Primary Sources

Appealing to College Students in Hungary


In the summer of 1989, President George Bush made an official visit to several East European countries, each in the midst of democratic demonstrations and public pressure on their Communist regimes. These visits provided President Bush an opportunity to lend support for the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe. In Hungary, for example, the President gave a speech at the famous Karl Marx University, which provided him a unique forum to address Hungarian students. In this excerpt, the President addresses the principle points of U.S. foreign policy as regarded Hungary, which would be based around three issues that appealed to students: the economy, the environment, and cultural exchange programs. While each of these issues related to the transition from a Communist government, these points are different than those used to appeal to the Hungarian government. This speech was intended to validate the efforts already underway by the students, rather than pressure the government to change from above.


George H. W. Bush, "Remarks to Students and Faculty at Karl Marx University in Budapest," speech, Budapest, Hungary, July 12, 1989, Bush Presidential Library, Documents and Papers, Bush Library (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

No, there is no mistaking the fact that we are on the threshold of a new era. And there's also no mistaking the fact that Hungary is at the threshold of great and historic change. You're writing a real constitution, and you're moving toward democratic, multiparty elections. And this is partly possible because brave men and women have formed opposition parties. And this is possible because Hungarian leaders are going to show the ultimate political courage: the courage to submit to the choice of the people in free elections.

But to succeed in reform, you'll need partners -- partners to help promote lasting change in Hungary. And I am here today to offer Hungary the partnership of the United States of America. Three vital spheres stand out in our partnerships: economics, the environment, and democratic and cultural exchange. The United States believes in the acceleration of productive change, not in its delay. So, this is our guiding principle: The United States will offer assistance not to prop up the status quo but to propel reform.


To make the transition to a productive economy will test your mettle as a people. The prices of some commodities may rise. Some inefficient businesses and factories will close. But the Hungarian Government is increasingly leaving the business of running the shops to the shopkeepers, the farms to the farmers. And the creative drive of the people, once unleashed, will create momentum of its own. And this will bring you a greater treasure than simply the riches you create. It'll give each of you control over your own destiny—a Hungarian destiny....

How to Cite this Source

President George H. W. Bush, "Appealing to College Students in Hungary," Making the History of 1989, Item #43, (accessed October 27 2021, 10:38 pm).

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