Good evening. It is an honor to receive the Düsseldorf Tonhalle Human Rights Prize. I am grateful to Adam Fischer for recognizing the work of the Open Society Foundations and I regret that I am unable to be with you tonight in person.
I want to thank Adam for his vision and his dedication to the promotion of human rights. I would also like to thank the Friends and Sponsors of the Düsseldorf Tonhalle, who have made this award possible.
This recognition comes at a critical time, when the principles of open society are under attack in many parts of the world: in the United States, in Turkey, in Myanmar, and even in Europe, in Hungary, and elsewhere.
I should like to let you all know that I have decided to donate the prize money that so generously comes with the award to an organization that is doing important work in Hungary.
As you may know, I was born in Budapest and spent my early years there. My family is Jewish, and this meant we became targets during the Nazi occupation. I probably would have perished if my father had not understood the gravity of the situation early on. He arranged false identity papers for his family and helped many other Jews survive. It was of course a very dark time in Europe’s history but helping others gave our lives meaning and purpose. It was the formative experience of my life and the experience made me realize how important it is what kind of political regime prevails.
That is why I am so concerned to see the country of my birth under the control of those who seem to want to maintain power at all costs. At the same time I am encouraged by the ordinary Hungarians who standing up for what is right and who are finding ways to contribute to the country and help others. That is why I have dedicated the prize money to support the Real Pearl Foundation - Igazgyongy Alapitvany in Hungarian.
The Real Pearl Foundation does important work with communities in Eastern Hungary, which is one of the poorest regions in the country. Its mission is to promote integration and development, with a particular focus on helping children and families. I particularly admire Real Pearl’s program on arts education, which integrates children from the Roma community, who are of course the most marginalized people in Europe.
This is vital work, and I should like to take this occasion to applaud the Real Pearl Foundation and all those in Hungary who keep the flame burning for compassion, equality, and hope.
Thank you again, good evening, and enjoy the music.