APU Business Intellectible Legal Studies Podcast

Podcast: The Complexity of Immigration

Podcast featuring Dr. Gary L. Deel, Ph.D, J.D.Faculty Member, School of Business and
Irvin Varkonyi, Faculty Member, Supply Chain Management

Immigration stirs a lot of mixed feelings, even among those who emigrated from war-torn countries. In this episode, Dr. Gary Deel talks to APU business professor Irvin Varkonyi about his experience as a young boy fleeing Hungary with his family after World War II. Learn how his parents were Jews who survived being imprisoned in a Holocaust concentration camp, but upon returning to their Hungarian village experienced anti-Semitic threats. They escaped to Austria and eventually to the United States where they were able to build a life. Despite firsthand experience, hear the mixed feelings Irvin’s father had regarding current immigration policies and what steps need to occur to help people better understand the complexities surrounding immigration.

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Dr. Gary Deel: Welcome to the podcast, Intellectible. I’m your host, Dr. Gary Deel. Today we’re talking about the topic of immigration, of the movement of people all around the world. My guest today is professor Irv Varkonyi. Irv is president of Supply Chain Operations Preparedness Education, also known as SCOPE, a firm offering training and consulting in organizational preparedness. He is also a member of the Supply Chain Risk Management Consortium. His career has encompassed global transportation and logistics systems working with global carriers and third-party logistics companies.

He’s an adjunct professor at the University of Denver and American Public University, teaching and designing courses on logistics management, supply chain management, and transportation systems. Irv holds an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and a BA in international relations and economics from Clark University. Irv, welcome to Intellectible, and thank you for being our guest today.

Irvin Varkonyi: Pleasure to be here, Gary. Thank you so much.

Dr. Gary Deel: Absolutely. Well, for our listeners’ sake, we are obviously colleagues in the School of Business at American Public University and we’ve known each other for a few years now, but this is the first time we’ve had an opportunity to do a podcast together. And you have a very interesting story as it relates to immigration, much of which I’m not all too familiar with, and I suspect our listeners will be in similar positions. So, it’s my understanding that you have a story that traces back to Hungary and a sort of a political uprising and revolution in the mid-20th century. So for folks that may be temporally and/or socio-culturally removed from that, as I’ll admit to be both, can you give us a little context into what that event was about and what led to your family leaving Hungary at that time?

Irvin Varkonyi: Gary, thank you very much. It’s a question that I never tire of answering. And when I speak about it, it still amazes me that I’m here in the United States, having grown up here, but coming from a place that was much different.

So, I was born in Hungary, a country in Central Eastern Europe. And at the time I was born, it was a few years after the second war, the Soviets had created the Iron Curtain nations, and I was born, therefore, into a communist country. Obviously, the people of the country had difficulties, one, having survived the second war. And I should note that my family is Jewish, so my parents are survivors from Holocaust concentration camps, but had survived.

So the Soviets took over Eastern Europe, as we know from history. And in 1956, there was an uprising known as the Hungarian Revolution. And during that time, the people of Hungary sought to try to throw out the Soviets, not an easy task and one that they failed in, as others had failed in, in subsequent decades.

But that was an opportunity for my family to leave, to escape, actually. And my parents decided to do so, and using method of walking and train, we crossed the border into Austria next door, ended up in a refugee camp. So I am one of those tens of thousands of Hungarian refugees. I was very young at the time, about five years old.

And eventually, we came here to the United States. So for me, when we hear the words and see refugees, as we do these days with Afghanistan and other countries, to me it’s a personal experience that I shared and my family shared. And I always think of immigrants in the way that people thought of us.

And one of the things to mention to you, Gary, is that just like today, not everybody in the country, in the United States, is always eager to welcome refugees, no matter the cause, no matter the situation, because immigrants, by some, are thought to be different.

Well, right now, people couldn’t tell if I’m different or not. But when I was six years old and we landed here in the United States, courtesy of the United States government, not a word of English. None of us spoke that.

But we’ve become I think the typical Americans that worked hard and accomplished much. And so to me, immigration is more than just a political topic. And perhaps, Gary, it led me to think about international relations, international career because I felt that was more my calling.

Dr. Gary Deel: Wow. That’s an incredible story, and I really think it’s topical today. There’s so much discussion, particularly here in the U.S., but not just in the United States as it pertains to immigration worldwide, refugees from various countries that are facing persecution or risk of death for various reasons in different places, and needing to find refuge and safe places to rebuild their lives. And we forget how long this has been going on historically.

So let me just ask you as a follow-up, my God, your parents, the story of their challenges and struggles from the concentration camps to home to Hungary, and then facing a need to leave again, to flee a different kind of struggle, only to have what seems like a relatively happy end to what must’ve been an arduous journey for them to finally reach the United States and find some semblance of peace and at least stability.

But what was it like as you were transitioning from Hungary to Austria, and then from Austria eventually to the United States? The reactions or the interactions with the local people, Austria must’ve been awfully odd at the time because this was of course post-World War II. The country had just been liberated from Nazi Germany. But I’m sure you had a lot of sort of mixed loyalties at the time with respect to perspectives toward the Jewish population and foreigners in general. Can you tell us a little bit about what your experience was with people in Austria, and then later on, people in the United States?

Irvin Varkonyi: Certainly. And in fact, it’s a very good question because many might think that the end of a second war, those who were repatriated from the camps went back to their countries, and things were returned to some kind of normality. That was not the case, not in my parents’ case, or nor the thousands of others. So if you were fortunate to survive the camps and you did go back to your home nation, many of those people, whether it be Poland, Austria, as well as Hungary, might blame some of those refugees, some of those survivors, for the war.

So when my father went back to his village, he was telling me they would think that he’s the one that caused the war, that Jews caused the war. So he went and changed his name. The name I have now is not our given name. It’s a very Christian name in Hungary, very popular there. And he changed it from a much more Jewish sounding name because of that, which to me, though he never explained this way, meant that at some point in his life, he would try to leave Hungary because he really wasn’t welcome, 1956 was that opportunity.

So those Jews that had survived and gone back to Hungary, a great many of them saw that as an opportunity to leave. And one of the places that you could leave to because the borders, not that they were not well-guarded, but it was easy to get to some places easier than others, was Austria.

So we literally walked across the border with the help of guides. And on the other side, we were met, as I’m told because I don’t remember all that, by Red Cross workers, who then took us to the refugee camp.

Austria, having been the home of Adolf Hitler, who was certainly an ally, and Austria was an ally of the Germans, may have looked at us as refugees, but it would have only been a few years before that they, just like others in Europe, participated in trying to exterminate the Jews, not just the Jewish population of Europe, but all those who were different as well.

So we were somewhat insulated from that because we were at a camp. And as I recall, we didn’t leave the camp and we were there for many months until with the help of family that already arrived in the United States, were we actually able to be given permission to come.

So from a little boy’s perspective, I didn’t see all that. But what my parents have talked about over the years had been that not a lot of people in Europe really welcomed the Jews that had survived. So in a sense, we weren’t just leaving Hungary. We were leaving Europe because Europe after the war was trying to understand how it is that millions of people were killed, and trying to blame people, and regrettably, Gary, many had blamed the Jews. So I think our family was very eager to leave and come to the United States.

And a question I would ask myself at that point then is: So was it better in the United States? In many ways, it was far, far better. While we didn’t speak the language at all, it was a country that we knew had liberated us and had helped us. We came here courtesy of the United States government, who sent military transports to bring us here.

But we also heard that immigrants are welcome to the United States, and that it was a country of immigrants. And whether it was the Irish in the early part of the 20th century, Chinese later, others, that it was welcoming however in actuality, it’s not always welcoming to immigrants. We may want to look at ourselves, immigrants being welcoming, but it’s not always that way. So, in those initial years, because obviously we looked different, we spoke a different language, while I don’t have an accent, my parents definitely had an accent. You could always sense that people looked at us a bit differently.

But we eventually settled in New York City, which I think is among the most welcoming of cities in America. And while New Yorkers may not always like each other for their differences, they at least respect the fact, because it seems all of us in New York are different, so we welcome each other’s diversity, even if we don’t necessarily like each other.

So growing up there was great, and you would forget that you’re an immigrant. But every now and then, there might be some reminders. My parents were not educated people. They never made it out of grade school, so they were hard workers. My father was a baker. My mother worked with him sometimes in the bakery. It was difficult. But I’ll tell you this, if you overcome that in this country, and you make a living and you own property, we would own a house eventually, that’s not something you could do as an immigrant in many other parts of the world.

Dr. Gary Deel: That’s amazing. And it’s amazing to me how stubborn a disease antisemitism is, and perhaps bigotry in general is a better descriptor for that.

Irvin Varkonyi: Yes.

Dr. Gary Deel: One would think that after what we went through, and I’m a student of World War II history, that we’d have learned that lesson and overcome that. But yet, even today, 70 years removed, almost 80 years removed, we’re still fighting back against that. And it’s shocking to me how people forget how vile and morally repugnant the Third Reich was at that time. And we have neo-Nazis in our society today that are legitimately waving swastikas as good ideas, in spite of what we went through, what the world went through.

And then you have people that are using laughable comparisons. We’re recording this podcast in September of 2021. And there’s been some discussion recently about vaccine mandates against COVID from the White House and the Biden administration. And you have some Republican politicians who are comparing this to the Gestapo and the state oppression of freedoms. And to me, it’s an amazingly brazen and ignorant, stupid comparison to make.

And so but this just goes to show that lessons which are not learned will likely be repeated painfully. And so I hope that we never go back to a dark time like what we saw in the mid-20th century. But those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, so I hope the people remember what people like your parents went through, and your family, because that puts life hardship on a whole other level that I don’t think anybody really since can compare to. You know what I mean? Say for, we’ve had some difficult conflicts. We’ve had Vietnam, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, of course, which recently just ended.

But I mean, on the scale of wars, the absolute atrocities that we saw at that time, at least by sheer volume, have yet to be bested by anything. This has been a relative time of peace in human history for the last almost century. We’re coming up on approaching the mid-21st now, and we hope it all stays that way. But we learned how easily and quickly it could turn at that time.

So I’m curious to know when you look at 70 years removed from that period in time, and you look at the immigration struggles that are in political discourse today, people talk about here in the United States, a hot button is our Southern border with Mexico, and people that are fleeing hardship in Latin American and trying to find a better life in the United States.

Then you have other parts of the world, such as Europe, that is struggling with refugees from the Middle East, and trying to find places to live and take root and set up their lives outside of the countries that have been torn to shreds by war and religious extremism and a combination of political, religious, social factors there that have made that region of the world almost a perpetual hotbed for conflict for hundreds and thousands of years.

But when you look at that in the context of what you went through, has the situation changed much in terms of the reasons why people are immigrating from one place to another, or the typical attitudes of people that are facing the decision as to welcome or not these individuals into their countries?

Irvin Varkonyi: I suppose differences because it’s a different world, and the world is constantly changing. But I would agree that there are a certain amount of similarities as well. The reasons I think that people leave their countries are multiple reasons. There isn’t just one reason for people to leave.

In my family’s case, it was essentially a second chance to leave Europe because of antisemitism. So for others, for Hungarians who escaped for political reasons because they were fearful of their lives, they weren’t leaving Hungary for that reason. They were leaving because they were politically on the outside and they feared for their lives if they were staying. But they still had a love of Hungary.

The love for Hungary for my family was quite different. There wasn’t love for Hungary because Hungary had tried to exterminate us once before. And who knew whether they would try to do that again? So there are different reasons that people have to leave.

I think in Afghanistan, there certainly, it’s a country that in many senses is not really a country. It’s really made up of a group of tribes, each one with different cultures and languages. In countries like that, I think people leave when they feel that their group is not part of that other group. In Hungary, essentially linguistically, culturally was more or less one country, different religions, and the antisemitism, of course, but everyone spoke the same and so forth.

In many countries like Afghanistan, these really are colonial countries. They’re trying to squeeze people together who really weren’t together. And I think that they would have a much more peaceful society if instead of Afghanistan, they were Pashtun and all their other ones. I think trying to squeeze them together causes those issues.

I served in the Peace Corps back in the ’70s in Senegal in West Africa. And Senegal, just like 90% of the countries in Africa, are really colonial creations. The colonial powers drew borders where there were rivers maybe, or coastlines, or things like that. And then they put people in of different languages and different ethnicities. And that caused a lot of those problems. Those problems in Africa became much worse.

So when you have people who are leaving those places because maybe one group is trying to take over another, they’re leaving it because it’s not a country per se they’re leaving, it is a fact that their group linguistically, ethnically, is not in control, and they’re being persecuted as a result. So those are reasons for people to leave. I don’t know, but I would think that if Africa was really in a different way, there’d be less conflict.

At the same time, we must say that the way we’ve organized countries, whether it be Afghanistan, or the African countries, while it probably has contributed to civil strife and immigration, in many ways probably did bring more economic benefits, at least to some, not all of them. So it’s really tough. Do you leave someplace because culturally, you’re persecuted, but economically, you’re doing well? Which way do you go? I think that’s a very hard, hard decision.

And, of course, another way people leave, they’re forced to leave, is when someone is trying to ethnically cleanse, such as the Rwandans did, such as the Nazis tried to do. That says regardless of what ethnicity you are or what language you are, someone’s trying to wipe out your race. That’s also reason for immigrants to leave.

And maybe the best reason of all, Gary, is that as we get to hear more about what America does, and social media enables us to learn so much more, it offers an awful lot of attractions. So in my village in Africa, I spent two years in a remote village working on a rural development program. We didn’t have social media in those days. There was no internet, but there was the radio.

And the young people always ask me, “How was this? How was that?” And I think they long to have something like that. Well, these days with social media, anyone can find out what’s happening, any part of the world. And I will say that for many, the economic benefits that we have are just tremendously attracting. And they don’t really see the fact that when you’re going to come here as an immigrant, there are going to be people who don’t like you because of your language, because of your ethnicity, your religion. But if you overcome that somehow, you can prosper. And that is itself attracting an awful lot to the United States.

And I think to me, I think without immigration, America would not be the country we are, and the more that we have immigration. So whether you’re coming here because you have a positive reason to leave, like improving your economic value, or you’re afraid that someone’s going to try and exterminate you, there are many reasons.

And so many of them are coming here. Who’s immigrating to China? Not a whole lot of people. Japan? Not a lot of people. European countries, maybe, the Western European countries because of the EEU, perhaps. But North America seems to be the place where a lot of people want to come. And I just wish that all of us could be more welcoming and come here and try and reach out to help those, as people did help us.

Dr. Gary Deel: One would think that the antidote for such prejudice and bigotry and just bad ideas would be education and scientific understanding and compassion and empathy. But I think about the psychology of someone like Adolf Hitler, as unfortunate and offensive as it was, he didn’t look at the Jewish people as people. He looked at them as parasites, as a public health concern. And that was sort of the impetus behind the Final Solution. It wasn’t a human-to-human conflict in his mind, in his sick, unfortunate mind. It was the idea that Jews were less than human, and that’s what led to the Holocaust.

But one would think when we look at the fact that obviously, immigration is a difficult topic for many people. But we, in the United States, live in a country where our economic power, our social power, our ideas, our innovations, they come from our history of immigrants, starting from our independence from Britain 250 years ago, and on forward. But it’s just amazing to me that has not become apparent.

There was a point in time of course, hundreds of years ago, where people had theories to support their racist preconceptions, or prejudice preconceptions, or bigoted what have you, such as to suggest that black people were less intelligent, and that there was some anatomical reason for that, for example. The brains were smaller, or that they contain some kind of defect. And the same with respect to the Jewish population. And wherever there was a prejudiced ideology, there was some nonsense scientific conjecture to support that.

But over time, of course, we’ve completely debunked any notion that there’s any reason to judge anyone based on the color of their skin, their religious affiliation, any more than we would their height, their weight, their gender.

We’re still facing this sort of problem in our society. And I scratch my head at figuring out why it’s not more obvious to people than it is, that the people on the other side of the gate, or the wall, or the fence that are looking for a better life are no less deserving of it than we are in the realest of senses.

And I wonder what your thoughts are on that in terms of: Is there a switch that we haven’t pulled yet? Is there a public education program that needs to be put in place? Or is this just something that we need to deal with perpetually as part of the human condition?

Irvin Varkonyi: That’s a really hard question. I don’t think it will ever go away in terms of how people who are born in a country, and maybe multiple generations, I don’t know if we can ever have a point where they may be a different perspective in terms of immigrants.

But it’s also true, and my father I can give you as an example, so I’ve given the story of how we came here and how difficult it was. And so people took advantage of him because he didn’t speak the language. But he had a trade, which was being a baker. And that would eventually allow him to own his own bake shop, small bake shop in Queens, New York, put a couple of kids through college, own a home, to the point where he then would feel comfortable.

And while his language, his English was never perfect, it was good enough, and he could communicate and do so and be with others. So as he retired or as he was getting older, so now we’re in the ’70s and the ’80s, and then other immigrants were coming, like Vietnamese immigrants with the fall of South Vietnam, and others coming as well.

And he was saying, “Why are they letting in these immigrants? Shouldn’t they be staying there?” To which I said, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Didn’t we come here as immigrants?” “Well, yeah, but that was different because we were trying to flee the Soviets, who are bad people.” “Well, okay, Dad. But apparently there may be other bad folks there,” so he was in a sense, what many have I think become, so I guess it’s just human nature.

You come here, you overcome that. You do something for yourself. And then you want to sort of protect it for your children. And you somehow think about the next guy coming in. So in New York City, we had this situation. So whether it was the Irish, or the Italian, or a wave of Eastern European Jews in the early part of the 20th century, each guy that came in had to force the door open, so they were let in, even though they could contribute tremendously to the country. And then they then joined with the others to try and close the door on the next guy.

Okay, who can explain that? I can’t really explain that well. But that’s what part of New York City is. And I think that’s really what America is. So sometimes I have that feeling. It is unfathomable to me how people in certain parts of our country, like Texas, or like Arizona, feel that this border we have with Mexico, we’ve got to close it. It’s very dangerous.

They don’t have to go back too many generations to when their great, great grandparents, they came across the border without papers or anything. And look what they did. But okay, we don’t have to be reasonable or consistent here. We’re just human beings. That part is hard to understand, why if your own family has benefited from it, now you want to close the door on the next guy. But my own father kind of thought that way, and my sister and I had to tell him, “Wait a minute,” so maybe that’s just the way humans are reacting.

But, nonetheless, I think it would take a lot of leaders in this country to tell people, “You don’t have to like immigrants. You don’t have to be with them. But you can’t go ahead and say they’re not good for the country. And if they are good for the country, then they are good for you.” That I think our leaders can do.

And I think the last decade or so, especially the last four years, I’ll be honest, in terms of the last administration, to try and now get those people who themselves were immigrants a few generations ago to be so visceral about other immigrants, that is something we can and have to stop. I don’t know how we’re going to stop that, but that is something that we can do, but I don’t know how. Sometimes very pessimistic, what’ll happen and whether we can do this peacefully, or whether there’s going to be some kind of truly violent outburst because we can’t agree on this. So I just hope so.

I always have hope in our youth to do all that. But at the same time, Gary, when we see certain incidents of whether it be antisemitism, or racial animosity and violence, whether against Asian Americans, or others, who is it that’s doing that violence? It’s younger people. And by younger I mean 20s, 30s and 40s. Where did they learn this? When I see a 20 year old who draws swastikas on the local Jewish community center that we have here, he’s 20 years old. Where does he learn this? Parents maybe, peers, I don’t know. But how can a 20 year old do something like that? Well, how could they go ahead and commit violence against Asians? Where could they possibly have learned that? Well, it’s got to be from current events and other people who are doing that. So I hope that somehow we’ll find a way to get out of that. I don’t want to be pessimistic, Gary, but it’s hard to be positive.

Dr. Gary Deel: No, I agree with you. I’m a realist as well, and I think it’s an interesting combination of insecurity and confident arrogance that I see in some people, certainly not all people. But both young and old across the spectrum, you have the insecure side that seems to bring about this, it’s almost like a fear over a lack of capacity that we’re full here. America is full. There’s no more room. Sorry. Because the next guy that comes in will almost assuredly be a miscreant, or a criminal, or at the very least, someone who won’t be productive. They’ll be a freeloader and they’ll live off the system, when there’s just no history of that. Our history of immigrants have always been productive.

And some of the most recent immigrants in my life, people I know that I work with, and that I have friends, and they’re some of the hardest working people I know, from Central America, Latin America, South America. And so it just runs contrary to everything that we should know about the history of our nation to believe that.

And on the confidence and arrogance side, you have this perspective I think for many young people, I’m certainly not putting any particular person in any particular box, but I see this among my generation. I’m 35, so I’m not necessarily the millennial per se, but I’m an older millennial, I guess if you want to let me into that category, and among younger people who have spent their entire lives in a peaceful, stable environment, to not appreciate. I wasn’t alive during World War II, but I have a sense of appreciation I guess through learning about it what it might’ve been like to live at a time where tomorrow was not necessarily guaranteed, and that there was a real threat on the horizon that might win.

And today, to think about the idea that there could be any other country on Earth that could best the United States militarily speaking, for example, and saving, of course, putting aside the idea of sort of mutual nuclear destruction with a country like Russia, which would end in global apocalypse. We’re not really worried about having to go to war with anybody, save for that kind of catastrophic event.

But this was a time back in World War II, where a lot of things had to go right for the Allies to win. And we won and we’re grateful that we won, and we should be grateful every day. But that was never really guaranteed. There were times where if Hitler had not made some stupid choices that he made, to march east and try to take Russia during the winter and wipe out half of his army pursuing Moscow at a time when it just wasn’t. I mean, if he had made some better strategic moves, and we had not had the good fortune to come across a working enigma machine and break the Nazi code that allowed us to see where they were moving their military units to, to turn the tide of the war, there are many historians who believe it could’ve gone a different way.

And you think about what the 21st century could look like under a Nazi-Japanese imperialist rule, there’s a TV show called “The Man in the High Castle” on Amazon Prime that is sort of an alternate future reality take on that. And it’s got some sci-fi components that are extraneous, but it’s painful to think about what that might’ve been like.

But the point is, young people were marching off to war with a very real chance of not coming home. And today’s generation, there’s no sight of that on the horizon anywhere, save for some traumatic change in world events on the horizon. We have no reason to think that there will be a draft coming soon, that there would be any reason for us to march our men and women into a full-scale global war. And I think we’ve lost sight of the reason why that is, and how grateful we should be, and the lessons we should have learned.

Speaking of which, and I wanted to ask you this because you joined the Peace Corps at a certain point, and I think a lot of young people are probably familiar with that term, but may not know what it is, and what it does, and what it means. So can you tell us a little bit about what the Peace Corps is and why you decided to join?

Irvin Varkonyi: For sure, that’s a good point there that each generation may look at what we’ve done differently. In 1961, President John Kennedy was elected. And among the things that he was elected on was to change the perception of Americans overseas. Strangely enough, after America helped lead the victory over the Nazis, that America then took that and expanded tremendously economically. We had a great time of prosperity. But what we had learned from World War II was that we were, “superior.”

And therefore, we went and expanded around the world in such a way. And we caused revolutions to take place, not revolutions, uprisings, where bad guys rose up over good people in many countries. Iran, that was the first time that the U.S. got involved in Iran. And we can trace back some of today’s issues to what the U.S. did after World War II.

Kennedy gets elected and he says, “This image needs to change. We won the war. We don’t have to feel so superior. We need to do things.” And so he said he wanted to create a group of young people who could be sent around the world, who could then help in various small-scale things, not big projects, but small-scale things, teaching English, doing small rural projects like that, and then those people can in some way contribute to the economic betterment of those countries.

That ostensibly was what he wanted to do, and so that created the Peace Corps in 1962, and volunteers were sent to those countries. And I was in, I guess, in the first 10 years of the Peace Corps. I graduated college in 1973, was sent to Senegal.

But the reality had been that the Peace Corps concept, where young people like myself, I mean, I was 22 at the time. I had grown up in New York City for most of my life, and I was sent to a village in Africa to help them to do rural development. What exactly does a New York young person know about that?

Well, we had unlimited enthusiasm. We also had concern about the world because at the time, Vietnam was still very much happening. And I was certainly at the forefront of protests against that war, that I wanted to show people in Senegal who Americans were, that we were not the Vietnam “war mongers,” and so forth.

And I think that what really Kennedy did was he wanted to have Americans go overseas, not only represent themselves in a different way, but he then wanted them, me, to come back to the United States and realize how other perceive us, plus also realize how bad things can be in some places.

In my village in Africa, I was there by myself. There was a group of us, and each one of us were in a different village, so I was on my own for those two years, except when we saw each other from time to time. And I realized how much luckier we were to be in this country, the U.S., than there. And I tried to do whatever I can to help those people. But all of us volunteers came back to the United States. We realized and appreciated what we had. And I think Kennedy was really trying to improve how Americans looked at the world, whether we could help much or not. How much could a 22-year-old kid from New York help?

But when I came back, wondering who I would be, and hopefully as a better American. And in subsequent years, this is actually the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps, we have tens of thousands of people in all manners of life, elected officials, business leaders, all those things. And I think I would like to feel, Gary, that in some way, be better Americans, which hopefully we have done and help make America a little bit better country, Gary.

Dr. Gary Deel: Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Irv. This has been wonderful. And thank you to you and your family for the contributions that you’ve made to our country. And my only hope is that young people of the current generation can honor those commitments by putting our best foot forward when it comes to the immigrant challenges we face in the 21st century and trying to remember what our nation was built on, and approaching the situations with empathy and compassion.

So other than that, I want to thank you for sharing your expertise and perspectives on these topics. I hope we can have you back because I feel this discussion was great, and I feel there’s more to talk about here. But, before we conclude, was there anything else you wanted to touch on?

Irvin Varkonyi: I wanted to thank you very much for this opportunity. It’s a great way for us to express things that we don’t always get to express as professors at American Public University. And I also wanted to say that we’re celebrating our holiday of new year, the Rosh Hashanah, which was last week. And in a couple days is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. So it’s just a wonderful opportunity for me to engage with you as these 10 days are very important for us, and to think about that the coming year will be a better year than the one that we had.

Dr. Gary Deel: That’s wonderful. And I wish you a safe and healthy and happy celebration. Thank you again for joining us.

Irvin Varkonyi: My pleasure.

Dr. Gary Deel: And thank you to our listeners for joining us. You can learn more about these topics by visiting the various American Public University-sponsored blogs and podcasts. Be well and stay safe, everyone.

Gary Deel

Dr. Gary Deel is a Faculty Member with the Wallace E. Boston School of Business. He holds an A.S. and a B.S. in Space Studies, a B.S. in Psychology, a J.D. in Law, and a Ph.D. in Hospitality/Business Management. Gary teaches human resources and employment law classes for the University, the University of Central Florida, Colorado State University and others.

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