30th Annual Mikulás Dinner Honors Coalition President
Washington, DC – On December 4, 2021, the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) held its Annual General and Board Meetings at the Kossuth House in Washington DC.
The previous evening, about 90 Coalition members and guests attended the 30th annual Mikulás Dinner hosted by Ambassador Szabolcs Takács at the Embassy of Hungary.
The event began with Master of Ceremonies Dr. Endre Szentkirályi greeting the hosts, Ambassador Szabolcs Takács and Ms. Emese Gaál; the evening’s keynote speaker, Hon. Zsolt Németh, Chairman of the Hungarian Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs; Ambassador April H. Foley, former Ambassador of the United States to Hungary and Chairman of the Board of The Hungary Foundation; Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, President and CEO of the Victims of Communist Memorial Foundation; Ambassador Kurt Volker, Distinguished Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and his wife Ms. Ia Meurmishvili; Mrs. Susan Hutchison, Former Executive Director of the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for the Arts and Sciences and Lt. Col. Ret. Andy Hutchison; Mrs. Anikó Gaál-Schott and Mr. Nash Whitney Schott; community philanthropist; Dr. Katalin Kádár Lynn, Coalition 2020 Gala Honoree; Mrs. Anna Smith Lacey, Executive Director of the Hungary Foundation; Mr. Zsolt Csenger-Zalán, Representative of the Hungarian National Assembly; Ms. Csilla Grauzer, Chairman of the Board of the Coalition; Coalition President Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice and Mr. Barton Rice; Chair Emerita Edith K. Lauer; Coalition Board members and guests. Our guests also included delegations from ReConnect Hungary, including the Hungarian Treasures contest winners and young leaders from the 6th RETURN US Alumni New York and Washington DC Trip organized by Civic Enterprises.
Dr. Szentkirályi called for a moment of silence in memory of László Bőjtös, former Coalition Chairman and Board member, who passed away earlier this year. Next, guests enjoyed a video collage of the Coalition’s accomplishments over the past 30 years.
Ambassador Takács welcomed the guests, recognizing old and new friends and their role in building bridges between Hungary and the United States. He expressed gratitude to the Coalition and their member organizations for reaching out to young Hungarian Americans through programs like the John N. Lauer Leadership Training Program, the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation ReConnect Hungary Program, and the Hungarian Scout Association in Exteris.
After dinner, Mrs. Lauer Rice delivered her remarks. She reflected on some of the Coalition’s most important accomplishments over three decades. By the numbers: 38,000 members; 550 scholarship and internship program alumni, including 99 interns of the John N. Lauer Leadership Training Program; 40 conferences; 10 Hungarian Americans Together (HATOG) Conferences; and more than 600 completed projects.
She highlighted the Coalition’s most recent project, a Freedom Fighter statue in Georgia to honor the heroes of the 1956 Hungarian revolution on its 65th anniversary. The statue is in progress and will be installed in its permanent location next year.
Ambassador Kurt Volker spoke next, reminiscing about his experiences as a diplomat in Budapest in the 1990s and providing insight into current challenges in Hungarian American relations.
The evening’s keynote speaker was Hon. Zsolt Németh, Chairman of the Hungarian Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. Mr. Németh reflected on three current milestones in the Hungarian-American relationship: the 100th anniversary of US-Hungary diplomatic relations, the 65th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution, and the 30th anniversary of the Hungarian American Coalition.
The Honorable Zsolt Németh delivers keynote remarks at the Coalition’s 30th Annual Mikulás Dinner at the Embassy of Hungary (Washington DC) on December 3, 2021
After Hon. Németh’s remarks, Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice was awarded with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary (Magyar Köztársasági Érdemrend tisztikeresztje) by Ambassador Szabolcs Takács and the Hon. Zsolt Németh on behalf of János Áder, President of Hungary.
The laudation was read by Ms. Zita Mirk, Hungarian Diaspora Liaison Diplomat of the Embassy of Hungary. Mrs. Lauer Rice responded: “Thank you so much for this incredible honor. Thank you to all the wonderful people in this room – so many of you have inspired, mentored, collaborated with, funded, supported, gently nudged, and worked alongside the Coalition and me. I share this recognition with you”
The dinner concluded with Hungarian Christmas caroling led by Ms. Noémi Bánhidi, Program Coordinator of the Coalition, and a toast from Mrs. Susan Hutchison.
Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice with the evening’s keynote speaker the Hon. Zsolt Németh after receiving the Officers Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary
At the Annual Meeting held on Saturday, December 4, Chairman of the Coalition Csilla Grauzer presented her report of the Coalition’s accomplishments during her tenure as well as in the past 30 years. Next, Coalition President Andrea Lauer Rice presented the organization’s 2021 projects and activities. The Annual Meeting voted to renew the terms of the following individual Board members: Mr. Géza Kádár, Jr.; Dr. Péter Kovalszki; Mrs. Edith K. Lauer; Mrs. Andrea Lauer Rice; Mr. Zsolt Szekeres and Mr. Julius Várallyay.
Mrs. Gabriella Vajtay, program manager for Reconnect Hungary, reported on the current state and plans for the program, highlighting the first “Hungarian Treasures” Artisan Competition and Exhibition. She announced that the next Reconnect Program will take place July 28-August 12, 2022. Applications for next year’s program are open until February 28, 2022. Mr. Imre Lendvai-Lintner presented an update on the Hungarian Scouts Association in Exteris, and Mr. Ferenc Sullivan introduced the activities of the Rákóczi Association.
In the afternoon, the Board renewed the three-year terms of the following organizational Board members: Apostolate to Hungarians; American Hungarian Foundation; Calvin Synod of the United Church of Christ; Hungarian Communion of Friends; Hungarian Human Rights Foundation; Hungarian Scouts Association in Exteris; and the Kossuth Foundation.
Dr. Endre Szentkirályi became the Chairman of the Board for 2022.
The Board meeting concluded with Andrea Lauer Rice expressing her gratitude to all Coalition leaders, members and supporters.