Laudatory address to award-winner April Foley by Anna Sikó

2011. 11. 12.

We have gathered here today to celebrate the Work of April Foley who served faithfully as a reliable bridge between our two countries, the United States of America, her native land and Hungary, her posting from 2006 to 2009. Through April’s committment, hard work, relentless persuasion and human touch numerous ties have been knotted between us and therefore it seemed only natural to the Trustees of our Foundation to give the 2009 Széll Kálmán Award to April Foley.

Kálmán Széll,after whom our foundation takes its name, was a Hungarian politician at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was not only Minister of Finance and later Prime Minister of our country but also an innovator, a modernizer,  a man famous for his personal integrity as well as for his welcoming, sociable personality.

April - just like Kálmán Széll in his time - based her work on her theoretical and practical background in economics along with straight forward common sense. Her smooth sailing in the troubled waters of politics and diplomacy was no little achievement.


Prior to her ambassadorial posting to Budapest April had had an extensive career in professional management. She had served as First Vice President and Vice Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the US. She worked for 17 years as an executive for PepsiCo in roles including strategic planning, financial management and mergers and acquisitions. She had also worked for Pfizer and The Reader's Digest.


In addition to her business experience, she has held significant volunteer leadership positions with numerous civic organizations including Smith College's campaign, CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, United Way and the Alexis de Tocqueville Society.


Having a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Smith College and an MBA from Harvard University as well as three children - Catherine, Gifford and James- April was well prepared for the momentous task of taking up her post as Ambassador of the United States of America to Hungary in August 2006.


We are all aware around this table that since - at least – the autumn of that very year Hungarian political life has been rather eventful. In times like these it was reassuring for all democratic forces to experience April’s professional, level headed and emphatic presence at the American Mission in Budapest.


During her service as Ambassador April has shown understanding of Hungarian society as a whole, both geographically as well as socially. No mean feat, I can assure you!


She helped raise investors’ awareness of the potential in parts of Hungary where unemployment is the greatest challenge.


On the other hand, April was there for us to share the American legal, professional and political experience when possible hostile takeovers were threatening some of Hungary’s biggest enterprises.


She worked hard to help the socially handicapped, to establish not only more business partnerships between the two countries but also to further cultural understanding whether through setting up exchange programs or the American Corners in Hungarian universities.


Having travelled extensively April has come to understand, appreciate, enjoy and very flatteringly advocate many cultural, gastronomical and scientific achievements that Hungarian people have to offer in the Carpathian Basin.


April has helped greatly to clarify for those involved with American-Hungarian relations that in Hungary FIDESZ is the party of western values, the political organization that stands up for liberty, prosperity and the rule of law. She continues to raise awareness amongst American decision-makers of Hungary and of the Hungarian politicians of likeminded values.


Once April was asked what she thought Hungarians were like. Her answer was “Hungarians love to engage intellectually. They are very open to ideas, to different ways of thinking about things. And they are extremely intelligent.” Well, if that is the case than April must be Hungarian – (and we all know from George Mikes that when looking a bit deeper “Everybody is Hungarian”.


Paul Johnson, the famous English historian said that the best solutions are reached by “people of informed mind and good heart”. We have got to know April Foley to be just such a person or as I understand her personal motto says “Semper fidelis” that is “always faithful” or “always true”.


It is therefore a great honor for me to present you with the Széll Kálmán Award of 2009.

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