An estimated 800 people, most notably guest of honor Viktor Orbán and his wife Anikó Lévai, and Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip T. Reeker, attended the annual U.S. Embassy event marking the Independence Day holiday this year, though it took a different form from the usual garden party.
Instead, the invitation-only party was staged at Budapest Congress Center on July 9, with the formalities of Marine honor guards and flags, speeches and anthems followed by an exclusive concert by American-Canadian legend Paul Anka, a longtime friend of Ambassador David B. Cornstein and his wife, Sheila. In his speech, Cornstein thanked “everybody in this country” for making his wife and him “feel so comfortable. The love and warmth you have showed us will stay with us for all our lives.”
Noting that the two countries had made “tremendous progress” in their bilateral relationship, he welcomed to the stage “my partner, and my friend, Viktor Orbán”.
The Prime Minister said that in the 243 years since America gained independence, the two countries had experienced both highs and lows.
“The relationship is always determined by whether there is an overlap between the values promoted by the Unites States, and those protected by Hungary.” He believed that was certainly the case now.
The PM said the two countries respect each other’s patriotic positions and believe that “guaranteeing the security of our citizens’ is an obligation of the state”.
Hungary has a vested interest in peace and stability in the region, and the best way to achieve this is through its membership of NATO, “the world’s most successful military alliance”, he said.
“May God bless America, and may God save Hungary,” Orbán concluded to applause.
Backed by a 12-piece band, Anka rolled out many of his hits in a performance that saw him working the floor almost as much as the stage and by the end he had guests up on their feet and dancing in the isles.
Highlights included a fresh arrangement of Cole Porter’s “I’ve got you Under my Skin” to mark the Cornstein’s wedding anniversary this month, and new Hungary-inspired lyrics to “My Way”, which he gifted to the Prime Minister. (Anka was just 25 when he wrote the original English lyrics for Frank Sinatra and put them to the French song “Comme d’habitude”, the melodic structure of which he also changed.)