Ambassador David Pressman’s Remarks at a Welcome Reception
September 30, 2022
– As Delivered –
Jó estét kívánok. Good evening! Thank you for joining us here at this extraordinary residence at this extraordinary moment in time. There are simply too many distinguished guests in this room to recognize each of you individually, so I hope you’ll forgive me. Let me just say to my colleagues, excellencies, distinguished representatives of the government, thank you for being here; thank you for the extraordinary welcome that you’ve shown to Daniel and myself. We’re so glad that you’re here.
This residence that we gather in was provided to the United States in 1945, and has been witness to the highs and lows of our relationship. The beautiful oak walls inside and the paintings have watched over many important and noteworthy gatherings during the last 80 years. Tonight’s reception is what I hope will be the start of a new era of close cooperation during my time as United States Ambassador to Hungary.
I don’t need to tell this group that we live in difficult and challenging times. I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. Just next door, brave Ukrainians are fighting and dying to push Putin’s invading army out of their country, out of their homes – only to find mass graves left in what was once their backyards. Inflation and energy costs have spiked and many families worry about their ability to pay the bills. We see troubling signs of hate and intolerance which tear at the fragile tapestry of democratic societies around the world. So there are real issues to be addressed.
Our message to the people of Hungary is simple and clear: we want to address these issues with you, together. The United States is your friend. We have been for more than 100 years, and we will continue to do so. We are partners in trade. We are partners in culture. We are partners in military relations and the fields of science and art and technology, but we cannot be complacent.
The United States not only desires to cooperate with Hungary, we must cooperate if we are to face the modern challenges the world continues to throw at us. History has demonstrated far too many times what happens when we fail to push back against the destructive and destabilizing forces of the world. To succeed, we must push back together.
In Ukraine, we, like you, want this war to end. And that is precisely why we must remain fiercely united in pressuring Vladimir Putin to stop his brutal assault on Hungary’s democratic neighbor and the rules–based international order. Even when – especially when – it is hard.
Some argue that if only the great powers would meet and talk, or the Ukrainians were to lay down arms and stop fighting, that the war would end, energy prices drop, and everything could return to the status quo.
But let’s be clear. If Putin stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. This cannot and will not be something acceptable to the democratic world.
By now some of you are probably thinking, “Wow…this is the most depressing reception I’ve ever been to,” so I promise I’m not here to deliver a message of doom and gloom. In fact, it is the very opposite. I am so heartened by the people who have joined us here tonight.
Of course, in my short time in Hungary I have only had the chance to meet a small number of you. But for those for which the Hungarian diplomatic circuit is sort of old hat, I hope – if we’ve succeeded – that when you look around you’ll see some people here and some new faces, and even perhaps some surprising ones.
As I worked with my team to come up with a guest list for this first reception, I asked them to think a bit outside the box. Who have we not had the chance to spend time with? What segments of society in Hungary should we open our arms to as we work with our Hungarian partners on this relationship? Not only who should we as American diplomats be meeting and conversing with, but who in Hungary can we bring together who might not otherwise have the chance to meet?
Because, you see, I want us to try to cut through the day-to-day noise that so often inhibits our ability to work together. It is all too easy to resort to immature sound bites and rant-filled op-eds – I’ve read some of them closely – and provocative Facebook posts instead of engaging in honest and real conversation.
And so, as I look around tonight, I see so many fascinating people, each of whom brings with them a new perspective, an important idea, a chance to better the world. So I hope to the see scientists in the room sharing a drink with civil society activists. I was so happy to see members of our Embassy’s Youth Council here. I want to see the politicians here talking to our Embassy’s Youth Council… and listening to them. And I’m delighted that Varfok Gallery is here and grateful they have loaned us art by Hungarian artists that we are displaying in the U.S. Ambassador’s residence.
So, 500 years ago, before Twitter – which I’m enjoying, by the way – the idea of a salon came into fashion in Italy and spread throughout the world, including here in Hungary. Now I’m keenly aware that tonight is hardly a salon – but I hope this residence can be a place where Hungarians and Americans can engage in pragmatic discussion, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation, to address the serious challenges in the world – and to do so, together.
If my son – who’s somewhere around here, I hope, unless he managed to escape and then we have a big problem – can solve the ultimate Hungarian puzzle created by Mr. Ernő Rubik in under 30 seconds, I am hopeful that our governments can do better in tackling the world’s problems with similar agility and success, together.
Thank you for your being here tonight to begin that work, and enjoy your evening.