Marymount University should cancel Szemerkényi’s commencement speech

Many of our readers have probably never heard of Marymount University, a small Catholic school in Arlington, Virginia. A couple of months ago they announced that in May the commencement speech of the graduate program would be given by Hungary’s Ambassador to Washington, Réka Szemerkényi. (The location is DAR Constitution Hall, 1776 D Street NW Washington, D.C.)

In the meantime Ms. Szemerkényi got fired from her post and Marymount University had to change her title on the invitation to Former Ambassador of Hungary to the United States. Embarrassing. (See invitation here.)

Of course, selecting a commencement speaker is not an easy task. Some colleges consider student input and diversity when choosing a speaker. They develop screening processes to ensure that the speakers are both engaging and appropriate for the audience of graduating students and their families, faculty and administrators. Commencement speakers are supposed to deliver a message of perseverance and success in order to inspire graduates; the speech should be balanced, thoughtful and at the same time provocative.

Réka Szemerkényi had no previous diplomatic experience before being named ambassador. She worked as a consultant at the Hungarian oil and gas company, MOL Group. Hungary receives virtually all its energy from Putin’s Russia. Ms. Szemerkényi was involved with negotiations with the Russians but also travelled to Kurdistan (Iraq) to negotiate joint ventures. She worked for CEO  Zsolt Hernádi who has appeared on the list of Interpol most wanted for bribery.

Ms. Szemerkényi is married to Romanian-born Szabolcs Ferencz, another top manager at MOL who now spends most of his time in Washington DC. Mr. Ferencz is also a board member (part owner?) of a Swiss energy trading business jointly owned with Russians. The MET Group is registered in Zug (Switzerland) and does profitable natural gas trading with Russia. One of the owners is Russian businessman Ilya Trubnikov. Atlatszo.hu, a Hungarian anti-corruption site, suspects that MET is under the control of influential Hungarian and Russian political figures. Surprisingly, Ms. Szemerkényi is very interested in US cyber security technology, she has no technical background yet she attended several US cyber security meetings and conferences. (Read more here.)

Szemerkényi and her husband, Szabolcs Ferencz with President Bush and his wife, Barbara.

In an interview with Hungarian weekly Figyelő, Ms. Szemerkényi explained that she has already met the US President three times since his election. Trump greeted her as an acquaintance at their meeting! Ms. Szemerkényi has, by her own description, met “half” the US government; she had three meetings with Jeff Sessions and met with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State nominee Wilbur Ross, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as well.

Szemerkényi (far right) with US Vice President Mike Pence (left).

Ms. Szemerkényi’s close associate in Washington is Jeffrey “J.D.” Gordon. He is a communications and foreign policy advisor who served as Pentagon spokesman and was also an advisor to conservative Republican politicians. Last year he joined the Trump campaign as the Director of National Security under Sen. Jeff Sessions, currently the Attorney General. At the Republican National Convention Gordon removed text from the GOP Platform that called for lethal assistance to Ukraine in its struggle against Russia. Gordon admitted that he had contacts with Russia’s ambassador to Washington and he emphasized “the importance of improving relations with Russia.” Gordon visited Hungary on six several occasions. (Read about J.D. Gordon’s visits in Hungarian.)

J.D. Gordon is a frequent guest at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington DC

The president of Marymount University, Matthew Shank was a personal guest in Ms. Szemerkényi’s hometown Eger. He signed a surprising five-year agreement on cooperation primarily in law enforcement and cybernetics with the Public Service University of Budapest. (Watch video about the visit here.)

Recently the Justice Department appointed Robert Muller former FBI director, as special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. J.D. Gordon’s name appeared in the US media in relation to Russian contacts and it is suspected that the Orbán-regime played a role in establishing the “bridge” between Russian President Putin and the Trump campaign.

We don’t know whether these contacts were illegal or not, but at this point, it would be ill advised to give a podium to ex-Ambassador Szemerkényi at Marymount University.

György Lázár

One Comment

  1. Bendeguz79 says:

    Just why NOT ?
    The University have the basic right to call any one to make a commencement speech.
    There are lots of Universities and Colleges, so is the HFP going to criticise and oppose how many of them?
    What’s wrong with the Russian business connections? This is Globalism today.
    No longer the “World Proletariat Unite”, but the world’s bankers and industrialist united.
    Just what the hell else one may think the EU is ?
    Wake up men, this is today’s reality.
    Go with the flow, or it will wash you away !
    This is what all you socialists wanted from the start.
    It’s a bit too late to start bitching now ! Hm?

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