Opening the conference, Ambassador David B. Cornstein told the young audience, "We who remember the Cold War and the division of Europe must pass on our memories and our lessons to the next generation, so that freedom and democracy can continue to thrive in Europe."

Retired Foreign Service Officer Donald B. Kursch, who was the US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission during 1989, shared the American perspective on the events of 1989, recollecting President George H.W. Bush’s visit to Hungary and the warming of relations between the two countries.

Kursch concluded: "In looking back 30 years it is important to focus on how courageous people with vision boldly took advantage of the opportunity to bring about meaningful change. Their actions should inspire this generation to do what it takes to keep moving forward as citizens of a democratic Europe, as well as friends and partners of the US."

Other speakers included Péter Ákos Bod, former Minister of Industry and Trade, former President of the Hungarian National Bank, who discussed Hungary's transition to a market economy; Gábor Turi, Debrecen organiser of the Pan-European Picnic, who analysed the events that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain; and András Réz, Film Art Historian and Art Director at the Werk Academy Art School, who gave a presentation on music as rebellion.

The conference was followed on October 18 by a trip for 80 conference participants to the city of Sopron and the site of the Pan European Picnic. Participants were greeted by Mayor Dr. Tamás Fodor, and toured Sopron before heading to the site of the Pan European Picnic.

There they heard the recollections of László Vass, Secretary to Imre Pozsgay, Minister of State Responsible for Democratic Transition in 1989, and László Nagy, Secretary of the Pan-European Picnic Foundation, who discussed the impact of the opening of the border with Austria beginning with the spontaneous flight of East German refugees during the picnic on August 19, 1989.

The conference was live-streamed and a recording is available at https://bit.ly/2J1n6U8


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