On Tuesday, a new statue of the 41st President of the Unites States of America, George Herbert Walker Bush was inaugurated in Budapest’s Szabadság tér (Liberty Square). At the ceremony, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that “Hungarians have always regarded the United States as a home of freedom.”
In his address, Prime Minister Orbán noted that every Hungarian considers America the land of freedom, which welcomed 19th century Hungarian statesman Lajos Kossuth with sincere love, while the building of the US Embassy in Budapest at Szabadság tér, provided refuge for Cardinal József Mindszenty for 15 years after the 1956 revolution. He added that “we will never forget that the gate of the embassy — thanks to the personal commitment of Mark Palmer, the American ambassador to Budapest from 1986 to 1990 — was always open to the regime-changing youth.”
He also noted in connection with Szabadság Square that on October 6, 1849, Lajos Batthyány was executed in the courtyard of the barracks there. The Prime Minister then recalled that on one side of the square stands the monument of the German and on the other the monument of the Soviet occupation, which, according to Orbán, carries a clear message: “as a Hungarian, you can choose between two options: either the occupiers or freedom.”
The Prime Minister continued by saying that “today, we are here to honor with this statue our friend, George Herbert Walker Bush,” the 41st President of the United States. Then, referring to the fact that Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, also has a statue on the same square, he said, “here are two men from America who have started a fight against communism in the world.”
The Prime Minister recalled George H.W. Bush’s visit to Budapest in 1989, indicating that when the President arrived at Kossuth Square, they had asked him to “save us from Yalta,” and he supported this because
he shared Central Europe’s dream of freedom and independence.”
Orbán added that Bush understood their demands at the time, that “we, Hungarians, do not want to make a better deal with the Soviet Union, but to break away from it. We do not want to make communism more comfortable with American money, but to overturn it. We do not want to get closer to the free world, we want to be a part of it.”
Quoting the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Orbán added that President Bush was “a great blessing,” who “spoke from our hearts, as many of us felt the same way in Europe at the time. We thought the United States he led would not let us down.” The head of the Hungarian government also recalled that during Bush’s visit to Budapest, a little girl asked the President what three things he would like to wish for Hungarian children. He replied freedom, happiness, and long life. Viktor Orbán closed his speech by saying “So be it! God bless America and Hungary!”
Following the PM’s speech, David B. Cornstein, US Ambassador to Hungary called the statue a symbol of American-Hungarian bilateral relations and optimism about the future. He said the 41st President of the United States has dedicated his life to speaking out for freedom around the world, helping people and improving their lives. He also helped the people of Central and Eastern Europe to free themselves from communist repression. He added that “let us make a renewed commitment to stand up for the love of freedom today and every day!”
At the ceremony, a letter by George H. W. Bush’s son, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States was read, expressing thanks for a statue in honor of his father. “I am proud that relations between our nations are flourishing and expanding,” he wrote
photo: Zoltán Máthé/MTI
The ceremony was attended by representatives of the Bush family and foundation, former New York State governor George Pataki and former US Ambassador April H. Foley.
Minister Gergely Gulyás and Ambassador David B. Cornstein announced in early September that the Hungarian government would erect a statue of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, on Liberty Square on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe.
featured photo: Zoltán Máthé/MTI