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Clinton’s Speech to Hungary Leader

June 8, 1999

The text of President Clinton’s remarks Tuesday at a White House welcoming ceremony for Hungarian President Arpad Goncz:

President and Mrs. Goncz, ladies and gentlemen: In the early 1850s the great Hungarian patriot, Royas Konshud, came to this country and to this house to seek support for restoring liberty to his nation. He said then: To find the sunlight of freedom, we must come to America.

Konshud would be proud today that his statement no longer holds, that the sunlight of freedom shines in Hungary and all across the world.

In the past year I have had the privilege to welcome to the White House extraordinary leaders who risked their lives in the struggle for liberty, were imprisoned for their beliefs and activism, and now have emerged in freedom’s sunlight as the presidents of their nations: Kim Dae-jung of South Korea, Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

Today with freedom at last shining brightly in Hungary, I have the great honor and pleasure to welcome President Arpad Goncz: our friend, our partner, our ally.

Let me begin with a few words about our common enterprise in Kosovo.

For 77 days we have been working to achieve a simple set of objectives there: the return of refugees with safety and self-government, the withdrawal of all Serbian forces, the deployment of an international security force with NATO at its core.

Last Thursday, Serb authorities accepted a peace plan that embodies those conditions. Today in Bonn we took another important step forward. The G-8 countries now have agreed to language of a United Nations Security Council resolution that will help us to realize these basic goals: peace with security for the people of Kosovo and stability for the region as a whole.

The key now, as it has been from the beginning of this process, is implementation. A verifiable withdrawal of Serb forces will allow us to suspend the bombing and go forward with the plan.

NATO is determined to bring the Kosovars home, to do so as an alliance acting together, and in a way that ultimately can strengthen the relationship between Russia and the West.

Our great writer, E.L. Doctorow, once said, ``The devastating history of 20th century Europe, which you and I might study in a book or look at as tourists, is housed in the beam of our peace.″

In World War II, he fought in resistance and was wounded by Nazi fire. In 1956, he rose with fellow citizens against Stalinist oppression.

And after Soviet tanks crushed the uprising, he was sentenced to life in prison. Released after six years, he became a translator, bringing Western ideas to Hungary. And through his own plays and stories, challenged Hungarians to think about the nature of tyranny and the meaning of freedom.

After NATO’s resolve and the courage of Central Europeans helped to bring down the Iron Curtain, the Hungarian people chose this great man to lead them.

Now Hungary is one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe with America its largest foreign investor. Hungary has acted to protect the rights of its own minority groups and worked for the rights of ethnic Hungarians in other nations.

Hungary has stood with the United States as a NATO ally against ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and for a more positive future for all of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe.

Hungary is leading the way toward what people dreamed of throughout the long Cold War. I am very proud of the alliance between our countries, the friendship between our peoples. I am grateful for the contributions of Hungarian Americans to the fabric of our present greatness and good fortune. And I am very honored to welcome here the president of Hungary.

President Goncz, welcome back to America and to the White House.

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