Fourth Friends of Hungary Conference with more participants than before

It is the fourth time that representatives of the Hungarians living abroad held their meeting in Budapest

On  Friday, President of the Republic of Hungary János Áder hosted members of the Friends of Hungary Foundation with First Lady Anita Herczegh at the presidential palace in Budapest. 

During his welcome speech at the Sándor Palace, János Áder thanked the guests for their loyal friendship, and for raising interest in Hungary while boosting its reputation. “A country is more than just an area that can be identified on a map,” Áder said in his address to the Foundation’s members. “It has a spiritual aura that can impact our economic, cultural and political lives.”

“You believe in the destiny-shaping power of direct experiences, excellent performances and personal aura, and you know that mutual respect is the key to trust in cooperation in work and sober understanding in disputes. And the more respect we can give one another, the greater its strength,” President Áder said.

E. Sylvester Vizi, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Hungary Foundation, followed President Áder in addressing the audience assembled in the Sándor Palace’s Hall of Mirrors.

The former chairman of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences spoke about the fact that conference attendees had arrived from all over the world, on their own dime, in order to show their friendships, and to show their love for Hungary and Hungarian culture. Dr. Vizi also emphasized the fact that, for the first time, in addition to visitors and Foundation members with Hungarian roots, the Friends of Hungary have the opportunity to welcome those who have simply fallen in love with Hungary and its culture.

On Saturday, at Budapest’s Vigadó Concert Hall, the Friends of Hungary Foundation presented awards to two individuals and one organization at the Foundation’s 4th annual conference, which was held this past weekend.

Saturday’s ceremony came on the heels of Friday’s visit to the Sándor Palace, the official residence of the President of the Republic of Hungary, where President Áder greeted conference goers. Attendees, arriving from all over the world, paid for their own airfare and accommodations.

Saturday’s award ceremony began with a speech by Hungary’s Minister of National Economy Mihály Varga. In his talk, Varga discussed current political and economic conditions in Hungary, while praising the work and efforts of the members of the Friends of Hungary Foundation.

Minister Varga was then joined on stage by Dr. E Sylvester Vizi, the Chairman of the Board of the Friend of Hungary Foundation. Dr. Vizi then presented the awards, which were created by sculptor István Madarassy.

The first recipient of the Friend of Hungary Award was Reinhard Olt, a German journalist who, in his decades at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany’s largest newspaper), provided in-depth and critical coverage of Hungary, and who currently teaches at Budapest’s Eötvös Lóránd University. Mr. Olt, who himself does not speak Hungarian, nevertheless delivered an extremely graceful speech in Hungarian thanking the foundation and its members.

Mr. Olt was followed by Béla Lipták, the leader of the Magyar Lobbi (Hungarian Lobby), an organization that. As Béla Lipták was in India at the time of this year’s conference, his younger brother András Lipták delivered a speech on his behalf. In his talk, Lipták reminisced on some of the most important moments of his life over the past 60 years, and discussed the important work that his organization, the Hungarian Lobby, has been involved in.

The final recipient of the Friend of Hungary Award was not an individual, but rather an organization: the American Hungarian Federation (AHF). The AHF is a “national, non-partisan, all-volunteer, independent, non-profit, charitable and educational 501(C)(3) organization representing the interests of its members and a broad cross section of the Hungarian-American community.” There to accept the award was Gyula Elemér Balogh, President of the AHF, former president and Chairman of the Board of Directors Ferenc Koszorús, Jr, and several other AHF leaders. In his acceptance speech, Balogh noted the long, distinguished history of the American Hungarian Federation, and expressed his hope in ongoing cooperation with the Friends of Hungary Foundation.

The presentation of awards was followed by a Gala dinner and concert. The concert, titled “Let Music Belong to Everyone!”, was an homage to famed composer and ethnomusicologist Zoltán Kodály in honor of the 135th anniversary of his birth, and the 50th anniversary of his passing. The concert was arranged by Róbert Velkey in consultation with Kodály’s widow, Sarolta Péczely, who was also in attendance.


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