George Bush photo

Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Prime Minister Jozsef Antall of Hungary

October 18, 1990

The President. Mr. Prime Minister, it's a tremendous pleasure to welcome you and your wife, Klara, to the White House today.

Seven years ago, I became the highest ranking American official to visit Hungary and, last year, the first American President to journey there. Even though it was pouring rain when we arrived in Kossuth Square, the people of Hungary gave us a very warm welcome. Barbara and I have seen few cities more lovely than Budapest; and we've seldom seen a city more alive -- alive with commerce, change, and above all, hope; alive with a people who believe that, like a lamp lighting the darkest night, liberty can light the globe.

The arrival at the White House of the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Hungary in over 40 years is, indeed, sir, an historic event; and it brings to mind the arrival 138 years ago of another Hungarian patriot at another house which embodies freedom, the Congress of the United States. That man was Lajos Kossuth. His statue stood behind us that day in the rain in Budapest, in the square that bears his name. And in today's historic meeting, his memory lifts us and teaches us. For his life was a celebration of bravery and of dreams. He knew that a courageous people would not bow to bayonets and barbed wire, and he knew that the light of liberty would shine forever.

Today in your homeland, from the streets of Budapest to the great plains to the waters of the Danube and the gentle towns that grace its banks, Hungary's new patriots believe that all things are possible for a nation and for a people; and they proclaim the individual, not the state, as the voice of tomorrow. Today in Hungary that voice is being heard. Hungary is no longer an emerging democracy; Hungary is a democracy. The government you head is a sovereign, pluralistic, democratic European state. The dream of Hungarians has been fulfilled and carried beyond their own borders to others in Central Europe. And now, in 1990, Hungary has taken its natural place as a valued member of the commonwealth of free nations.

During our visit to Budapest, we saw the Hungarian love of excellence in careful craftsmanship, in bountiful harvests from family farms, in the pride of scientists in their work. And American companies have already demonstrated their faith in Hungary's economic potential by committing well over half a billion dollars in new investments. General Electric is making lightbulbs in a joint venture with Hungarian firm Tungsram. General Motors is producing auto parts there. And I encourage more American businesses to find out what Hungary has to offer.

Prime Minister Antall's government has demonstrated its determination to integrate Hungary into the global market by developing an ambitious economic reform program, and we pledge our continuing support for your courageous efforts. The Hungarian-American Enterprise Fund has announced its first investment in a joint venture to market high-tech equipment. For the new fiscal year, our administration has asked Congress for a $300 million economic aid package for Eastern Europe. Our Regional Environmental Center in Budapest commenced operations last month. And we are offering $47.5 million in credits for the purchase of about 500,000 tons of feed grains to compensate for the effects of the severe drought that Hungary has experienced this year.

And we also know that, like all of us, Hungary and the other new democracies of Central Europe are paying a high price for resolutely supporting the United Nations sanctions against Iraq. And we understand that the loss of export markets and rising energy costs complicate your historic effort to transform a centrally planned economic system to a free-market economy. And so, to help ease this burden, I am announcing today that the United States is asking the International Monetary Fund to increase its lending to the countries of the region by as much as $5 billion, modifying its lending policies as appropriate. And we also asked the World Bank to accelerate its assistance in the energy field, drawing on the $9 billion now committed to Central and Eastern Europe.

The United States has been a partner of Europe for most of this century and will remain so. And we welcome Hungary and the other new democracies into a new partnership in a new Europe -- a Europe whole and free. The United States is committed to helping you find a secure place in the new Europe and is building with you a new era of U.S.-Hungary relations. In that regard, I am pleased to announce the lifting of the travel restrictions for Hungarian diplomats and our agreement to your request to establish an Hungarian consulate general in Los Angeles.

And so, Mr. Prime Minister, we welcome you amid dramatic times. We welcome you amid a feeling of hope and promise. And as old friends and as new partners, we welcome you amid a spirit of cooperation, looking forward to these conversations that lie ahead.

And when Kossuth came to America, his reception showed how our two peoples share a common love of liberty. And in New York harbor, an armada of ships sounded horns to celebrate his arrival. Thousands rushed his open carriage. Perhaps no visitor since Lafayette had been greeted so emotionally.

Like Hungarians, the Americans of that time believed in helping individuals and nations who understood that real freedom makes all progress possible. For they, like Hungarians and Americans today, were determined to ensure that the light of liberty will shine forever.

So, welcome to America, Mr. Prime Minister, and God bless the friendship between our two nations. Thank you.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, Mrs. Bush, ladies and gentlemen, I feel sincerely moved when standing here in the garden of the White House on this occasion when you are receiving here the Prime Minister of Hungary, the first freely elected Prime Minister of our free government.

We are proud of the fact that all the American ideals of liberty, those ideals that used to be the constitutional treatise and credo of Washington, Jefferson, and all the other famous American statesmen, belong also to us.

We are proud of the fact that whenever you remember the wars, the battles you came out as the triumphant party of, you had Hungarians taking side with you, in support of you, who were there with you at those triumphant battles and wars.

We are also proud of the fact that a soldier of Hungarian origin, Milahy Kovacs, who fought in your War of Independence, sacrificed his life to gain your independence. Yesterday we also felt very much moved when paying tribute at the memory of your heroes in the cemetery and, at the same time, we could also salute the memory of Hungarian heroes there.

We also take pride in the fact that there were also many Hungarians contributing to building up your country. Whatever has been done in order to make your country, the United States, be a great power had contribution on behalf of Hungarian military men, Hungarian workers, Hungarian farmers, as well as from Hungarian scientists.

Mr. President, you have just spoken about Lajos Kossuth, and you also recalled your visit in Budapest. When standing in front of the statue of Lajos Kossuth, you delivered your speech there. Lajos Kossuth represents freedom and liberty for everyone. It happens not by chance that it is exactly the personality of Lajos Kossuth that binds us together, because that is a token and symbol of freedom for both Hungarians and Americans.

The era that created Lajos Kossuth, in fact, forms part of the Hungarian historic mythology. Therefore, should there be any matter related to any war of liberation or revolution, we always return to that particular period of our history. It happened like that also in the year of 1956, when Hungary, as one nation, took arms and started to fight the Soviets and made an attempt on that occasion to establish the independent Hungarian democracy. It was that which has brought us the spirituality, during which we, after a period of more than three decades, set out in our country to demolish the building of dictatorship.

On this occasion, I would like to express my thanks to you because ever since the time when America recognized that Soviet power had been extended onto the regions of Eastern and Central Europe and through all the peoples living in that region, has been very persistent in trying to defend the grounds of the free world.

I would like to thank you for having elevated the issue of human rights onto governmental level. And you have been representing that important issue in the last decades at that very high level.

I would also like to express my thanks to you for having forced the Soviet power to enter into fierce competition of technology, military, and economic nature. By doing so, you have contributed to helping reform politician in the personality of Gorbachev to make an attempt to change the Soviet Union. And also the peoples living in East and Central Europe have been given more opportunities to make use of their freedom.

We started the transformation of the political institution system, and Hungary today is a parliamentary republic. We have also laid down the grounds for a free-market economy. At the same time, we do not want to hide the fact that to implement an economic change in a country is far more difficult than execute a political one.

You, Mr. President, have spoken about all those matters that I could have also mentioned here when presenting my request or when speaking in form of complaints. Well, I think this is an indication of the fact that we have come here as friends. And we are seeing friends here. We are being received by friends who can perhaps read our thoughts.

All those that you have just spoken about and all of those that you were very gracious and kind to promise us as future prospective potentialities will help us to survive this very severe crisis.

May I say thank you for receiving me and for receiving the members of my delegation representing the Government of Hungary. And may I assure you that Hungary is a faithful friend of yours and will remain so until the very end of times. Without you, the system of dictatorships would have never been collapsed in East and Central Europe.

And people were able to realize that all those that had been preached and declared by Marxism-Leninism was nothing else but a series of lies.

Twenty-five years ago I could cite in one of my articles that I wrote about Lincoln one of the sayings of his: It is possible to cheat many people for a short time. During a long time, it is possible to cheat one person. However, it is impossible to cheat many people during a long time.

Thank you very much for receiving me, and thank you very much for the benevolence of America. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke at 10:11 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, where the Prime Minister was accorded a formal welcome with full military honors. The Prime Minister spoke in Hungarian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Following the ceremony, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office.

George Bush, Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for Prime Minister Jozsef Antall of Hungary Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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