“Hungarians have always regarded the United States a home of freedom,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Tuesday, at the inauguration of a statue of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, in Budapest’s Szabadság Square.
In his address, Orbán noted that 19th century Hungarian statesman Lajos Kossuth had been given “a heartfelt welcome” in the US. He also said that the US embassy, located in the square, had given shelter to Catholic Cardinal József Mindszenty for 15 years after 1956.
Referring to two memorials in the square, one of German and the other of Soviet occupation, Orbán said that “they send the message that if you are Hungarian, you only have two options: either side with an occupying force or support freedom”.
“And today, we are here to honour with this statue our friend, George Herbert Walker Bush,”
Orbán said, noting that it was erected next to a statue of President Ronald Reagan, who were “two men from America starting a fight against communism in the world”.
Orbán noted that during his visit to Budapest in July 1989, President Bush had expressed support for the democratic youth’s request “to free Hungary from Yalta” since the freedom and independence of central Europe had also been the president’s dream.
“What we wanted was not to move closer to, but become part of, the free world,” the prime minister said.
Addressing the unveiling ceremony, David B. Cornstein, the outgoing US ambassador, said the statue is a symbol of US-Hungarian relationship and optimism for the future.
“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 said.
He said President Bush had dedicated his life to address freedom around the world and help lifting people up.
“A modest man with extraordinary vision and compassion, President Bush helped the people of Central and Eastern Europe to free themselves from communist rule,” he said.
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.
Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, and Ambassador Cornstein announced in early September the placement of the Bush statue in Szabadsag Square to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of communist rule in central and eastern Europe.