RETURN – U.S. Alumni in Hungary Conference (event recap)

January 30, 2016 by  

On January 30, 2016, CSS joined Civic Enterprises and alumni organizations of Hungarian professionals who have returned home after their experiences in the United States to continue the tradition of hosting the annual „RETURN – U.S. Alumni in Hungary” conference.

Alumni panel left to right: Éva Réz, Dr. Péter Kanizsai, Orsolya Ujj, Borbála Benedek, Anna Smith Lacey and U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, Colleen Bell opening the conference (photo: Attila Németh, U.S. Embassy)

Alumni panel left to right: Éva Réz, Dr. Péter Kanizsai, Orsolya Ujj, Borbála Benedek, Anna Smith Lacey and U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, Colleen Bell opening the conference (photo: Attila Németh, U.S. Embassy)

The conference is driven by the belief that the cooperation and communication between the alumni organizations provides opportunity for a more efficient use of knowledge acquired in the United States. RETURN also aims to support the reintegration of returnees, and to assist Hungarians who wish to study or do research in the US in the future.

In his opening remarks Márton Aichelburg of Civic Enterprises provided some food for thought when he lamented, “What would have happened to Hungary if 200 years ago Széchenyi and Wesselényi went to the U.S. instead of Great Britain?”

Dr. Lajos Aáry-Tamás, ombudsman of the education and patron of the RETURN conference expressed the need of bringing back knowledge from the other shores of the Atlantic and spread it in Hungary, as “Knowledge is a bridge between our nations.”

Rector of the Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Dr. Szabolcs Szuromi, opened the conference by highlighting the mutual benefits of transatlantic knowledge sharing and the need for building these experiences into the Hungarian society.

H.E. Colleen Bell, U.S. Ambassador to Hungary inspired the audience by talking about the broad scope of engagement between Hungary and the United States, and how this serves as a bridge that will endure for many generations. ”These (exchange) programs are pillars for this bridge. The great diversity of knowledge, connection and ideas are the pillars of growth in Hungary.” – said the U.S. Ambassador underlining Washington’s perspective on how academic and professional exchanges are fostering mutual understanding.

H.E. János Martonyi, former foreign minister of Hungary and patron of the conference sent a written message to the conference participants. In his message, Martonyi focused on the personal responsibility of the U.S. alumni upon their return to Hungary. “With their newly acquired knowledge and experience they can add to the development of economy, the initiative of enterprises and can represent universal values, for example the degree of freedom of economy and free trade. These new ideas could be combined with and adapted to traditional Hungarian and European values, thus contributing to common success.”

Anna Smith Lacey, co-founder of the Common Sense Society and the moderator of the alumni panel underlined that atlanticism and patriotism go hand-in-hand and referenced American revolutionary hero, Thomas Paine’s belief that “The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.”

The opening remarks were followed by the alumi panel, which showcased the broad range of platforms for cooperation across various professional fields.

Borbála Benedek (International Visitor Leadership Program), Orsolya Ujj (Pannonius Fellowship of The Common Sense Society), Dr. Péter Kanizsai (Hungarian Medical Association of America), Éva Réz (Fulbright Program), Zoltán Keresztény (HAESF, CTP) and Ágnes Lux (International Visitor Leadership Program).

The six U.S. alumni shared their American experiences in diverse fields including agriculture, philosophy, medicine and human rights with all of them expressing their intent of contributing the acquired knowledge for a more prosperous Hungary.


Afternoon breakout sessions (photo: Tivadar Limbacher, HAESF)

In the last section of the conference, members of audience participated in thematic group discussions focusing on how they can make a positive change in areas of entrepreneurship, health, public and foreign policy, human rights, education, science & technology, and freedom and democracy. The discussion leaders of each group then shared their conclusions and suggestions for areas to improve.

The conference was made possible by the generous support of the Embassy of the United States, the Hungarian-American Coalition and the Pázmány Péter Catholic University.

The alumni organizations presented at the conference included IvyPlus Alumni, the Hungarian Fulbright Association, the Hungarian American Enterprise Scholarship Fund Alumni, the Calasanctius Training Program Alumni, the Hungarian American Coalition – Congressional Internship Program Alumni, the Hungarian Medical Association of America Hungary Chapter, the Kellner Alumni Association, and the International Visitor Leadership Program Alumni.

Common Sense Society, along with Civic Enterprises were organizational partners in this endeavor with the aim to serve as an integrative platform for all interested returnees who share CSS’s vision of promoting civic engagement, entrepreneurship and a responsible notion of liberty.

Photo gallery of the event (photos by Attila Németh, U.S. Embassy and Tivadar Limbacher, HAESF)

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One Response to “RETURN – U.S. Alumni in Hungary Conference (event recap)”
  1. Anna Toth says:

    Thank you for the invitation! As a HAESF alumna, I enjoyed hearing inspiring stories, networking and participating in the group discussion.

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