Magyar Foundation Celebrates Hungarian-US Culture and Research

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Written by Justin Wilson

The Magyar Foundation of North America, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Hungarian culture and cross-cultural exchange, held a special luncheon the last week of February at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The luncheon featured a presentation of new research regarding Hungary-U.S. bilateral relations from the Cold War and Ronald Reagan to today, and unveiled the latest research from the Public Policy Scholar Program established by MFNA and endowed at Pepperdine University.

Former U.S. Congressmen and House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Connie Mack served as master of ceremonies, hosting a group of policy experts, diplomats, journalists, think tank members and other attendees.

The Magyar Foundation in partnership with Pepperdine University host presentations of political science papers on US/Hungary relations at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. February 25, 2016. Former U.S. Congressmen and House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Connie Mack is pictured here.

The Magyar Foundation in partnership with Pepperdine University host presentations of political science papers on US/Hungary relations at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. February 25, 2016. Former U.S. Congressmen and House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Connie Mack is pictured here.

Opening up the event, Jo Ann Barnhart, executive director of MFNA commended Pepperdine for its “important academic work contributing to the public record on the historical and present-day aspects of Hungarian freedom and democracy.” Barnhart also recognized the university for its help establishing the foundation’s Visiting Scholar Program for Hungarian Graduate Students. The program’s current Hungarian scholar, Gergely Rajnai, was also in attendance.

Jo Ann Barnhart, executive director of MFNA, speaks on US/Hungary relations at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. February 25, 2016.

Jo Ann Barnhart, executive director of MFNA, speaks on US/Hungary relations at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. February 25, 2016.

Pepperdine Professor Robert G. Kaufman, a political scientist specializing in American foreign policy, discussed Ronald Reagans indispensable role winning the Cold War, liberating Eastern Europe and freeing Hungary from Soviet tyranny. Kaufman was followed by Alexei Shevchenko, adjunct professor of international relations at Pepperdine University, who discussed Hungary’s post-Cold War identity and relationship with the West.

The interim dean of Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, Pete Peterson, was also on hand, noting that has the school’s graduate policy program is “uniquely devoted to remembering and exploring America’s exceptional relations with the countries of Eastern Europe, we are grateful to the Magyar Foundation for its support, and sharing our commitment to building the record of the historians of Hungary and the United States.”

The Magyar Foundation also hosted an event in the U.S. Capitol to honor the life of Lajos Kossuth, the father of Hungarian democracy, whose six-foot bust sits in the Capitol’s “Freedom Foyer” adjacent to that of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Czech President Vaclav Havel. Lajos Kossuth was only the second foreign dignitary to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress, after the Marquis de Lafayette. Kossuth continues to be a celebrated figure here in the U.S., with statues of him in New York, Cleveland, and D.C.

Former Congressman Connie Mack emceed the event, which was attended by members of the U.S. House Hungarian Caucus, other Members of Congress, government staff members, members of the business community, University academics, experts from prestigious think tanks, and other accomplished individuals.

The event featured an engaging presentation by Pepperdine University Professor Tom Stipanowich, who discussed a meeting between Abraham Lincoln and Lajos Kossuth and their shared democratic ideals, a topic featured prominently in a book he is currently working on.

The Honorable William Webster seated with (L-to-R) Thomas Stipanowich, Sky Yancey Stipanowich, Patrick Simmons, the Honorable Beth Robb, Alan Sender, and Lynda Webster (kneeling).

The Honorable William Webster seated with (L-to-R) Thomas Stipanowich, Sky Yancey Stipanowich, Patrick Simmons, the Honorable Beth Robb, Alan Sender, and Lynda Webster (kneeling).