Remarks at the Opening Concert of the 4th Hungarian Conference on Disability Studies

Remarks by Ambassador Colleen Bell

at the Opening Concert of the 4th Hungarian Conference on Disability Studies
November 21, 2016

Jó estét kivánok mindenkinek!  Good evening, everyone!

It is my great honor to join you tonight at this concert to celebrate tomorrow’s start of the 4th Hungarian Conference on Disabilities Studies.  I would especially like to thank the organizers, Ms. Rita Hoffman and Ms. Maria Flamich.  I attended a concert with them in May 2015 for the European Day of Equal Opportunities and I am pleased I could join you this year, just before we observe the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3.

According to UN statistics, nearly one in seven people on the planet have some form of disability.  That’s nearly 1 billion people, many of whom face daily challenges either from their physical environment, legislation or policy obstacles, or societal discrimination.  The theme for this year’s Day of Persons with Disabilities focuses on building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities while addressing 17 Sustainable Development Goals that aim to eliminate poverty, fight inequality of any kind, and tackle climate change.

Last year – 2015 — the United States marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a milestone document that prohibits discrimination against disabled people in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.  While much has been accomplished in 25 years, more can always be done in the United States and around the world to ensure that everyone can lead full independent lives.

That’s why conferences like the annual Hungarian Conference on Disabilities Studies are so vitally important to discuss these issues and highlight the observations, contributions, and achievements of the disabled community in society, academia, and of course, the arts.  I have met Ms. Flamich and Ms. Hoffman at several events over the past few years, and they never cease to amaze me with their passion for broadening the scope and audience of disabilities studies.   I am grateful that their experiences as Fulbright scholars at the University of California Berkeley in 2011 and their interaction with the “Independent Living Movement” – which began in California in the 1960s — continue to inspire them.

And I welcome their choice to open the Conference with this concert.  Music and all of the arts offer us a moment to reflect on the world around us in new ways and to make new and interesting connections between thoughts and between audience members.  As Plato said, “Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.”  May tonight be filled with music and may the rhythms and harmonies heard tonight stimulate observations and discussions that reach the hearts and minds of all the presenters and participants of this year’s Conference on Disabilities Studies.  Thank you.  Köszönöm szépen.