- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL DIPLOMACY

The U.S. ambassador to Hungary admired a collection of American music posters from the 1960s and regretted that she was too young for the psychedelic days that bloomed in San Francisco.

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead were “golden oldies” by the time Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis was growing up. When she was ready to dance, even disco had lost its sparkle.

“My friends and I often lamented that we had … missed being part of this amazing cultural uprising,” Mrs. Kounalakis said at the opening of the poster exhibition at a Budapest art gallery. “We lamented that by the time we were old enough to join, it was all over.”

Mrs. Kounalakis, who was born in 1966 and raised in Northern California, noted that the 1960s was one of the most controversial eras in American history.

“It was a period marked by the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It was a time of great change and great social upheaval,” she said.

“The psychedelic rock movement that grew out of San Francisco and quickly spread across the United States and around the world reflects this history.

“War, race relations, women’s rights and differing interpretations of the American dream were reflected in the lyrics and at the happenings where psychedelic rock was played.”

Mrs. Kounalakis, a Greek-American, noted that “psychedelic” is Greek word that means a “colorful alteration of the senses.” However, she only vaguely referred to the source of that “alteration” - mind-altering drugs such as LSD.

The exhibition was organized by Andras Simonyi, a former Hungarian ambassador to the United States who is old enough to have been part of the 1960s.

Mr. Simonyi, who plays electric guitar, organized his own diplomatic rock band, which he called the “Coalition of the Willing,” during his years in Washington from 2002 to 2007.

He credits rock music with inspiring a generation of East Europeans such as himself, growing up behind the Iron Curtain and secretly listening to Western radio.

“It didn’t matter whether the communists built walls,” he told Embassy Row earlier this year. “They couldn’t stop the music.”

RAISING THE FLAG

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