Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the inauguration of the Klebelsberg Memorial Centre and Guest House
21 June 2017, Budapest
Allow me to first thank those students who, if I’ve guessed correctly, came back from their summer holiday to perform for us here, and who therefore add their names to those making significant sacrifices. Next I would like to welcome and express my deep respect to former President of Hungary Pál Schmitt and his wife. I also extend my warmest welcome to you, Dear Dalma, to Mrs. Kodály, the Honourable Mayor, Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends from the Civic Circles, and representatives from the historical churches. I can see that here today we have an entire battalion of heavy artillery from the Civic Circles. Thank you for coming.
I’m glad to be here again with you in Hidegkút. The only thing tempering my joy is the fact that our friend Imre Makovecz is no longer with us. We started the Civic Circles together with him, and without the Civic Circles we wouldn’t have this event today. With my friend Imre we set two goals: the first was to replace internationalist governance with national governance – and we have managed that feat; the second was to boost civil activity for the advancement of the country. Today is proof of the fact that we have also managed that feat.
If I were to sum up in a single sentence why we’re here today, I would say this: we were brought here by the will of the public. This was the common will of the residents of Pesthidegkút – led by Péter Cseke, if my memory serves me well – who thought it a disgrace that the former residence of an outstanding figure of Hungarian cultural policy, Kuno Klebelsberg, had fallen into decay. It seems almost unbelievable today, but only a few years ago all that stood here was a pile of rubble in the form of a building. As a former resident of Hidegkút, I myself can vouch for that. Anyone was able to walk in and out through the broken-down fence. And if a government other than that of the civic-national Christian forces were in office today, it would have remained just a pile of rubble. We could not allow a building which forms part of our country’s proud cultural heritage to disintegrate before our eyes. Similarly, this is something we didn’t allow to happen to the Castle Bazaar, the Erkel Theatre, the Vigadó and the Ludovika – all of which were also left to decay during the tenure of the internationalist governments. Obviously thanks to his good connections, Mihály Varga, the Minister for National Economy, provided 900 million forints for the restoration of this building. In a national government, you see, even a finance minister believes that culture is not just a line in the Hungarian budget, but a resource to which we owe the country’s successes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The second and third decades of the twentieth century were an arduous ordeal in the history of the Hungarian nation. We owe a debt of gratitude to a few exceptional statesmen – Regent Miklós Horthy, Prime Minister István Bethlen and Minister Kuno Klebelsberg – for ensuring that history did not bury us under the immense weight of a lost world war, the 133 days of the Red Terror and the diktat of Trianon. Without the Regent, there would be no Prime Minister, and without the Prime Minister, there would be no Minister – and not even Hungary’s grim role in World War II can cast doubt on this. Klebelsberg was required to take the reins of Hungary’s cultural policy at a time when Hungary’s redrawn borders isolated it both from its direct environment and the whole of Europe. He had to start his work at a moment in history when Hungary had lost a significant percentage of its economic resources overnight. The question we now ask is where the strength, perseverance and will needed for political and economic revival could have come from in such a grave situation. Kuno Klebelsberg’s response to this was that the impact of a disaster on a viable nation is like that of a tree being cut back: just as a tree with healthy roots is able to grow new leaves, so a nation with strong and healthy links to its past is able to revive. This required policy on education and culture which was both modern and worthy of Hungarian culture’s thousand-year-old traditions. This is just what we need today: something both modern and traditional. Marshalling enormous effort, but with scarce funds at his disposal, Kuno Klebelsberg embarked on the reorganisation of Hungarian culture: from village schools to universities rescued from beyond the new borders, from village libraries to the Collegium Hungaricum network of institutions set up in Western Europe. He developed wide-ranging school reforms: during his time in office he reformed civic and girls’ schools, introduced science-oriented secondary schools and mandatory physical exercise in schools, oversaw the building of gymnasia, and laid the foundations of amateur and competitive sport in Hungary. For Klebelsberg cultural policy laid equal emphasis on education, culture and sport: the parallel development of mind, soul and body. His ideal was the productive person for whom creation was a way of life, and who saw patriotism as the creative love of one’s country.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable President,
To what extent is our world today similar to the one in which Klebelsberg implemented his cultural policy? Today Europe is facing a new type of threat. It is under external and internal attacks aimed at its very roots. The goal of such attacks is nothing less than replacement of Europe’s cultural soil. Europe must understand that the more of its own faith and culture it surrenders, the weaker it will be – both politically and economically. The more it allows its roots to wither, the less it will be able to return to its genuine European Christian conception.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Bethlen government and its minister of culture demonstrated that even after the shock of Trianon, it is possible to recover from disaster and build a successful country. This in turn required cultural policy which had foundations and an ultimate goal embedded in a strong national identity. Today we also need something like this. Klebelsberg’s policy served a clear objective: the advancement of the Hungarian people, the Hungarian countryside and the Hungarian nation. His policy was based on a single method: hard work. Today, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, this objective and the path leading to it continue to be as valid as they were ninety years ago. We, too, are pursuing policy of a similar nature. In our modern, less colourful language, this is called the workfare economy and society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The purpose of good governance is to enable people to be both educated and prosperous, so that being Hungarian should not just be an unparalleled experience, but also a rewarding one. This is the mentality that we should also pass on to the coming generations: to young people, many of whom can discover Kuno Klebelsberg’s life work, his selfless and exemplary patriotism here, at this memorial centre.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finally, I would like to thank to the residents of Pesthidegkút and your Member of Parliament, Minister Varga, for never abandoning the fight to rescue this building. And we also owe a debt of gratitude to those who participated in the building’s restoration, thanks to whom the Klebelsberg Villa has been restored to its former glory. This is what we also wish for our country, for the whole of Hungary. Use and visit this centre with the same enthusiasm and love as that with which you fought for this building and the memory of one of the outstanding figures of cultural policy in Hungary.
Go for it, Hungary. Go for it, Hungarians!