Remarks at the 11th Biennial Conference of the Hungarian Association for American Studies (HAAS)

Professor Bodis, Mr. Giran, Ms. Bartos, Ambassador Helfand, Professor Fischer, Dr. Taróssy, Dr. Brückner, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jó napot!  Good morning!   I am delighted to be here with you today to celebrate this special occasion — the 11th Biennial Conference of the Hungarian Association for American Studies in association with the Hungarian Association for Ibero-American Studies.  Since 1992, the HAAS has pursued the study of the United States, its history and culture, its people and politics, its language and literature.  The Association represents not just a unique field of academic research, but a vibrant and exciting aspect of the relationship between the United States and Hungary as well as the entire trans-Atlantic relationship.

American studies scholars and students make up a key component of the bridge between our societies.  Through their research, they travel back and forth across the bridge, transporting ideas, best practices, and inspiration.  Their work exposes audiences around the world to the best of American society and civilization, while their scholarly eyes help us to view the United States from a different perspective and to understand ourselves a bit better.

From my own university days studying abroad in Scotland, I learned that seeing the world from a different vantage point is one of the best ways to know and appreciate your own culture.  From simple things, like learning that the rest of the world doesn’t like peanut butter as much as Americans, to complex issues, like explaining the relationship between the branches of the U.S. Government, my time at a foreign university, among international scholars, gave me a fresh  view of my own country.  It helped me to challenge my own assumptions, and it encouraged me to learn more about America’s role in the global community.  These are lessons that have remained with me throughout my career, especially during my time as Ambassador.

I am very pleased that the Hungarian Association for American Studies continues to consider the contributions of the United States in so many fields and to explore our culture in a way that benefits us all.  This exchange of knowledge, especially face-to-face meetings of scholars, has been one of the key components of the U.S. Government’s exchange programs, including the International Visitor Leadership Program and of course, the Fulbright Program.

I am sure that everybody in the room knows about the Fulbright Program, and that many of you have participated inthis flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government, designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.  The Fulbright Association has designated November 2016 a month-long celebration of “70 Years of Fulbright” to highlight the program’s contribution to the international relations of the United States.

Since the inception of the program in Hungary in 1978, I’m pleased to report that more than 1,000 Hungarian students and scholars have traveled to the United States, while more than 850 Americans have visited Hungary for professional and academic exchanges.

When those Fulbright participants return to Hungary, they become a part of an alumni community, of people who have had an unparalleled opportunity to study and research American approaches to everything from education to opera, agriculture to geology, medicine to music — all while experiencing life in America firsthand.

I know that many of you, HAAS members, have already been active participants of the U.S. alumni community and close contacts of the Embassy.  I would like to say thank you for your continued interest in the United States – both as a subject of study as well as a friend and partner.  I thank you for your contributions to our alumni activities, and I applaud your professional achievements as members of the Hungarian Association of American Studies.

I look forward to finding out more about HAAS activities in the coming year and I wish you thoughtful and fruitful discussions today.

Thank you.