Stephen Colbert calls András Simonyi “the only ambassador I know who can shred a mean guitar!” In fact, Simonyi, the former Hungarian ambassador to the U.S., may be the only diplomat to also front a rock band. And as both, he has witnessed two of the most powerful forces in modern life: democracy and rock and roll. In ROCKING TOWARD A FREE WORLD, Simonyi reflects on the profound effect of those two forces in his life. He details the struggle of growing up behind the Iron Curtain in 1960s Hungary, and how under a communist regime music was powerful but furtive: records were black-market bootlegs; concerts were held in secret; protests were hidden in lyrics. To get caught meant punishment, even prison.
But Simonyi was determined and knew how music could feed the culturally impoverished. Inspired by the protest music coming out of the US and the UK, he formed a band, befriended musicians, and became part of the burgeoning rock scene. There were setbacks, the oppression of the regime, and the collapse of his own dreams of stardom. But Simonyi came of age in step with his struggling homeland. By 1989, when a watershed Amnesty International concert in Budapest helped signal lasting change in Hungary, it was Simonyi, now a bureaucrat, who helped make the concert a reality. That same year, the Berlin Wall fell, and communism began its collapse. Inspiring and moving, ROCKING TOWARD A FREE WORLD shows the soft power of rock and roll as a driver of change, and how it inspired one boy to make a difference in his country and the world.