Washington, DC – On Sunday, October 16 the Embassy of Hungary hosted a VIP Gala Dinner at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian evolution and Freedom Fight. The Gala Evening was one of the Embassy’s premier events in celebration of the anniversary of the 1956 Revolution taking place from Tuesday, September 28 and Friday, November 4.

Entertainment for the VIP guests of the invitation-only, black-tie seated dinner was provided by Hungarian Pianist Csilla Szentpéteri and her Artist Friends who delivered a special one-night-only concert program entitled “The Tempest of October 1956” in dedication to the memory of the Revolution. Short films about the 1956 Revolution were presented on TV screens in the hall of the Auditorium along with the artistic portrayals of the 1956 Freedom Fight produced by young Hungarian American contestants of the TINI ART 1956 Embassy Drawing Contest. A special exhibition, entitled “Objects of Freedom” was also open for viewing to the public – an array of personal items including books, photos, clothes, and flags brought along by original ‘56ers to the United States.

Distinguished speakers and attendees included Ambassador of Hungary, Dr. Réka Szermerkényi; Ambassador of the United States Colleen Bell; Minister for National Development of Hungary Miklós Seszták; US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; Former Governor of New York George E. Pataki; Co-Chair of the Hungarian-American Caucus, Representative Dennis Ross; ‘56er and owner of Air Lease Corporation, Steven. F. Udvar-Házy; ‘56er and member of the Hungarian Revolutionary Government Dr. Emery Imre Tóth. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, himself a proud Hungarian-American, served as the Master of Ceremonies of the Gala Dinner.

Ari Fleischer spoke first, stating that “the traditions of the Magyar people are deep and wonderful traditions, and they are traditions the world can learn from. They are traditions I have learned from,” said Flesicher.

Ambassador of Hungary Dr. Réka Szemerkényi added that “The story of 1956 and the raising of the Hungarian flag is the story of a unified nation standing tall in the long shadow of Communism committed to the ideals of freedom, liberty and democracy whatever the cost. This Gala Evening honors that sacrifice, just as much as honoring all those Americans who helped and supported the Hungarian freedom fighters coming into the United States.”

Secretary Jeh Johnson spoke of the similarities between the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight and the United States’ own struggle against discrimination for full democracy. Speaking of the 36 years that passed between the Hungarian Revolution and democratic reforms implemented in 1990, Secretary Johnson said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it always leans towards justice.”

Governor Pataki, another honored guest, delivered a particularly touching speech and spoke at length about his proud Hungarian heritage. The son of two Hungarian immigrants, Governor Pataki recalled “I was a little kid growing up in upstate New York and when the Revolution occurred the entire family gathered around our one black and white TV and I cannot tell you how happy we were to see those Soviet statues come down. My father was a tough, proud Magyar and the only time I ever saw him cry was when those Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest.”

Original 56er and one of the last surviving members of the Hungarian Revolutionary government, Dr. Imré Toth commended the strength and resolve of the Hungarian people: “They stayed together like brother and sister, and we veterans of the Revolution taught the young how to use them to defend themselves. We had some Revolutionaries only fourteen or twelve years old – the rifles were bigger than them.”

Mr. Stephen Udvar-Hazy, 56er and CEO of Airlease Corporation, also gave a personal testimonial about the importance of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight and the personal sacrifice of the freedom fighters. Stephen Udvar-Hazy called the 1956 Revolution “the seed that began the collapse of the Soviet Empire. It inspired those in Prague, in Warsaw to begin that liberation process of more than 200 million Europeans that today enjoy freedom.”

To view a photo album of the event, please click HERE.