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Sulyok Tamás beszéde a Kossuth- és Széchenyi díjátadó 2024.03.14.

"To be Hungarian is a unique and distinct quality" – Speech by Tamás Sulyok at the Kossuth- and Széchenyi-Awards Ceremony

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With distinguished respect and great esteem, I welcome the laureates and honourees!

"We demand our rights, which have been withheld from us until now, and we wish for them to be shared by everyone." - According to national memory, Mór Jókai introduced the presentation of the 12 Points with this exclamation on the morning of March 15, 1848. At that time, only a handful of brave and pure-hearted, determined youths stood behind him, who considered it their duty to take one big step after decades of small steps - and thus heralded the beginning of a new era. They declared that rights and duties form a natural unity. We look back on this day as a sudden and eruptive manifestation of Hungarian desire for freedom.

There was no shortage of great Hungarians at the time, but only these young people managed to take a tremendous step forward. Many were denied the chance to engage in the endeavour from the outset, and even others were prevented from completing it – but with this deed, they forever inscribed their names in the hearts of Hungarians, and in the glorious pages of world history.

We remember them as a dozen – or perhaps a slightly larger number – of passionate and hot-headed youths. Their souls were indeed blazed with a desire for freedom, a sense of justice and patriotism, but I would be cautious with the stigmatizing label of hot-headedness.

Because who were they? What kind of group was their society, brought together by historical necessity, a group that came to be known as the Youths of March? They were an active community of young people who knew our national history and traditions well, drawing from our unique language and culture, loving their own people, open to the world, and excelling in the pursuit of knowledge.

I can proudly mention the solicitor apprentices so dear to me (Gyula Bulyovszky or János Vidats), the great poets and novelists (Petőfi or Jókai), but also those who later pursued and completed significant scientific careers (Frigyes Korányi or Albert Nyáry). They enriched the nation not only with their active engagement in the revolution, but also with their achievements forged in day-to-day struggles - leaving a lasting imprint on our national culture and Hungarian scientific life.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our survival should not be taken for granted. We had to and must take action for it, using the means of law, the achievements of culture and the results of science. The line „Arise Magyar, your country calls!” is not a simple exclamation, but a continuous imperative that spans centuries, a command to fight for justice and freedom in times of disempowerment and oppression.

Uniquely, we Hungarians have made great and world-changing contributions right when we were engaged in struggles. Defiantly, we rallied together and acted as our own ramparts even when our bulwarks had been torn down. We have learned to dance with our feet bandaged, and we have never stopped rebuilding the country, enriching our language and literature, strengthening our institutions and communities. Our scientists have always been at the forefront of innovation, even in the most difficult times. We were able to do so as our achievements stem from a life-giving source: Hungarian culture.

"Our culture is not only the key to our survival, but also a source of inspiration, an inexhaustible treasury of values that not only sustains us, but also inspires us to great deeds, dazzling creations and fantastic discoveries.

Thus, Hungarian culture has become and will continue to be more than just a collection of creations – it is a unique voice, a refreshing splash of colour, an enriching source of value and knowledge in Europe and the world. It is universal while forming part of our national identity – and there is no contradiction in this.

If we Hungarians are lost, the world will be diminished. Just as a mission statement by István Széchenyi read at the time: "to save a nation for humanity.”

To be Hungarian is a unique and distinct quality. Hungarians can only be part of universal history with their own culture and national characteristics. The heroes of 1848-49 were able to create something world-renowned by first finding their own voice.

Esteemed Laureates and Honourees,

The great figures of Hungarian science and culture – or we may also say, significant Hungarian representatives of science and culture – are recognized worldwide.

Those who are today assured of the nation’s deep appreciation have advanced from the status of practitioner to the status of expander of culture and science, and they did so with remarkable success – enriching the European and universal human treasure trove.

Your work strengthens the nation, but all can benefit from its fruits. On this day of celebration, with the presentation of prizes and honours, we look with respect upon decades of perseverance and success, the results of the commitment and will of the human spirit, talent, and knowledge. As masters of your field, you have created something lasting, which will eternally remain an integral part of Hungarian culture and scientific life, and on which future generations can safely build.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

“Those who possess talent must develop it to the highest degree, so that they can be of the greatest possible use to their fellow human beings. Because every human being is worth only as much as they can support their fellow humans and serve their country. Art is one of the most powerful tools for the elevation of humanity, and those who make it accessible to as many people as possible are benefactors of humanity" said Zoltán Kodály".

Those of us who draw inspiration from our Hungarian identity, we even have a duty. According to our talents and possibilities, we must contribute to the common national treasure trove, for the benefit of the people". We must also introduce future generations to the depth of Hungarian heritage and culture, so that it may elevate them to dazzling heights.

However, the events of 176 years ago remind us that success cannot be achieved without the enforcement of the law. Enthusiastic solicitor apprentices are needed in every era. For, as Petőfi said: "Only legal order turns a land into a homeland."