“Hungarian speakers only” summer camp in Wisconsin paid by the Orbán government

A couple of weeks ago a children’s summer camp was held at Phantom Lake, Wisconsin. The organizers invited children between 8-14 years of age with one precondition: they had to speak the Hungarian language. The Hungarian Government generously supported the week-long fun-filled event. It was advertised only in Hungarian in the US and was called “Diaspora School Camp.”

Poster of the Diaspora School Camp

According to the Orbán government’s Nation Policy the Hungarian Nation is a World Nation. US and Canadian citizens with Hungarian ancestry are all Hungarians and part of the indivisible Nation Body. Those who live outside the Carpathian Basin are part of the Hungarian Diaspora and one day the Diaspora is expected to return to the Mother Country just like the Jews did to Israel. At least that is how Mr. Zsolt Semjén Deputy Prime Minister has explained it.

The United States has no official language. Twenty years ago President Clinton issued Executive Order 13166 which requires the use of multiple languages and translations by all federally-funded agencies and contractors. President Trump has recently indicated that the White House may consider making English the official language. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the media that President Trump is supporting the “English only” movement of the Republican Party.

Having a “Hungarian speakers only” camp for children raises some questions. Only 10% of Hungarian Americans speak Hungarian, mostly “kitchen Hungarian.” Even fewer can read or write correctly and it is widely understood that the Hungarian language is almost impossible to learn. A Hungarian only camp seems unfair, and even discriminative to those American children who want to learn about their Hungarian heritage but do not speak the language.

The camp instructors travelled from Hungary and taught about the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin. Since these children are American citizens, it would have been more appropriate to teach them about their own unique history, for example about the history of Hungarian immigrants in North-America, the Hungarian contribution to American independence, Kossuth’s famous trip to America or the role Hungarian American soldiers fighting against fascism and Horthyism.

I found it especially distasteful that the organizers made children wear a T-shirt advertising that the camp was sponsored by the “Prime Minister’s Office” and photos were widely distributed for propaganda purposes.

Children wore T-shirts indicating that the camp was paid by the Orbán government.

The organizers might want to rethink the “Diaspora School Camp” concept in the future. I see a need to teach Hungarian American immigrant history in English without importing nationalism from Budapest. And please stop using American children to advertise Orbán’s authoritarian government here in the US.

György Lázár

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