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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Goncz Prize Ceremony
Budapest, Hungary, December 13, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much Ambassador Tufo. I'm grateful to you for the very fine job that you and your team are doing here in Hungary representing the United States. President Goncz my dear, dear friend, I'm glad to see you and distinguished guests, good morning.

I wanted to return to Budapest for some time and I'm very pleased to be here. If I were a normal person still, I would be wandering the streets of Budapest as I used to do, just to see all the changes and to get a chance to really feel at home. I'm especially pleased to see the former President who is deeply admired in the United States and around the world. When he visited America last year, President Clinton called him a great man who has battled tyranny and championed democracy all his life.

Like many of his generation, he paid a high price in personal risk and imprisonment because of his ideals and like the best of his generation, he never stopped fighting until the iron curtain was lifted and his nation was free. Then for a decade he guided Hungary's successful transition to democracy and its proud entry into NATO while helping to forge a truly deep and warm friendship between the Hungarian and American peoples. In many ways, the former president, like Hungary itself represents the best of the changes that have occurred in Europe since the Cold War's end.

These changes are deeper than the replacement of one economic system with another. Deeper even than holding free elections. In key areas throughout the region we've seen countries come together to address the nagging ethic rivalries that have so often in the past ripped Europe apart. This requires that countries truly embrace democracy's core principle, which is that every individual counts and counts equally no matter what his or her race, background, nationality, or faith may be. Living up to this principle remains a work in progress in every country including my own. But President Goncz set an example for us all through his efforts to integrate the Roma community into Hungarian society and for his activism against injustice.

The United States has supported these efforts throughout Europe by emphasizing the importance of protecting the human rights of Roma and here in Hungary. Among other activities, we are helping to fund Roma community centers and approve computer access. Today I would like to announce an exciting new project to begin next month to transform four Roma community centers in Eastern Hungary into telecottages, by providing them with computer access.

These telecottages will enable rural populations to benefit from the economic and educational opportunities provided by information technology. A total of $150,000 will be spent on hardware, software and specialized education. The computer classes will be open to all children, Roma and non-Roma. Microsoft is donating software to these centers. Also, five existing telecottages will be given funds to buy newer computers and expand their services to the Roma community. I would like to congratulate the leaders of these community centers and telecottages who are here today and encourage you to continue your important work.

I'm also very pleased to join your former President in inaugurating the Arpad Goncz prize. This award will be given each year to a Hungarian who has made outstanding contributions to the cause of democracy and human rights. The recipient will be invited to travel to the United States to meet his or her counterparts and to share experiences and ideas.

The first winner of this prize, I'm delighted to say, is Erika Csovcsics, Director of the Ghandhi School in Pecs, a woman who has devoted her life to teaching and to the advancement of the Roma community. The Ghandhi School is Hungary's first educational institution dedicated to minority learning and is providing young Roma with opportunities to excel in an environment free from discrimination. This past June this school graduated its first class. Of 16 students who applied for higher education, 7 have been accepted. Erika should be as proud of her students and her school as we are of her.

Congratulations Erika and I thank you all for the chance to participate in the ceremony and now I would ask President Goncz if he would join me in presenting this award.

[End of Document]
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