Remarks & Statements
Remarks by Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis at Kovats Mihaly Memorial Ceremony
May 11, 2012; Karcag, Hungary
Thank you, Ms. Papp. Minister Fazekas and Mayor Dobos, it is my honor to be in Karcag today to remember Kovats Mihaly, a brave soldier, leader and idealist.
Yesterday, in Budapest, we celebrated the 90th anniversary of U.S.-Hungarian diplomatic relations, and this morning I spoke at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Hungarian-American Fulbright Commission. Through government-to-government and people-to-people exchanges, our two countries have a long and proud history together. But as evidenced by Colonel Kovats, the ties between our countries go back far beyond 90 years.
Kovats Mihaly left his homeland for an idea, the idea of freedom. Legend has it that, after hearing about the American Revolution, he wrote to Benjamin Franklin, saying, "Golden freedom cannot be purchased with yellow gold," and offered his services on behalf of the revolutionaries. He sailed across the ocean, turning up in a far-away land, where he, a great Hussar, recruited, trained and led the first U.S. cavalry unit into battle.
On May 11, 1779 – 233 years ago today – Colonel Kovats led a cavalry charge against British troops in South Carolina to liberate the city of Charleston. He and his horse were struck down and he was killed in battle.
When I first heard this story, I decided that it was my duty, as the U.S. Ambassador, to come to Karcag, and lay a wreath at his statue. I am very happy to be here today to do so.
Today, American and Hungarian troops also stand shoulder to shoulder fighting for those same values that Colonel Kovats did over 200 years ago. I saw this cooperation first hand when I visited Afghanistan and Kosovo with Minister Hende. Earlier this week, I was in Afghanistan with NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander. I met with members of the Hungarian Defense Forces stationed at bases in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. I know that their country is proud of them, and it gave me immense pride to thank them, on behalf of the United States, for their sacrifices, hard work and courage.
Hungary has much to be proud of in the capability and professionalism of its armed forces. The strides you’ve taken over the past two decades to become contributing members of the NATO alliance are impressive.
And as the U.S. Ambassador, I’m so pleased to have been invited to this event to express the gratitude of the United State, and witness the pride that the town of Karcag has in their son, Kovats Mihaly, who played such an important role in forming the United States’ military and in securing our liberty, our freedom, our independence.