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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks On the Occasion of Receiving Honorary Degree, Szeged University
Budapest, Hungary, December 13, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Mr. Foreign Minister, Professor Meszaros, Professor Besenyei, Professor Kroo, members of the Szeged University Senate, other representatives of the academic community, and distinguished guests, I am deeply grateful for your warm welcome.

I have wanted to return to Hungary ever since I became Secretary of State. Plans were made several times, and then delayed due to the press of events. But the delay has only made the reality sweeter.

I am delighted that in a short time I am getting a chance to sample the many dimensions of Hungary's national strengths, regional role and cultural contributions. Of course, I am also delighted to receive the honorary degree. As some of you may know, I used to be a professor, and I was sometimes called upon to present honorary degrees to others. And I can tell you that although it is certainly more blessed to give; it can be a lot more fun to receive. This is especially true when it involves a degree from your renowned university, whose graduates include some true giants--the Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent Gyorgyi, the poet Attila Joseph, and of course, my very distinguished and accomplished host, Foreign Minister Martonyi.

In the United States, when we think of Hungary, we think of a nation rich in its past and optimistic about its future. We think of your great scientists, and your remarkable athletes who have often won the most Olympic medals of any nation in proportion to population. We think of the incomparable Danube and the magnificent compositions of Liszt and Bartok. And we think of your great heroes such as Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty and Lajos Kossuth.

A century and a half ago, Kossuth visited Boston's Fanueil Hall, a place known proudly as the "Cradle of American Liberty" because of the role it played in our nation's war for independence. Kossuth called this a "great name--but said there was something in it which saddened his heart. "You should not say ‘American liberty," he told his audience. "You should say ‘liberty in America,' because liberty should not be either American or European--it should just be liberty." Of course, Kossuth had it right. Unless liberty flourishes everywhere, it cannot be fully secure anywhere. And I am pleased to say that, when Americans think of Hungary today, they think of a nation that is a true champion of liberty at home, throughout its region, and across the globe.

Since 1990, Hungary has been a model of how to make the transition from centralized to democratic rule. For the people of this nation made a commitment, which you have kept, to build a new Hungary characterized by free enterprise, free expression, freedom of worship and freedom of the press.

And since entering NATO, Hungary has proven a strong and valued ally, both in time of conflict and in time of peace. I think particularly today of recent events in Yugoslavia, and of the role played by the Hungarian Szeged Initiative in assisting the victory of the democratic forces in that country. That victory may prove an historic turning point in our effort to build a Europe without walls, wholly at peace and fully free. All of Europe is more secure in the knowledge that the Yugoslav people are free now to determine their own destiny, and that they, too, are looking to join the continent's democratic mainstream. And the world is more secure in the knowledge that Slobodan Milosevic will start no more wars.

As we look to the future, we know that both the need for U.S.-Hungarian cooperation will increase and so will the opportunities. This is true not only in the political and security spheres, but also through commerce and health care, fighting crime and improving the quality of waterways such as the Danube and Tisza rivers.

If we are to succeed in building the right kind of cooperation, the academic community must play a major role. And I am confident that your historic University and Academy of Science will do more than its fair share. That institution has long been a laboratory for new ideas to arise, be debated and freely exchanged. As Hungary and the region journey toward full EU membership, the knowledge and skills developed and present there will be essential. Your University is also reaching out to the international science and academic communities, including American universities. And it has pioneered a joint information technology training program with the private sector.

As a further measure of its excellence, Szeged University will host this year for the first time the Laszlo Orszag Distinguished Fulbright Chair in American Studies.

I congratulate you for all the good work you are doing. You are training the leaders of the future. You are helping to spread and strengthen democracy. You are responding with vision and strength to the challenges of the new century, and Hungary's second millennium.

I know I speak for President Clinton, and for all Americans, when I say that we value deeply our Alliance with Hungary and our friendship with the Hungarian people. Much has happened during the past decade to bring us closer together to the benefit of both. I am confident, as I look around this room, that our relationship will continue to grow and prosper for many generations to come.

Thank you once again for the warmth of your welcome, which I will always remember; and for the honor of this degree, which I will always cherish.

[End of Document]
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