US State Department Commemorates the 1956 Hungarian Revolution
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hosts reception in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. American Hungarian Federation issues statement (see right column). Numerous distinguished guests attended the solemn event. Hungarian Ambassador Andras Simonyi, Congressman Tom Lantos, US Archivist Dr. Alan Weinstein, and religious leaders Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, and Reverend G. Wilson Gunn (General Presbyter, National Capital Presbytery) all addressed the gathering. Guests included the ambassadors from Germany, Slovakia, Iraq and Afghanistan, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky and other U.S. officials. American Hungarians, some of whom participated in the 1956 Revolution, were honored by Under Secretary for Political Affairs, R. Nicholas Burns, when he asked them to stand to be recognized. Secretary Rice opened her speech saying, "We are here today to commemorate the Hungarian people's journey toward freedom, a journey tested by great suffering and by great tragedy, but a journey that could not be deterred from its ultimate triumph."
The American Hungarian Federation was represented by over 15 of its members. The Federation honors the true heroes of the 1956 Revolution -- those who were unwilling to compromise and who, against overwhelming odds and standing alone, made tremendous sacrifices for the cause of freedom, democracy and independence. Their dream ultimately prevailed. Hungarians and all freedom-loving people owe them a debt of gratitude and we dedicate our planned events to these champions of liberty. The Federation also recalls the suffering of the Hungarian minorities following the crushing of the Revolution and urged that a fitting commemoration of 1956 would be concrete steps to respect the rights of the minorities, such as the restoration by the Romanian government of the Bolyai University that was virtually liquidated in 1959. The Federation issued a statement (see right column) calling for concrete action to right the wrongs of 1956 that still haunt us today.
The US State Department's Benjamin Franklin Room provided a beautiful setting to honor the 1956 Revolution and its Freedom Fighters. In addition to photo displays and a buffet that included Hungarian Pogacsa (mini layered biscuits), AHF's mini-documentary on the revolution was shown. Imre Toth (seen here) and his wife Zsusza produced the film using old archival footage and digitally enhanced it into a remarkably clear DVD. Those that donate 195.60 to AHF's 1956 Fund receive a copy of the film in gratitude for their support.
Secretary Rice opened her speech saying, "For 12 days in 1956, the Hungarian people caught a fleeting glimpse of their independence. Armed with little more than a love of liberty, the impatient patriots of Hungary rose up against the mighty Soviet empire." Her full speech follows.
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Welcome to the Department of State. We are here today to commemorate the Hungarian people's journey toward freedom, a journey tested by great suffering and by great tragedy, but a journey that could not be deterred from its ultimate triumph.
I am so grateful to be joined here by Ambassador Simonyi, by my great friend, Congressman Tom Lantos. I see many friends here, of course, members of the Diplomatic Corps. I see also the former Secretary of Defense, Bill Cohen, also a former senator from Maine. Thank you for joining us.
There are many, many friends here because we all want to celebrate the triumph that the Hungarian people ultimately had, but also to remember the tragedy that was endured. I'd like to recognize and welcome the religious leaders who are here, His Eminence Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington; Rabbi Arthur Schneier, the president of the Appeal for Conscience Foundation; and the Reverend G. Wilson Gunn, the General Presbyter of the National Capital Presbytery. And you may know that I'm also a Presbyterian. Thank you for being here.
I'm especially honored that with us this afternoon are also many proud Hungarians who witnessed and shaped the events of 1956. You imagined a free and democratic Hungary. You sacrificed and you've suffered for it. And I think that we owe, to each and every one of you, a round of applause and gratitude.
For 12 days in 1956, the Hungarian people caught a fleeting glimpse of their independence. Armed with little more than a love of liberty, the impatient patriots of Hungary rose up against the mighty Soviet empire. They stormed the jails and they freed political prisoners. They took back their country's radio waves and broadcast the censored sounds of Mozart and Beethoven. And they imagined a new future for Hungary, where they and their fellow citizens would determine their own future in freedom without facing foreign oppression or fearing the midnight knock of the secret police.
For 12 days, there was hope, but then came the response and it was terrible and ferocious. Soviet troops and tanks rumbled into Hungary, killing tens of thousands of people and condemning thousands of others to Siberian gulags.
A desperate exodus began. Two hundred thousand Hungarians, men, women and children, fled the land of their birth and sought shelter in the West. The United States opened its doors to the driven sons and daughters of Hungary. In time, these immigrants put down new roots and they started new businesses and they added to the diverse and wonderful character of America.
1956 was a year of unspeakable tragedy for the Hungarian people, but 50 years later, from the vantage point of history, we see that 1956 was also the beginning of something greater, something far more promising. In the Hungarian Revolution, the world saw that hope was alive behind the Iron Curtain. In 12 days of freedom, impatient patriots throughout Eastern Europe drew inspiration for their own struggles and in the stories of oppression that Hungarian refugees told, free nations learned the true character of the Soviet regime and their will to resist it grew stronger.
The hope for independence was never extinguished in the Hungarian people. They resisted Soviet imperialism to the very end and they were the first in their region to make the transition to democracy. Immediately, Hungary's free government began realizing the goals that all Hungarians had longed for during the dark days of communism: liberty and human rights, the rule of law and equal justice, free enterprise and growing wealth.
Today, the nation of Hungary is a model for all the world of the security and the prosperity and the success that come with freedom and democracy. From its earliest years, a young, democratic Hungary also worked for the freedom of others. In 1989, as the Soviet Union tottered beneath the weight of its own contradictions, East German citizens fled their country in large numbers and sought sanctuary in Hungary.
Though the Warsaw Pact required the return of all refugees, the citizens of Hungary refused to be Erich Honecker's border guards. They spurned imperial commands and sheltered East Germans fleeing persecution. Through their actions, the Hungarian people added to the great momentum of freedom that finally swept away the Berlin Wall and helped reunite the German people and ultimately, transformed Europe into a continent, whole, free and at peace.
Hungary's support for the freedom of others now stretches throughout the world, from the Balkans to Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond. In Budapest, the Hungarian Government has created the International Center for Democratic Transitions, which pools the knowledge and experience of democratic nations to help countries across the world navigate their own transitions to democracy. These lessons are accelerating the march of freedom in our time, yet the lessons of Hungary's history also point toward timeless principles that transcend the challenges of today.
In Hungary's journey toward freedom, we see that justice can be delayed, but it cannot be denied. In Hungary's experience of freedom, we see that liberty unlocks the God-given potential of all people to rise as high as their talents will take them. And in the actions of the Hungarian democracy, we see that liberty, once achieved, is not a scarce resource to be hoarded, saved selfishly. It is the universal right of all humanity summoning all free peoples to service and sacrifice on behalf of those still denied that liberty.
The United States values our Hungarian partners and we still have much work to do together. So, let us rededicate ourselves today to a common mission of ensuring freedom at home and defending freedom abroad. The memories of the fallen, the memories of the heroes, the memories of history demand no less of us.
Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF THE
AMERICAN HUNGARIAN FEDERATION Following the Commemoration of the 50th
Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution at the US Department of State
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www.hungary1956.com The American Hungarian Federation is sponsoring the Hungary 1956 Portal as part of its goals to coordinate and assist member organizations across the country as it continues plans for kicking off a year of events leading up to October 2006. The 1956 Portal will serve as a central information resource on 1956 as our community prepares for this important milestone. Includes many photos as well as Audio and Video files!
Note: You will need the free RealAudio Player to see these videos. Click [here] to download.
Days of Freedom in Budapest" - "Budapest is in revolt. With
uncontrolled fury, crowds set fire to Russian flags... The impossible
has happened. A handful of heroes has shaken the communist world to its
foundations." (5.2 Mb)