International dialogue builds bridges

How is NASCAR expanding? Why can Florida be attractive even for Hungarians? What can higher education add to business success? These questions were discussed at the US-Hungary Summit at the University of Public Service.

Last year, Daytona Beach, Florida, and this year the University of Public Service in Budapest (UPS) hosted the Hungarian Summit on 8 June, an event aimed at strengthening Hungarian-American relations. The event was co-organised by the HungarianHub, led by Hungary's Honorary Consul in Florida, and the American Research Institute of the Eötvös József Research Center of the University of Public Service.

The Summit was opened by Pazaurek Piros, Honorary Consul of Hungary to Florida, President of HungarianHub and founder of Hungarian Summit. As she said, it is a very rare moment when a total of seven university representatives from six American states can be present in Hungary. In addition, the week-long meeting brought nearly 600 people to Hungary. She stressed that higher education and business in the US always go hand in hand. Universities develop their courses closely cooperating with companies, and business always "gives back" to higher education.

Ákos Mernyei, International Director of UPS, welcomed the participants. He said it was an honour to host this meeting at Ludovika, which shows that our partnership with the United States is strong. Only through the dialogue that has taken place at this event and through mutual understanding between our nations can we build bridges. The Director stressed that this is the very essence of our university: we are constantly listening to each other and developing the institution as a community space in the public interest.

The event's first plenary speaker, Jordan Jiloty, NASCAR's Executive Director of Public and Community Affairs, spoke about how NASCAR's 75 years of existence have its roots in Daytona Beach. He recalled the history of the race and its continued growth, which would not have been possible without the help of the local community. NASCAR is expanding in Europe this season and remains open to all collaborations.

Keith Norden, President and CEO of the Volusia County, Florida Local Economic Development Corporation, said Volusia had already taken Hungary to its heart and hence, was keen to offer the Hungarians insight into the commercial opportunities. His presentation revealed that the 17 states in the southeastern US (including Florida) are the world's third-largest economy in terms of gross national product (GDP), accounting for 40 per cent of the nation's GDP. It has also recently attracted nearly half of all foreign investment in the Americas. Hungarians are also welcome here.

Derrick Henry, Mayor of Daytona Beach, spoke about why Hungarians should build relationships with the city. First and foremost, he said, because we share several common values: for example, we love our children, just as the Hungarian government looks out for families with children. Education is an important common value which can reduce social differences if students trust their teachers. The Mayor added: "In addition to the wide business opportunities, it is also important to continue to build our relations because this is how we can make our world a better place for our children.

The roundtable discussion "What America has given us?" was moderated by journalist Mónika Brogan and included Sándor Makra, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of McDonald's Hungary, Károly Jókay, Executive Director of the Fulbright Hungarian-American Educational Exchange Program Committee and Szonja Oroszlán, actress and equine therapist. The latter said that after fifteen years of an acting career in her home country, she chose America to attend a veterinary course and a special training course in equine therapy in the US. She now works with horses in Hungary for most of the racing season and would like to use her familiarity with the method to spread the massage therapy method in Hungary. Sándor Makra pointed out in the discussion that "fast food is like the army used to be", i.e. for many young people, it is their first job. In the restaurant, they are taught how to follow the rules and to work. He added that in America, trust is a given; it can only be faked, whereas, in Europe, trust has to be earned. Also, Károly Jókay said that in the US, he learned how to make friends easily, form alliances and solve unexpected situations. It is true, however, that the basic skills are often lacking in students from abroad, and it would be worthwhile to make up for this in their education at home.

Text: Tibor Sarnyai

Photo: Szilágyi Dénes