Annette Lantos

Lantos Foundation Chair Calls on Hungary to Defend Academic Freedom

April 10, 2017
For Immediate Release
Contact: Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
(603) 226-3636

Mrs. Annette Lantos, Chair of the Lantos Foundation and the widow of the late Congressman Tom Lantos, today issued an open letter to the people of Hungary decrying controversial legislation that targets the prestigious Central European University for closure. Late last week, Mrs. Lantos sent a letter to the President of Hungary urging him to use his power to prevent the law from taking effect. It is reported that President Ader signed the law earlier today.

The Budapest born Mrs. Lantos describes CEU as "an outstanding, world class academic institution" and a "jewel in Hungary's crown". In her open message she calls upon the Hungarian people to defend academic freedom and the values of a free society.

Dear Hungary,

I write to you today as one of your daughters, who was fortunate to be born and raised in the incomparable city of Budapest. When just a teenager, I was forced to leave my Hungarian home during the terrible days of the Holocaust. I was blessed to find refuge and a new home in my adopted country, the United States of America. Despite all that had happened, neither I nor my late husband Tom Lantos ever lost our deep love for our native land. During the nearly three decades that he served in the U.S. Congress, Hungary had no greater friend in America.

We rejoiced in 1989 when Hungary overcame decades of Soviet rule to become an independent democracy. We also rejoiced when Budapest became the home of Central European University (CEU) – an outstanding, world class academic institution that brought respect and great prestige to the country we love.

You can imagine, then, that I am heartbroken by the recent decision of the government to target this distinguished university with unfounded attacks and threats of closure. I am also very disappointed by the decision of President Ader to sign this ill–conceived legislation into law. Why would the Hungarian government invite controversy and condemnation through this action and jeopardize a successful 23 year academic partnership with a respected American university? It is frankly baffling and illogical. Were my husband still alive, I know he would be speaking out forcefully against these actions. Though I am nearly 86 and a great grandmother many times over, I feel I must do the same.

The glory of any nation is its willingness to honor the past while simultaneously sustaining freedom and embracing the future. CEU represents these shining goals. It embodies the ideals of free, robust, and exacting academic inquiry and it has become the training academy for some of the best and brightest future leaders in Hungary, Europe, and the world. Truly, it is a jewel in Hungary's crown and it would be a tragic mistake to pluck it out and cast it aside. I know that millions of Hungarians agree with me about this and I was heartened to see so many thousands of you take to the streets just a few days ago to voice your support for the continued ability of CEU to be part of Hungary’s rich academic tradition. 

Now more than ever, it is up to the people of Hungary to defend this bastion of learning and liberty and to persuade your government to reconsider this misguided policy. Your fellow countrymen and the world will salute your determination to do so.

Mrs. Annette Lantos
Chair, Lantos Foundation

Remarks by Mrs. Annette Lantos; Lantos Prize Ceremony 2014

"Many years ago Tom and I took our two young daughters on a trip to Prague where, in the old Jewish Quarter, we learned of the Nazi plans to establish a “Museum of an Extinct Race.” I remember feeling the cold sense of dread and horror that one experiences in the face of evil. I clutched my two little girls’ hands a bit tighter that day, but not in fear, rather in determination!

Like you, President Peres, we were determined to answer this evil with good. You have answered it in countless ways, most importantly as one of the fathers of the unprecedented miracle that is modern day Israel and by your heroic defense of her highest aspirations and deepest values.

Through our work on behalf of human rights Tom and I gave our answer, but as you know Tom’s proudest rebuke to those who sought to wipe us off the face of the earth was his family. Our two wonderful daughters shared a vision. They were determined to rebuild the family that had been taken from us and to rekindle a light for the millions of murdered children. And they have kindled many beautiful lights who are now the light of my life. Surrounding me are my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We reaffirm today and forever that like Abraham of old we choose goodness over evil, light over darkness, and we choose life!"

Annette Lantos' statement for The Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington, DC

"I am deeply grateful to be here, and honored to accept this award on Tom’s behalf.

My husband Tom and I first met when I was six. And we spent the next 70 years as sweethearts.

His love affair with Israel was almost as long. And like ours, it was an epic romance.

As a survivor of the Holocaust, Tom’s first visit to Israel touched him in ways that are almost impossible to describe. Against the backdrop of the unconscionable devastation of European Jewry, he saw Jewish families working to build a future amid the rocks and sand. And he saw a people committed to making the dessert bloom, and fulfilling the promise of the Holy Land.

Tom also realized that Israel’s future was uncertain. He had seen enough of the world and enough of war to know that the line between Israel’s survival and Israel’s destruction was paper thin. So he made it part of his life’s mission to stand for Israel – to work for a world in which its people would live without the fear of another Holocaust.

Tom also recognized that people of good will from all faiths would have to join in this cause. During the Second World War, his life had been saved through the intervention of a Swedish Lutheran named Raoul Wallenberg. And he knew that in the fight to secure Israel’s future, Christians would have to show that same commitment a million times over.

Tonight, we can look out on this room and see the awakening in the hearts of thousands of Christians who have accepted that call. Like my husband, you have made a commitment to stand with Israel.

It fills me with emotion – and hope – to know that so many Christians are coming together to support the aspiration of a secure and lasting homeland for the Jewish people. It is a phenomenon that can only be explained though God’s divine intervention.

Pastor and Mrs. Hagee, you have been the pioneers in working to turn this extraordinary moment into a movement. And I thank you for your work to cultivate this great awakening. If Tom were here, he would be as honored as I am to accept this Defender of Israel Award.

Before he died, Tom asked me, our daughters, and our 17 grandchildren to work to carry on his legacy. And with help from thousands of supporters, we have created the Lantos Foundation to continue his work. The Foundation raises its voice when others are silent. It calls the world to remember the evils of the past so they are not visited upon the future. And it seeks to create a world in which all people – and especially the people of Israel – will be able to live their lives free from fear.

As I receive this award with humility and gratitude, I ask you to join us in this work. Israel has made great progress since Tom’s first visit. But the task of defending Israel is never finished. It has been a constant – from the time of the prophets down through the present day. And we must continue that legacy of courage and commitment. It is our responsibility and our sacred inheritance.

On behalf of my husband and the Lantos Foundation, I look forward to continuing with you in this great cause. And may God grant us the peace of Jerusalem."

Dedication ceremony of the Raoul Wallenberg "safe house" in Budapest Hungary

Mrs. Annette Lantos, wife of the late Congressman Lantos and Chairman of the Lantos Foundation, will travel to Budapest, Hungary next week to participate in a day-long event honoring her husband's service and commitment to Eastern-Central Europe and global human rights issues. The event will include a dedication ceremony for a plaque that will be placed at the Raoul Wallenberg "safe house" where Tom Lantos found refuge after escaping twice from Nazi slave labor camps. Mrs. Lantos will speak at the dedication, which will be followed by an afternoon symposium dealing with human rights and Hungarian/American relations, among other topics.

The participants include a distinguished roster of guests, including NATO Ambassador Kurt Volker, author Kati Marton, Professor Charles Gati, and Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.

The day will conclude with a dinner at the American Embassy.