The change of regime from the point of view of an American diplomat – Donald Kursch’s lecture

On October 13 2019 Donald Kursch, former Deputy Chief of Mission (the second most important diplomat from the US) who worked in Budapest during the democratic transition in Hungary visited our school. It was no accident that he was invited to Hungary this year as we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the change of regime in 2019. 

Photo: American Corner of Szeged

He was born during the Second World War in the suburbs of New York City. He was still a child when the Cold War was going on, so he and his family would never travel anywhere. He told us how there was a dread of nuclear attacks and they only met Europeans with the help of exchange programmes. He graduated from the University of Harvard, where he once met President John F. Kennedy. At the age of 19, he finally got to the other side of the pond, where he hitchhiked his way through many countries. To this day he has a clear recollection of standing in front of the Iron Curtain, the first time he was ever in a Communist state. He met his future wife in Switzerland. In 1971 he worked in Hungary as a diplomat of the US Embassy. Later he was sent to Moscow, moreover he lived in many states of the Soviet Union. In 1986 he returned to Hungary, working alongside Mark Palmer. They worked hard and wanted their mother country to notice the problems in Europe and to help those in need. They fought for a peaceful change of regime in Hungary, and today we know it was not in vain. Mr. Kursch left our country in 1990, but he visited us at times. He said that people take peace for granted but forget about all the work, negotiations which led us to it. He considers convincing the US to take steps and help Europeans the hardest part of his job. 

Photo: American Corner of Szeged

He considers learning languages one of the most important goals nowadays and encourages us all to take part in the many exchange programmes available to us. He himself is affiliated with some of them. He told us that back in the day they did not dare to dream about Hungary as one of the states of the European Union, and it is a major opportunity to be able to take advantage of the open borders and travel as much as we can. Mr.Kursch said that the power of youth is strong and we have the chance to have a better future. 

After finishing his lecture we had the opportunity to ask him questions. There were some interesting ones. When the bell rang, many pupils left but some of us stayed and had a short conversation with him. He was very kind and funny, and told us stories connected to the questions. Unfortunately he had to leave Deák at noon because he had other engagements, but thanks to him (and the American Corner of Szeged) we had a great lesson and we definitely learnt some new aspects of our country’s past. 

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