20th August 2018

Speech of President János Áder at the passing out ceremony of officer cadets at Kossuth square

Esteemed Officer Graduates,
Dear celebrating Hungary,

Bronze and marble statues, an imposing figure on the gilded pages of chronicles.
This is how we see Saint Stephen – our first king – everywhere.

The founder of the State. A hero with mythical strength. A Saint in glory.

But there is little that we know about the man. A contemporary chronicler who found it important to also record this, noted that Saint Stephen would on occasion take pleasure in watching his son keep vigil in prayer or study. He would peek at him “through the cracks in the wall”. A parent full of pride and concern.

Nearing the end of his life, he penned his admonitions to his son, Prince Emeric.He gave him advice that is still food for thought for all of us today.

One of his admonitions sounded as follows: „…be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down”.

My distinguished Compatriots,

There is not much use in looking for luck in the past of the Hungarians: we have already grown accustomed to the lack of it. However, whatever happened – and there have been better and worse times – the country of Saint Stephen, the country of the Hungarians has endured despite all the hardship. It survived its losses, the infidelity of its sons, its bad kings, the devastation of foreign armies, its changing borders.

It survived because it remained strong – adversity did not cast it down totally. There have been smaller whirlwinds, which have made peoples larger than we are disappear.

Hungarians persevered. We are still here today.

People with this kind of strength will not be a puppet of times. They will not wait around for sheer luck, nor will they fear adversity. They will not fret over the past, because they no longer have control over it. Nor will they dread tomorrow, because they know that the future can still be shaped today.

Esteemed commemorating crowd,

Saint Stephen confessed not only his own personal faith, but related to this, western Christian culture as well. The interdependence of European peoples, the strength of mutual respect. He believed that it is not enough to simply survive history, we also have the power to shape it. He knew that our fate, the fate of the Hungarian homeland is shaped much more by our expectations about a common future than by the common past. He collected friends, while other monarchs were gathering enemies. He sought a peaceful path instead of conquests.

His Hungarian self-consciousness was never in conflict with his European spirit. Patriotism and Europeanism belonged together in his case.

He never pursued dreams of building a global empire. Instead he went on building: the home of Hungarians. And because he was building for the future with all his heart and might, all that he left behind was built further by generations. An independent, free European country that was a vassal to nobody. A country that could not be destroyed even by pretenders for the throne, the devastation of the Tatars, the Ottoman occupation, revolutions and wars, but not even by murderous dictatorships.

Many have tried to take away this Hungary from us in many different ways. They rewrote its laws, burned its villages to the ground, put down its revolutions. But this country, “in spite of long calamity and centuries of strife” was kept alive by the fidelity, work and dedication of all those – our parents, grandparents and great grandparents – who did not bow to the storms of the times.

Whatever the name of this country was, whoever was at the helm and wherever they tried to steer it, the fate of the country was shaped by those who – sometimes instinctively, sometimes consciously – worked honestly, decently and restlessly to continue to inhabit this country of Hungarians.

They were the ones who carried the traditions of Saint Stephen forward.

This country will not forget the sins, that brought it shame, that were committed in its name.
It will not forget the weapons, that shot Miklós Radnóti into the mass grave and Sára Salkaházi into the Danube. It will not forget the rifle butt, which bludgeoned Antal Szerb to death. This Hungary will not forget the decree that forcefully expelled ethnic Germans from Dunabogdány, the barracks of Recsk, the salvo of the secret police, ÁVÓ or the noose that was placed around the necks of Imre Nagy and Péter Mansfeld.


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