- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

‘ZOLTAN, THE MAGNIFICENT’

Zoltan Feher, one of the best diplomatic press secretaries on Embassy Row, is having such a good time saying goodbye that he jokes he may return to Washington soon, if his friends will throw him more farewell parties.

Mr. Feher, spokesman at the Hungarian Embassy for four years, is going home to Budapest to serve in the Foreign Ministry. His time in Washington coincided with the lively, rock ‘n’ roll ambassador, Andras Simonyi, and Mr. Feher was so successful at getting his boss in the news that some reporters called him “Zoltan, the Magnificent.”

Mr. Simonyi, who plays electric guitar and formed a part-time band of diplomats he called the “Coalition of the Willing,” performed at the Hungarian Embassy, at Madam’s Organ restaurant in Northwest, at nightclubs in New York and at benefits for breast cancer and other causes. He also delivered a lecture at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Mr. Feher was there to make sure reporters got a good story.

“We rocked for the cure. We rocked for the troops. We rocked for the firemen,” he said Wednesday night at his third going-away party.

“I want to thank you for being my best friends and my family in D.C.,” he told guests at the Georgetown home of Gail Scott, author of “Diplomatic Dance,” a book about the contemporary role of ambassadors.

Carlos Gutierrez, secretary of commerce under President Bush, praised Mr. Feher for his efforts to promote strong U.S.-Hungary ties.

“We’ve come such a long way,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “We’re proud of our [bilateral] friendship and what it can become in the future.”

Leslie Megyeri, president of the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America and a veteran of the failed 1956 pro-democracy uprising in Hungary, said, “I have never met anyone who has reached out to the Hungarian-American people like Zoltan.”

Mrs. Scott, who writes on diplomatic issues, added, “My life would be so much easier if we had a Zoltan at each embassy.”

Other guests at the reception included Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs in the Bush administration, and Tomicah Tillemann, a speechwriter for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a grandson of the late Tom Lantos, Hungarian-born Democratic congressman from California.

LIBERIA’S FUTURE

After 14 years of civil war that cost a quarter of a million lives, Liberia has a chance for a better future especially with a majority of the population born after the conflict, according to the U.S. ambassador to the West African nation.

“This means the onus is on Liberia’s elders to lead by example and to ensure that the best of Liberia’s traditions are not forgotten,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a Fourth of July speech.

She noted that 71 percent of the country’s population of 3.5 million has “no memory of Liberia before the war.”

The conflict from 1989 to 2003 was chiefly a clash between the followers of Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor, two despotic warlords whose armies slaughtered civilians indiscriminately and crippled Liberia’s economy. Liberia was on the path to destruction years before fighting broke out.

“It took decades to tear down Liberia’s infrastructure and institutions. It took decades to dash people’s hopes and kill their spirit,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said. “It will take decades to build them back up.”

She added, “I have confidence in Liberia.”

Liberia has had a special relationship with the United States since freed American slaves founded the country in 1847 and named its capital after President James Monroe.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com

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