Breaking Down Walls, Building the Future Conference

Written by Fulbright on 10/21/2019. Posted in News

The U.S. Embassy in Hungary and Fulbright Hungary organized a conference at ELTE Faculty of Law Aula Magna titled “Breaking Down Walls, Building the Future” dedicated to commemorating the 30th anniversary of regime change in Hungary on October 17th, 2019

Plenary Session
Opening remarks: U.S. Ambassador David Cornstein

Introducing the Speakers: Tibor Frank, Professor Emeritus, ELTE
Full Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Chair of the Fulbright Board, Fulbright alum

Keynote Speech on Political Change: “The View from Szabadság tér”
Donald Kursch, US Deputy Chief of Mission in Budapest in 1989

Keynote Speech on Economic Change: “Hungary Rejoins the Community of Market Economies”
Péter Ákos Bod, Professor of Economics, Corvinus University, Former Minister of Industry and Trade, Former Governor of the National Bank of Hungary

Thematic Panels
1. Parting the Iron Curtain
“What happened to the Iron Curtain?”

László Vass, Fulbright alum, Secretary to Imre Pozsgay in 1989
Rector Emeritus, Metropolitan University Budapest

Gábor Turi, Fulbright alum, Journalist, Debrecen organizer of the Pan-European Picnic
Former Director, Center for External Relations, University of Debrecen

Comments: Anna Péczeli, Fulbright alumna, Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University

2. From Underground to Protest to Commercialization: Musics and the Arts

“Cult Films and Political Change”
András Réz, Art Director, Werk Academy Art School

“Music as Rebellion”
Tamás Nyirkos, Senior Lecturer, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Institute of International Studies and Political Science

Comments: Tibor Glant, Fulbright alum, University of Debrecen, Institute of English and American Studies

Musical Interlude: American Jazz by Gábor Turi, Fulbright alum, jazz historian

3. Studying America or Studying in America?

“Hungary Pre-1990: Chicken Factory Reproduces, No Credit Class, Phone Tapped”
Donald Morse, Fulbright alum, First Elected Chair on Fulbright Board, Professor of US literature at University of Debrecen, Emeritus Professor,
Oakland University

“American studies/studying in America”
Réka Cristian, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies, Institute of English & American Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of

Comments: Mirjam Donáth, Fulbright alumna in Journalism, Columbia University

4. Closing Session, Summary Remarks
Wrap-up comments: Jessica Storey-Nagy, Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Student, Indiana University
Closing Remarks by Károly Jókay, Executiv Director

On the next day, October 18, 2019 participants of the conference visited Sopron. First they visited the Mayor’s Office, where the group was welcome by the newly elected Mayor, Ciprián Farkas.

Donald Kursch also shared his thoughs about the city’s important role in the events of 1989. He met students of the University of Sopron while the group was doing a short sightseeing tour in the historical center of the town. In the afternoon participants visited the Pan-European Picnic Memorial Park. László Nagy, eye-witness of the opening of the border between Austria and Hungary and Secretary of the Pan-European Picnic Foundation and László Vass, Secretary to Imre Pozsgay in 1989 gave a short talk remembering of what happened on August 19, 1989. After that participants did a quiz in small groups about what they learnt during the conference and the field trip. They worked enthusiastically on the task. This was a great way to conclude the program.