Independence Day Celebration

Charge Kostelancik delivers remarks on the stage (Embassy photo: Attila Nemeth)

Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. David J. Kostelancik at the Official Independence Day Celebration,
U.S. Embassy in Hungary, July 3, 2017
– As Prepared for Delivery –

Good afternoon and welcome, everyone.  Welcome, President Sulyok, Dr. Polt, Minister Pintér, Deputy Foreign Minister Szabó, distinguished guests, excellencies, and dear friends.  Happy Independence Day!  Thank you very much for coming today.

It is a great honor for me to host you on the occasion of America’s Independence.  As the Chargé of the U.S. Embassy in Hungary, I want to extend to you all greetings and best wishes from the President and the American people.

I would also like to recognize all the great American businesses that graciously offered to contribute to this celebration.  Without our sponsors and their incredible support we would not be able to host such a wonderful event.

Americans at home and all around the world celebrate our country’s birthday every July 4th – typically with barbecues and parades.  It is an occasion for family, friends, and fireworks.  But it is also a celebration of an extraordinary moment – born of the Enlightenment – when a group of Americans advanced the then-radical idea that we are all created equal.  That governments exist to serve people, and not people to serve governments.  And that when the institutions of government fail to serve the people and protect their liberties, they don’t resign themselves to bad government, they change their government.

Considering the special relationship we enjoy with the UK today, it’s almost difficult to imagine that we fought not just one, but two wars against Britain during our nation’s infancy.  But this leads me to a very important point about America and our history.  We have fought many terrible wars that scarred our people and even destroyed some of our most iconic landmarks.  And when it was time to make peace, we extended the hand of friendship and brotherhood to our former adversaries.  Some people joke that Americans have no sense of history, but our willingness to make common cause with former enemies and help rebuild what was destroyed is, in fact, a conscious decision and a domestic and international strategy.

We have a robust, broad, and deep relationship with Hungary that stretches back to the very earliest days of our Republic, when Hungarian officers were instrumental in building up and training the Continental Army of former shopkeepers and farmers.  Through the years, thousands of Hungarians migrants found a new home in the United States.  They were welcomed into a new country and a new culture where they made remarkable contributions and became model citizens.  Hungarian-Americans are a quintessential part of the fabric of our society and the story of America.

Like every immigrant group that arrived in America, stretching back to before the founding of the Republic, they have enriched our society and have made America what it is today.  “E Pluribus, Unum,” is our national motto: “out of many, [we are] one.”  We are one country, but our citizens have roots all around the globe.  Together we have built a mighty nation.  As American citizens, we are not united by a common religion, ethnicity, or even a common language.  What we share is even more important: our unwavering belief in the equality of all people, our trust in the ordinary citizen to shape his or her own destiny, and our faith that freedom is every person’s birthright, no matter where our ancestors came from or how we worship.

I speak of these things not as lofty ideals, but as our reality.  My own family immigrated to Chicago from Slovakia, and I was raised in a community steeped in Central European tradition, culture, and language, but I am also 100 percent American.  I am proud not only of my heritage, but of the fact that, like many officers in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, we are American children of immigrants who reflect the opportunity and equality that the United States represents.

In the United States and Hungary alike, for the last quarter century, we have worked to build strong and enduring ties that link our two countries.  In the field of business, America is the second leading investor in Hungary after the EU.  American companies have created almost 100,000 jobs in Hungary and many are looking for new opportunities to invest in your society and create the sort of good paying jobs that will keep young, talented Hungarians here in Hungary.

Our security ties are an essential cornerstone upon which our alliance with Hungary rests.  I want to recognize our guests here from the Hungarian Defense Forces – thank you so much for joining us and thank you also for your incredible devotion to your country, to NATO, and to our collective security.  The Hungarian Defense Forces this year have hosted thousands of U.S. troops for multinational exercises, including the many exercises going on this month across the country and the Black Sea region.  These training and exercise opportunities ensure that we are ready to face any crisis, deter any aggressor, and protect our own countries and our Allies across Europe.  America’s service members stand proudly, shoulder to shoulder, alongside their Hungarian allies in crisis zones around the world – in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they combat terrorism and extremism, and in the Balkans, where they keep the peace.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the many guests I see here from NGOs and civil society organizations that have inspired us in a wide range of fields, from combatting human trafficking, to organizing the Pride March this coming weekend, to enhancing transparency in governance, and improving access to services for disadvantaged populations.  Your organizations are a vital pillar in every free society and the work you do here is a testament to your love of your country, your commitment to justice, and your compassion for your fellow citizens.  We thank you for your commitment to the future of this country, even in the face of difficult challenges, some enduring, some new.

Thank you all for joining us in this celebration of our Independence Day and the values it was founded on.  This may be a uniquely American holiday, but we Americans believe the values it represents are universal – they resonate across time, across great distances, and across cultural divides.  Love of liberty and equality stir the hearts of people everywhere and speak to our most basic desires:  to live as free men and women, secure in our individual rights and committed to working with others to build more just, prosperous, and peaceful societies.

Now I’ll let you all get back to enjoying the festivities.  Thank you.  Thank you all for coming.  Köszönöm szépen. Jó szórakozást!