Remarks at Third RETURN – U.S. Alumni in Hungary Conference

Ambassador Bell delivers her remarks at the conference. (Embassy photo by Attila Németh)
Ambassador Bell delivers her remarks at the conference.

Thank you very much, Dr. Szuromi and good afternoon, everyone.  First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for the invitation to address this impressive forum.

As a new Ambassador, I am anxious to learn more about Hungary, to better understand its culture and its challenges, and to see them through the eyes of the people who live here.  What better way of connecting with a nation than through its brightest and best — professionals from all walks of life and emerging leaders?   That’s who you are.  This is why I am so delighted to be here, at the 3rd RETURN Alumni Conference.

Even before I arrived in Hungary, I heard about incredible work our exchange alumni are doing to strengthen the bilateral relationship between the United States and Hungary.   I am here to tell you that the U.S. Department of State considers alumni engagement one of its top priorities worldwide, and we at the U.S. Embassy are eager to support you in every way possible.

RETURN is a diverse and special group with tremendous potential.  By bringing together all the U.S. alumni groups under one large umbrella, RETURN was able to harness the breadth of your experience and expertise, in order to multiply the impact you may have in your local communities  and throughout in Hungary.  In fact, the name itself – RETURN – implies not only return on the investment made by the American people and you – the participants — into these exchange programs, but “RETURN” also alludes to your common purpose of giving back to your communities, returning home to share the gift of knowledge and experience.

In its first two years, the organization saw a number of social and professional networking events –RETURN served as a forum for ongoing alumni projects, for recruiting participants for their new business and community service projects, and for brainstorming and generating new ideas.

Our Embassy works with alumni as spokespersons who can promote increased mutual understanding between Hungary and the United States.  One of our priorities is to encourage more Hungarians to visit the U.S. on an educational or professional exchange program, and we count on you to spread the word about your experience in the United States.

I encourage you to continue to explore the invaluable professional networking opportunities offered by RETURN, to capitalize on each others’ ideas, insights, and professional connections.  The new RETURN social media platform being launched today will facilitate your efforts.

At the Embassy, we have been working to broaden the circle of our alumni engagement to include alumni of the J-1 visa Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) – including Summer Work and Travel participants, interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, scholars, professors, and au pairs to name a few.  We encourage you to work with us to look for opportunities for RETURN to engage this young, dynamic group of Hungarians who are eager to stay connected to the United States, to expand their networks, to explore future exchange or educational opportunities back in the United States, and to engage in issues of interest to the United States, such as youth entrepreneurship, volunteering, and civil society development..  They could be a great asset to RETURN as well, whether as potential future participants of further exchange programs, or as interns at your companies and organizations.

You are about to hear some inspiring stories from some of your fellow U.S. Alumni and I know that you have a productive discussion.  I look forward to following your work more closely, to hearing about your ideas for joint initiatives, and to celebrating your accomplishments.  Thank you.