Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission David J. Kostelancik
at the 110th Anniversary of the Erecting of the George Washington Statue
September 16, 2016
Jó estét kivanok és köszönöm szépen! Reverend Szűcs, thank you so much for inviting me to speak here on this wonderful occasion. Mayor Karácsony, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming today to mark the 110th anniversary of the placing of this statue of George Washington in Városliget by Hungarian Americans. Their love of freedom made them an integral part of the American identity. Today, Hungarian Americans still keep the ties between our nations strong.
Washington was a remarkable figure in American history. He is famous for having been America’s first president – the father of our country – and for having left office at the end of his term, ensuring that our democratic republic would endure.
At the beginning of the American Revolution, Washington was charged with leading a newly formed Continental Army and taking groups of militias from all of the colonies and turning them into a real fighting force. Those of you who have seen members of the U.S. Armed Forces today would not recognize the American military in the militias Washington was given.
They had no order and rejected discipline. They demanded the right to elect their officers and to leave the military any time they felt like they weren’t being treated fairly. Men from different colonies felt like they had nothing in common.
But these men loved liberty. They loved it so much they were willing to take up arms against the only government they had ever known and to be called traitors. Being among Hungarians — a people who have fought against overwhelming forces of oppression — I know you can relate to this extraordinary love of freedom.
Washington, a career military man who lived order and discipline, did not know how to lead these men.
But he would not stay defeated. Washington’s genius was in overcoming this series of spectacular losses. He learned to adapt his own command to the strengths of his army – its passion, ingenuity, and determination. He called on the assistance of European officers – including Hungarian Colonel Mihály Kováts – to teach his men to be soldiers. He inspired these men who had rejected military discipline to follow him through extraordinary hardships and terrible battles because of his courage, compassion, humility, and resolve.
Washington won a series of daring victories, defeating armies much larger, better trained, and better equipped than his. But what endeared him to his troops was his fairness, his kindness, and his willingness to endure the same difficulties they faced.
The greatness of this man was bound up in his goodness. When British troops refused to take prisoners and put wounded American soldiers to death, Washington demanded his men always allow the enemy to surrender and to treat their prisoners humanely. He and his forces treated captured German mercenaries so well, that at war’s end, a quarter of them decided to stay in the United States and make their homes there. Many more went back to Germany to get their families and return to America. It was this same promise of freedom that encouraged many Hungarians to make their homes in America after the revolutions of 1848 and 1956.
Today, more than two hundred years after Washington’s death and 110 years since the placing of this statue, Washington’s ideal for America endures. We are a people of different customs, different backgrounds, and different faiths. But we are united by our love of liberty. And together, we have and will continue to do great things. Today, I’m so proud that my country is able to work with freedom loving people around the world – including here in Hungary – to protect and preserve the liberties we enjoy. And to work together to continue accomplishing great things.