Ronald Reagan's Letter to a Little Girl in Hungary
Since Michael Horn posted below on Ronald Reagan's beautiful letter to his son Michael, I thought I'd tell a story.
Back in 1985, Pat Buchanan, then White House director of communications, sent me on a fascinating trip, having me join a "young leaders" visit to Yugoslavia and Hungary, the only time I visited Communist Europe.
In day in the countryside outside Budapest, our tour guides arranged for us to go hot air ballooning--I remained on the ground, riding in the chase car--and when the balloon landed, it happened to come down near a farm house. The family invited us inside, serving us tea. One member of the household, a little girl--she must have been ten or eleven--stared at me when the translator explained that I worked at the White House. She seemed fascinated--but also afraid. She asked me to tell President Reagan not to use nuclear weapons on Hungary. Somehow, I found the scene so moving--the simple, poor family, serving us Americans tea; the friendly but frightened little girl--that when we got back to our hotel in Budapest I made some notes and then, back in Washington in a couple of weeks later, I described the scene in a couple of paragraphs, preparing a memo for the President.
I sent the memo off--and, knowing full well that the chances it would actually reach the President were close to zero, forgot about it.
My friend Joanne Drake, who works at the Reagan Foundation, sent me an email, explaining that she had just heard from a complete stranger in Hungary. Was the man's story true? Completely true, I replied. Completely true.
Below, his story--and the letter he describes.
In 1985 at Easter time on Sunday afternoon we saw hot air balloons flying above our little village in Hungary. That time there was socialism in Hungary and people didn’t have many stimuli except for solving the daily family problems. We were 10 years old then and we gazed at the balloons that were descending and coming closer to the ground. We asked our parents to let us follow them in case they might land somewhere near our village. And indeed, they landed in a valley, 2-3 km from the village. The sight was fascinating for us and more and more grown-ups joined us to see what was happening.
After their landing we tried to get closer to the strangers and to the balloons as we had never seen something like that before. The travelers looked friendly but they were not Hungarians and they did not speak Hungarian. We found out later that they were from the USA. Fortunately, there was a woman among them who was Hungarian so she could help us with the communication. The travelers had to wait for the bus that picked them up so we accompanied them into our village and showed them the landscape. They had fun with us and when we reached the top of the hill they had a beautiful view of the village. They admired the stunning landscape. In the middle of the village a bus was waiting for them but we asked them to stay a little bit longer and our parents invited them into our house. Our living room was full of people. As it was usual in the countryside we always had home-made sausages, bacon, wine and ‘pálinka’ (kind of brandy; typical Hungarian spirit). The guests were happy to have the opportunity to taste these dishes. It was around 7 o’clock. The guests were eating, drinking and chatting. They were having a good time there. My sister who was 11 years old then told the guests that if they were really Americans, they should tell Ronald Reagan that we did not want nuclear war. We were taken aback when we heard the answer. One of the guests said that he would give this message to Mr. Reagan personally because he was Peter M. Robinson, the speech writer of the US President. After that we forgot about this topic. The guests left at around 11 pm., although the bus had been waiting for them since 8.30 pm. They thanked us for our hospitality and told us that they had visited a number of places in Hungary but they liked our village the most.
Some weeks passed on and we got a letter from the White House, and the sender was Mr. Peter M. Robinson. We were very glad and could understand the letter with the help of a translator. He wrote that he had delivered the message to the President of the United States. After another few weeks we received a letter again. It had been already opened before. We did not understand much of the letter that time but we were gasping in amazement as the sender was personally Mr. Ronald Reagan.