Amexrap: Gratulálunk a Berzsenyiseknek és az Amerikai követségnek

Remarks by Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis at the Berzsenyi High School Active Citizenship Award Ceremony

[…] Your school has a long history of promoting tolerance and human rights. For example, I heard that in 1944, when Jews in Hungary were forced to wear a yellow Star of David, your school made sure that the children were able to remove the star once they crossed the school gate. This small, symbolic act was, at the time, an act of defiance and tremendous courage – an example of what ordinary citizens can and should do to stand up for the rights of their fellow citizens. […]

On many occasions, Thomas Melia, our Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, has emphasized that majority rule must always protect minority rights. It is one of the most fundamental values of the United States and a fundamental principle of democracy itself.

A few weeks ago, I saw firsthand Hungarians speaking out to protect minority rights in this country. I had the opportunity to attend the demonstration in Kossuth Square on December 2, where politicians from different parties and people from all walks of life gathered to condemn the anti-Semitic remarks of an extremist parliamentarian. It was inspiring to see so many people gather together on a cold Sunday to condemn intolerance and raise a unified voice to demand that all people be respected and their rights guaranteed.

So I actually knew Tom Lantos, we had met many times in San Francisco. And I can almost hear his words: “The veneer of civilization is paper-thin and we are all its guardians”. The December 2nd rally represented Hungarian civil society at work. Secretary Clinton regularly recognizes civil society as one of the frontiers of human rights and has called it “the underpinning of a free and functioning country”.

This is why a year ago our Embassy decided to establish an Active Citizenship Award to honor those individuals and organizations, which make positive contributions to their communities. Their work is inextricably linked to a greater issue – that of improving people’s lives and protecting human rights, which, in turn, is essential to U.S. foreign policy, our national security and to international stability.

Active citizenship is vital for democracy; however, it is even more important to nurture a sense of civic responsibility. I believe this is exactly what Berzsenyi High School has been doing for decades. From your Tolerance Weeks to discussions and roundtables on different issues to art projects published in your Phoenix albums – Berzsenyi fosters open mindedness, tolerance and creativity.

Your school is an example for others to follow and I encourage the students to build upon your experiences here and take them with you to universities, future communities and families. And now I would like to present Berzsenyi High School and its students the Award for Active Citizenship.