Every Hungarian knows that America is the land of freedom which welcomed Kossuth with sincere love, and which gave shelter to our faithful Cardinal József Mindszenty in this building for fifteen years, the Prime Minister said.
“Neither will we ever forget,” he continued, that the gate of the embassy – thanks to the personal commitment of US Ambassador to Budapest between 1986 and 1990 Mark Palmer – was always open to the youths fighting against communism.
He also observed in connection with Szabadság tér that on 6 October 1849 Lajos Batthyány was executed in the courtyard of the barracks standing there. “The life of the first prime minister of the Hungarian people was finished before the occupiers’ firing squad. This is a clear message to all his successors,” he added.
“For the sake of the less enlightened,” he also recalled that at one end of the square there is a memorial commemorating the victims of German occupation, while at the other end a memorial commemorating the victims of Soviet occupation. This, too, is a clear message. If you are Hungarian, you only have two options to choose from: either you side with the occupiers or you side with freedom, he said.
Today “we have gathered together here in order to pay tribute with a statue to our friend George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States,” Mr Orbán said. Then in reference to the fact that for some years a statue in Szabadság tér has also paid tribute to Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, he said “there are two men from America standing here in this square who together launched a fight against global communism”.
The Prime Minister recalled George H. W. Bush’s visit to Budapest in 1989, indicating that when the President arrived at Kossuth tér, this is just what they asked of him; “to set us free from Yalta,” and he supported their plight because the dream about the freedom and independence of the peoples of Central Europe was also his dream.
Mr Bush “understood that whatever nonsense the comrades told him inside, we Hungarians wanted not a better deal with the Soviet Union, but to break away from them. We wanted not just to make communism more comfortable with the money of the Americans, but to overthrow it. We did not merely want to get closer to the free world; we wanted to become a part of it,” Mr Orbán said recalling the demands of the day.
President Bush “was a great blessing,” he quoted former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl who “spoke from our hearts. Many of us felt the same way in the Europe of the day. We thought that the United States led by him would not let us down.”
He also said without President Bush Chancellor Kohl would not have been able to reunite Germany, but they had to do battle with the leaders of a number of European countries who looked upon the status quo of the day as the basis of their own security, influence and welfare.
History has justified Bush and Kohl’s brave deed. Within just a few years, everything that was artificial and without traditions fell apart, and everything that had strong and deep roots came back to life and started growing, he said.
The Prime Minister finally recalled that when during his visit to Budapest President Bush was asked by a little girl what three things he would wish for Hungarian children, he said freedom, happiness and a long life.
“So be it. God save America and Hungary!” Mr Orbán said in conclusion.
In his speech, United States Ambassador to Budapest David B. Cornstein recalled that nine years earlier the statue of another former US President Ronald Reagan had been inaugurated in Szabadság tér. Now they are honouring another American hero of freedom, George H. W. Bush, and there could be no more appropriate location than here on ‘Liberty Square’, so close both to President Reagan and to the U.S. Embassy, he said, describing the statue as a symbol of US-Hungarian bilateral relations and optimism for the future.
He highlighted that the desire for freedom had never left the Hungarian people, and the collapse of communism in 1989 brought a new dawn to the hopes of freedom-loving people here and everywhere. President Bush’s visit to Hungary in July 1989 was a symbol of that hope, the Ambassador stated.
The 41st President of the United States dedicated his life to speaking out for freedom, lifting people up, and improving the lives of people around the world. He also helped the people of Central and Eastern Europe to free themselves from communist rule, said Mr Cornstein whose service as Ambassador to Budapest will come to an end in just a few days. In this regard, he said he had been honoured to play a role in deepening US-Hungarian relations, and expressed his conviction that our common goals and our common values would continue to connect the two nations together.
“Let us all recommit ourselves this day, and every day, to our shared love of freedom,” he said at the end of his address.
At the ceremony, a letter by George H. W. Bush’s son, 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush was read out. In this he said thank you for honouring his father with a statue. “I’m proud that ties between our nations have flourished and grown,” he wrote.
Guests from the United States attending the event included US Ambassador to Warsaw Georgette Mosbacher, representatives of the Bush Family and Foundation, Assistant Secretary of State Marie Royce from Washington, former US Ambassador to Budapest April H. Foley and former Governor of New York George Pataki.
Gergely Gulyás, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office and Ambassador David B. Cornstein announced at the beginning of September that the Hungarian government would honour 41st President of the United States George H. W. Bush with a statue in Szabadság tér on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe.