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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > July

Remarks with Hungarian Speaker of Parliament Katalin Szili at the Grand Cross Order of Merit Awards Ceremony

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Budapest, Hungary
July 27, 2004

SPEAKER SZILI: (in Hungarian) Distinguished Secretary of State, distinguished ministers, ambassadors, other guests—allow me to respectfully and warmly welcome you here in the building of the Hungarian Parliament. This greeting coming not only on my behalf, but indeed on the behalf of all of the Hungarian Parliament. And it is with the warmness of my heart that I’d like to express my gratitude to you, Secretary, for paying your first visit - your first trip here to Hungary to this house, Hungarian Parliament. This building, which is always and for long been a symbol of the representation of people and has for long in the past also been a symbol of Hungarian independence. This country, during the past centuries and indeed perhaps the last two centuries, has had to endure several fights for its freedom. I might mention 1848-49 or 1956. Both were indeed struggles of the Hungarian people for freedom and as a result of which many, many of our compatriots were forced to leave their country. And indeed during these periods of stress, the United States of America was always [accepting] and accommodative of these people, who had to leave the country either out of their own will, seeking freedom, or because they were forced to. And for this, Secretary, it is our respect that we need to pay always to the people of the United States of America. Fifteen years ago, however, the Hungarian people were able to take a new path, a path leading towards freedom and independence. And in this sense we also changed the political system and ultimately, now, belong to a Euro-Atlantic integration, which is basically going to bring a completely new era for the Hungarian people in the 21st Century. I have to admit to you, Secretary, that we have, with this, realized the Hungarian dream. We can start a new era in our lives.

I would like to express my gratitude personally to you, Secretary, for all that you have done in your person to help Hungary find herself in this integrational framework, which is based on the values of democracy, the value of freedom and the value we share for all humans. And we can say by now that we are not only partners in this for the United States of America, but, indeed, her ally. I would very much want to express to you that you should feel that this medal, this award, decoration, that you are getting is not something that you are getting from the Hungarian Parliament, or from the Republic of Hungary. This, indeed, comes from the Hungarian people. This, indeed, is a form of saying thank you, from the Hungarian people to the American people and to you, Secretary. And it gives me special pleasure to have been able to present this to you personally.

Mr. Secretary, Mr. Minister, ambassadors, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much and let me tell you again how happy I was to have had the occasion to do this ceremony.

Thank you so much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Madam Speaker, thank you very much for receiving me this morning and thank you for your gracious remarks. Madam Speaker, let me extend my thanks, to you to the President of the Republic, to the Parliament, to my colleague Foreign Minister Kovacs, but especially to the Hungarian people for this award. It is an award that I will treasure for the rest of my life. I know that it is an award that you have previously given to President George Herbert Walker Bush and to Elie Wiesel: two dear friends of mine, and I feel honored to join such distinguished company. And I accept this award recognizing that it demonstrates the strength of the relationship between the United States and Hungary, between Americans and Hungarians.

We’re more than friends, as you say, we are now partners--we are, above all, allies. We are both committed to the strongest trans-Atlantic link possible. And we recognize the role that the European Union now plays in trans-Atlantic relations and there is nothing in your relationship with the European Union that in any way conflicts with the strong relationship you have with the United States. Many people think these two concepts compete; they do not, they’re complimentary. But, as you know, that the friendship between our two countries does not rest on international organizations, it rests on the warmth that we feel toward Hungary and toward Hungarians. It rests on the fact that the United States has been a place where Hungarians in danger knew they could come and find a new home without ever losing their love of Hungary.

The great Hungarian who is known to all of us, Kossuth Lajos, came to our country in the 1850s and he spoke to us from the heart. He told us about democracy long before President Lincoln had captured it in beautiful words, and if you look at his words and President Lincoln’s words they’re so much alike. They were both committed to democracy. They were both committed to freedom, just as Hungarians and Americans are committed to those values then and now. In the 1950s to recognize the contribution that Kossuth Lajos had made to American democracy, the American Congress authorized a set of stamps in his honor, that recognize the freedom and democracy and his contribution to these values. As a small token of my appreciation for the honor that you have given to me today, Madam Speaker, I would like to present to you a set of these stamps in honor of this great Hungarian.

Thank you.

Released on July 27, 2004

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