An estimated 1,200 guests enjoyed the U.S. Embassy’s traditional Independence Day celebrations, held at the otherwise empty Ambassador’s Residence in the leafy outskirts of Buda’s District II one day early on July 3.
Official Hungarian state guests included Constitutional Court President Tamás Sulyok, Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt, Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér, and Deputy Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade László Szabó (Hungary’s ambassador designate to the Unites States). They heard Eric Watnik, Counselor for Public Affairs, jokingly refer to the event as “the 241st anniversary of the original Brexit” before he handed over to Chargé d’Affaires David J. Kostelancik.
“We have a robust, broad, and deep relationship with Hungary that stretches back to the very earliest days of our Republic, when Hungarian officers were instrumental in building up and training the Continental Army of former shopkeepers and farmers,” he said. Kostelancik noted that, through the years, thousands of Hungarians migrants had found a new home in the United States.
“Hungarian-Americans are a quintessential part of the fabric of our society and the story of America. Like every immigrant group that arrived in America [...] they have enriched our society and have made America what it is today.”
The Chargé d’Affaires said U.S. citizens have roots from all around the globe, himself included. “My own family immigrated to Chicago from Slovakia, and I was raised in a community steeped in Central European tradition, culture, and language, but I am also 100% American. I am proud not only of my heritage, but of the fact that, like many officers in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, we are American children of immigrants who reflect the opportunity and equality that the United States represents.”
He thanked in particular guests from the Hungarian Defense Forces “for your incredible devotion to your country, to NATO, and to our collective security”, noting that Hungary has hosted thousands of U.S. troops for multinational exercises “including the many exercises going on this month across the country and the Black Sea region”.
Pointedly, given Hungary’s controversial NGO laws that some fear are targeted at undermining critical voices (though the government insists the real aim is to increase transparency by making it clear where funding is coming from), Kostelancik also thanked “the many guests I see here from NGOs and civil society organizations that have inspired us in a wide range of fields, from combatting human trafficking, to organizing the Pride March this coming weekend, to enhancing transparency in governance, and improving access to services for disadvantaged populations.”
He told them: “Your organizations are a vital pillar in every free society and the work you do here is a testament to your love of your country, your commitment to justice, and your compassion for your fellow citizens. We thank you for your commitment to the future of this country, even in the face of difficult challenges, some enduring, some new.”
In response, Ambassador-in-waiting Szabó also recalled those early Hungarian-American relations, typified by Hungarian nobleman Mihály Kováts, “regarded as the founder of the U.S. cavalry” who had fought and died with the Continental Army. There are now (according to the 2010 census figures) 1.4 million Americans who identify as being of Hungarian decent. The two countries remain linked, Szabó said, and Hungary clearly understood President Donald Trump’s stated desire to “Put America First”, as the government here too followed a “Hungary First” policy for its people and the Hungarian diaspora.