Former Dayton congressman and U.S. Ambassador Tony Hall received The Order of the Star of Romania, that country’s highest honor, in a ceremony at the Romanian Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
The award honors Hall for his “exceptional contribution to defense of democracy and human rights in Romania” in his opposition to Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, according to a document from the embassy.
Hall traveled to Romania in the 1980s during the Ceausescu regime with fellow Congressmen Frank Wolf and Chris Smith, “to learn more about the situation and see if we could be helpful.”
“We met with people who had been abused, thrown in jail without cause, saw the churches that had been bulldozed,” Hall said. “It was really heartbreaking, these people were living under conditions as harsh as the old Soviet Union but most of the world didn’t know how bad it was.”
According to a statement from the Hall Hunger Initiative, when Hall returned from Romania, he started a bipartisan effort to remove Romania’s Most Favored Nation trade status to show America’s condemnation of the regime.
The people of Romania eventually overthrew Ceausescu, put him on trial, and executed him.
“The people of Romania have told me this support from America was extremely important to their efforts. However, it’s the people of Romania who really deserve the credit,” Hall said. “They showed remarkable courage and resilience under conditions we can’t even imagine. I will always be in awe of their strength and faith.”
Hall added, “I also think this is a timely reminder that America needs to be a leader in the world, standing up against dictators and using our voice for human rights.”
Tony Hall represented Dayton in the Ohio Statehouse for 10 years, then in the U.S. Congress for nearly a quarter-century, from 1979 through 2002. He served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture from 2002-06.
A Kettering native, he is the son of Dave Hall, former mayor of Dayton. In 2015, he founded the Hall Hunger Initiative, an anti-hunger organization leading multiple efforts in Dayton.