|2013 Commemoration of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution and War of Liberation|
3/09/2013 - AHF commemorates Hungarian National Day and the 1848 War of Independence. The annual commemoration emphasized the relevance of Kossuth and the historic fight for democracy to today, Hungary's revered history of standing up for freedom and liberty against great odds, and the serious human and minority rights challenges facing ethnic-Hungarian communities throughout the Carpathian basin.
The 1848 Hungarian Revolution, under its leader Louis Kossuth sought to throw off the Austrian Yoke. It failed after Russian intervention, but its impact on the United States and Central and Eastern Europe is felt even today. The annual commemoration of 1848, organized by the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the American Hungarian Federation was held this year on March 9th at the American University Wesley Theological Seminary Chapel.
Each year, speakers focus on the significance of the 1848 revolution and how its ideals and goals relate to today's Hungary, including the political and human rights situation in Central and Eastern Europe and relations with the United States. Zoltán Bagdy, AHF Co-President and Chair of its Cultural Affairs Committee, welcomed guests and served as Master of Ceremonies. Bryan Dawson, AHF Executive Chairman, and his daughter, Xitlalli sang the national anthems of the United States and Hungary. The Rev. Miklós Peleskey delivered the benediction followed by welcoming remarks by András Szörényi, Poltical Officer from the Hungarian Embassy.
In his Welcome Address, Mr. Szörényi reflected on the transformational events of 1848 and its impact on the United States and positive relations between the two countries. He recalled Louis Kossuth's impact on Abraham Lincoln and the famed Gettysburg Address when Kossuth, in 1852, a decade prior to Lincoln's speech, spoke these words before the Ohio State Legislature: "All for the people and all by the people. Nothing about the people without the people. That is Democracy, and that is the ruling tendency of the spirit of our age."
AHF President Frank Koszorus, Jr., delivered his annual "Reflections" address entitled, "Is Kossuth Relevant Today?" He described the impact of Kossuth and the ideals of the 1848 Revolution on the affect on the relationship between Hungary and the United States, the need to protect Hungary's international reputation, the extreme negative affects on that reputation when poltical motivations outweigh honest debate, and the currrent situation of discrimination and persecution facing ethnic-Hungarian communities. He commented:
"We still have unresolved issues to address, as liberal democracy has yet to grow strong roots everywhere in Central and Eastern Europe. Indeed, intolerance toward religious and national minorities shamefully and surprisingly still flourishes in some places.
One need only consider the Szekely flag dispute, the denial of the Hungarians’ request for autonomy, or the alarming proposals to redistrict – that is eliminate the Hungarian administrative units – of the Szekely region in Romania; or the violence against Hungarians for speaking in their mother tongue in Serbia; or the discriminatory language and citizenship laws in Slovakia; or rising anti-Semitism; and I could go on.
And this is where Kossuth’s championing liberty and democracy comes into play. We can, we must follow his example; we can, we must educate the public in our communities about these critically important matters. We can, we must educate to dispel faulty information about Hungary and Hungarian history; we can, we must vigorously support policies that will promote liberal democracy, civil societies and minority rights. Kossuth and Hungary of 1848-49 are indeed relevant today!" [download Frank's speech]
Gyula Varallyay, board member of the Hungarian American Coalition, delivered the 2013 Keynote Address. Dr. Varallyay reflected on the impact of 1848 in a fascinating historical context, commenting on how the ideals of Louis Kossuth and 1848 would be reflected laws and in future Hungarian struggles for freedom, even today. During the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, for example, the Kossuth Coat of Arms quickly became the symbol of that historic fight. But importantly, as with the 12 points in 1848, Hungarian student revolutionaries in 1956 unveiled their own, very similar series of demands known as the 16 points, which, among other things, called for March 15th to be a National Holiday and demanded that "the statue of Stalin, symbol of Stalinist tyranny and political oppression, be removed as quickly as possible and be replaced by a monument in memory of the martyred freedom fighters of 1848-49." He went on reflect on the lessons we should learn from 1848:
[download Gyula's speech (English and Hungarian)].
Members of the the The 4th Bátori József Hungarian Scouts Troop of Washington, DC were again a special part of the program including Hargitai Anna who recited Petőfi Sándor's Nemzeti Dal (her brother, Adam, delivered it in 2012). Isabelle Boone preformed a piano solo of Béla Bartók folksong arrangements, "Népdal feldolgozások" and her brothers, Alexander and William, recited Petőfi Sándor's "Csatadal" and Weöres Sándor's "Megy az úton a katona" respectively.
The audience sang patriotic Kosuth Dalok (Kossuth Songs). The Rev. Judit Mayer of the Hungarian Reformed Church of Washington, D.C., provided closing remarks and prayer - Bryan Dawson.
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"The house of Habsburg-Lorraine, perjured in the sight of
God and man, had forfeited the Hungarian throne."
"All for the people and all by the people. Nothing about
the people without the people. That is Democracy, and that is the ruling
tendency of the spirit of our age."
Kossuth Lajos (b. 1802, d. 1894, pronounced co-shoot luh-yôsh) was Governor of Hungary during fight for independence and democracy which was eventually defeated by the union of the royalist Austrian Habsburg and Russian Czarist Armies (1848 - 1849). Kossuth envisioned a federation in the Kingdom of Hungary in which all nationalties participated in a vibrant democratic system based on fundamental democratic principles such as equality and parliamentary representation. The bloody conflict eventually led to a great compromise known as the "Austro-Hungarian Empire," in which Hungary gained some autonomy. although Kossuth would have no part in it and demanded full indepependence until his death.
The speech from which the above excerpt is taken was given over a decade before Lincoln's famed "for the people, by the people" speech given at Gettysburg in 1863. Kossuth was the first foreign Statesman officially invited to the US since the Marquis de Lafayette. His upcoming speech in the Congress of the United States made the pre-civil war joint house nervous due to his democratic views on equality of all men. Kossuth learned English while in prison and exile and spoke to half the population of the US who enthusiastically greeted and flocked to hear him. Despite Hungary's epic struggle and Kossuth's brave and noble efforts, the US, the "Bastion of Democracy" turned him away, empty handed. Hungary was alone again in its fight for democracy in 1956, and didn't gain freedom until 1989 and would soon join NATO.
Today, there are many reminders of Kossuth's impact on America and the world. In North America, there is a Kossuth County in the state of Iowa, a town with his name in Indiana, Ohio and Mississippi, a settlement with a Kossuth Post Office is in Pennsylvania. In addition, there are Kossuth statues and plaques in New York, Cleveland, Akron, New Orleans, Washington, and Ontario, Canada. The Hungarian Reformed Federation's building on Dupont Circle, in Washington, DC is called Kossuth House with a memorial plaque commemorating his speech on democracy. See the picture gallery and memorials on Louis Kossuth in North America.
The renowned Ralph Waldo Emerson said in greeting Kossuth on his arrival at Concord, MA, May 11, 1852:
"[we] have been hungry to see the man whose extraordinary eloquence is seconded by the splendor and the solidity of his actions."
Kossuth was greeted with wild enthusiasm across the country. He was only the second foreign leader (second to Lafayette) to address a joint session of Congress. The American Hungarian Federation dedicated a bust that now sits proudly in the US Capitol - it reads, "Louis Kossuth, Father of Hungarian Democracy" [read more]
Louis Kossuth Speak! [Click Here] - This is the speech of Louis Kossuth which he gave for the dedication of the statue for the 13 Hungarian generals, who were executed at Arad, Hungary, on October 6, 1849 (Arad is in Rumania today after annexation due to the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 ).
Louis Kossuth was exiled after the fall of the Hungarian Liberation Fight of 1848 and made his permanent home in Torino (Turin), Italy. He could not attend the dedication of the monument at Arad, without risking arrest, so he recorded his speech inTurin, and sent it to Arad using the new technology of sound recording, called the phonograph.
The original recording on two wax cylinders for the Edison phonograph survives to this day, although barely audible due to excess playback and unsuccessful early restoration attempts. Lajos Kossuth is the earliest born person in the world who has his voice preserved. Since the audio is of such poor quality, here is it is transcribed in Hungarian and translated to English (special thanks to Louis Kossuth in North America)