Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has inaugurated a statue of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, on Budapest’s Szabadság Square.
In his address, PM Orbán noted that “Hungarians have always regarded the United States as a home of freedom”. In the 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 Cardinal József Mindszenty for 15 years after 1956.
“We will never forget that the embassy’s door was always open, thanks to the personal commitment of Mark Palmer, US Ambassador in Budapest between 1986 and 1990, to the young Hungarian democratic opposition,” he said.
Referring to two memorials in the square, one of German and the other of Soviet occupation, PM 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 honor with this statue our friend, George Herbert Walker Bush,” PM Orbán said, noting that it was erected next to a statue of President Ronald Reagan, calling them “two men from America who started the fight against global communism”.
PM Orbán noted that during his visit to Budapest in July 1989, President Bush 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 was 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 added that 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.