Honoring Congressman Tom Lantos
6/12/2008 - Tom Lantos, who died in February of esophageal cancer, was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. A native of Budapest, Tom Lantos was recognized for his work on human rights. During his 27 years in the House, he co-founded and led the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and used his longtime perch on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which he chaired starting in 2007, to put pressure on repressive regimes worldwide. He supported many AHF efforts, including the successful human rights campaign to open the border of the divided city of Szelmenc, NATO accession, Hungarian minorities and the Benes Decrees, and church property restitution in Romania. Seen here at the AHF 2005 Congressional Reception, in honor of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution where he was a recipient of AHF's highest award, the Col. Commandant Michael Kovats Medal of Freedom.
In bestowing the award, President Bush said, "Tom Lantos was a champion of human rights and a man of character and conviction. An American by choice and the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the Congress, he worked to empower oppressed people around the world in their struggle to secure liberty. He served as a powerful witness for the importance of freedom and reminded us that we must never turn a blind eye to inhumanity. The United States honors Tom Lantos for his committed leadership and his lifetime of service to our Nation and the world."
Mr. Lantos' childhood sweetheart and wife of nearly six decades, Annette, his two daughters and two of his 17 grandchildren also spoke.
The native form of this personal name is Lantos Tamás Péter. He was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Thomas Peter Lantos represented the northern two-thirds of San Mateo County and a small portion of southwest San Francisco. Lantos had announced in early January 2008 that he would not run for reelection because of cancer of the esophagus, but died before finishing his term. Lantos was the only Holocaust survivor to have served in the US Congress.
Upon immigrating to the United States, he attended the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley, receiving his Ph.D in 1953.
Tom Lantos stood up for the rights of Hungarian minorities as a member of the US House of Representatives. Most reecntly, in a 2007 letter he asked Robert Fico, the Prime Minister of Slovakia to distance themselves from the Benes Decrees and to treat members of the Hungarian minority as equal. He indirectly blamed the Slovak government for ethnically motivated attacks on Hungarians because the country's governing coalition included ultra-nationalist parties.
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