Hungarian Foundation, the Honorable Mary Mochary, the Honorable Aniko Gaal Schott, and Ms. Ina Ginsburg.
Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice served as Master of Ceremonies. She welcomed the guests and expressed gratitude for their support for the Coalition and the Hungarian American community. After a festive dinner and musical performance by the Kalman Balogh Gypsy Cimbalom Band and the Tisza Folk Dance Ensemble, Mr. Maximilian N. Teleki, President of the Coalition, introduced the Coalition’s 2009 Honoree. He stated, “John Whitehead has served his country in both wartime and peacetime, as a soldier, diplomat, and from D-day to Ground Zero. To this very day he remains an example to us all. I have the privilege to call him both a friend and a colleague, and I’m now privileged, on behalf of the Coalition, to honor him for his generous and heroic deeds on behalf of the Freedom Fighters of 1956.” Mr. Whitehead accepted the award and shared his experiences in 1956 with both great detail and modesty, and said, “Hungary is my second favorite country in the world.”
A round of toasts from Ambassador George Walker, the Honorable Mary Mochary, Governor Pataki, Ferenc Somogyi Ambassador of Hungary, and Mrs. Edith Lauer followed Mr. Whitehead’s acceptance speech. Ambassador Walker said he knew of no one who embodies so many good traits including, “courage, integrity, leadership, and passion.” Governor Pataki described Mr. Whitehead’s crucial role in rebuilding New York after the events of September 11th, as the Chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, toasting him as “an extraordinary human being.” Mrs. Edith Lauer noted that Mr. Whitehead had, “demonstrated personal courage and true generosity by providing much need assistance to Hungarian Freedom Fighters. For those who question if one person can make a difference in the world, your example, John Whitehead, clearly says yes!”
Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice concluded the evening with further thanks for contributors to the gala, including major HAC supporters: The Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, Goldman Sachs, and the William Penn Association, represented by its Chairman, Mr. Stephen Varga, Diebold Incorporated, John and Edith K. Lauer. Lastly, she thanked the Coalition’s members and Board Members present, including Chairman Mr. Laszlo Bojtos, and President Maximilian N. Teleki.