AHF 2006 National Convention, Garfield, NJ
4/25/2006 - AHF shows unity and elects new leadership at National Meeting. The American Hungarian Federation held its National Convention at the Garfield Hungarian Club in New Jersey on April 22nd. Members from across the United States met to ensure unity and common purpose and successfully elected a new leadership to lead the organization in its Centennial Year.
2006 is an all-important year for AHF as it prepares numerous events for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. 2006 is also important as it marks the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1906 (AHF was incorporated in 1907). After the President Istvan Fedor's and Chairman Akos Nagy's overviews, various committees presented their reports. One of the first orders of business was the acceptance of new members and the establishment of Texas, Virginia, and Tennessee Chapters.
Sandor Murray, AHF Treasurer, presented the financial report showing that AHF has made significant strides in both membership and financial strength. He noted that numerous new members joined at the Michael Kovats level ($1956.00). He mentioned that Laszlo Papp is willing to match such a donation if two others also donate $1956.00. One such donation happened just last week with the generosity of Bobbie Kalman (author and owner of Crabtree Books). The New York 1956 Commemoration Committee has also made significant strides in fundraising, already raising much of the funds needed for the Carnegie Hall celebrations on Oct. 15, 2006 featuring the Yale Orchestra and selections from the Bánk Bán.
Atilla Kocsis, Director of the National Office located two blocks from the White House in the National Press Building, gave an update on office affairs. He reported that public inquiries have increased significantly and described AHF's new Voice over IP (VoIP) telephone and voicemail messaging system. Atilla also mentioned that while AHF had its first National Office intern, Soma Jobbagy, who has helped greatly, additional help is needed to meet our rapid growth.
Bryan Dawson-Szilagyi, head of the Communications Committee, gave participants a glimpse into the multi-faceted approach AHF is taking on outreach and information dissemination. He detailed the success of AHF's Websites and communication tools. His overview included:
"AHF has seen tremendous success over the past few years largely due to its focus on common ground," Dawson-Szilagyi said. "We can no longer do business the way we used to do business. We must communicate effectively, reach out to a new generation of leaders, maximize our potential through technology, and choose issues that unite rather than divide. We must be an inclusive organization not divided on political affiliations or language preferences, but one that is focused on common gorund issues," he added.
Dr. Paul Szilagyi, chair of the AHF 1956 Committee, and former chair of the Executive Committee, gave a report on the numerous activities currently planned for the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. Activities the American Hungarian Federation is undertaking include:
Dr. Szilagyi also mentioned the 1956 mini-documentary produced by AHF's Zsuzsa Kiss Toth and noted that all that join or donate at the $195.60 level, receive a complimentary copy. He then mentioned the successful Congressional Reception honoring 1956 last October and called attention to the 1956 Booklet by AHF's Csaba Teglas which was handed out to all participants and is intended for wide distribution. Les Megyeri, AHF controller (and Treasurer of the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America - HRFA), added that the May 29th Arlington Cemetery event is of particular importance since he was involved with the Hungarian Freedom Fighters Federation in bringing the remains of Civil War hero and former Kossuth hussar Alexander Asboth, Commander of the 2nd Division, Army of Southwest, to Arlington National where he was re-interred on October 23, 1990, the 34th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Asboth was acknowledged as a brilliant leader. After his wounding fighting confederate forces ended his career in 1864 he was appointed as ambassador to Argentina and Uruguay where he died. He was buried in 1868 at the old English cemetery in Buenos Aires. Bryan Dawson-Szilagyi referred participants to his "Hungary Page" and the section on "Nobel Prize Winners and Famous Hungarians" that features Asboth and hundreds of other influential Hungarians.
Dr. Szilagyi also reported on the Hungarian-American Scholarship fund which AHF has supported over the past 3 years.
"In 2002, I was tasked to re-organize and rejuvenate an ailing organization," Dr. Szilagyi said. "Through a lot of personal sacrifice from many of us here today, we have come a long way since that meeting in Sarasota. We are no longer the same AHF. We have grown to almost 250 dues-paying members and we must continue to grow. The 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution gives us a unique opportunity to unite our community under this historic umbrella. Can we gain 1000 members by October?"
The 1000 members challenge led to sharp discussion on the role of individual members in AHF. Dr. Szilagyi made a strong argument in favor individual membership given the declining strength of many local Hungarian American organizations many of whom need to focus on their own survival. "AHF's recent history shows us that individual members have contributed more to the organization than many organizations," Dr. Szilagyi added. "The individuals that paid their dues and worked hard to get us where we are today deserve a vote as does any other dues-paying member." While most agreed, others argued that AHF, by definition as a "Federation," should not accept individuals, but rather encourage those individuals to form chapters or join AHF through local organizations. The by-laws subcommittee will tackle the issue as it too moves toward modernizing the now 100-year-old by-laws.
Frank Koszorus, Jr., head of the Public Affairs Committee, gave an overview of past actions and future strategies, calling attention to important issues from Visa waivers for Hungarians to increasing our influence at the grassroots level. Actions from 2005 and early 2006 included:
With committee reports complete, members moved on to the important business of electing AHF's new leadership. The goal of the meeting was unity and the leadership slate reflected that unity. While Stefan Fedor and Akos Nagy were re-elected in their capacities as National President and Chairman of the Board, there were significant changes to AHF's leadership. AHF congratulates the new leadership and looks forward to another successful year under their management:
National President: Stefan (István) Fedor
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Do you need a Website to help you get the word out on your 1956 plans?
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)