Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Sharon Hudson-Dean celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program and the 50th Anniversary of the Fulbright Alumni Association with the U.S.-Norway Fulbright Foundation on November 24, 2021 to honor the 2020 and 2021 winners of the Fulbright Article of the Year and Fulbright Young Researcher Article of the Year.
Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Sharon Hudson-Dean’s remarks:
Good evening and welcome. It is a pleasure to welcome you all, and I thank you for joining us to celebrate this wonderful program that we call Fulbright.
We are here today because, in the difficult days after the Second World War, our leaders in the United States had the vision to create a lasting program that would use the power of exchanges to bring people closer together.
One the most important of those leaders was Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. He once commented:
“The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy — the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see, or may see it more accurately.
The simple purpose of the exchange program…is to erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets nations against one another. The exchange program is not a panacea but an avenue of hope….”
In 1945, Senator J. William Fulbright introduced a bill in the United States Congress that called for the use of surplus war property to fund the promotion of international good will through the exchange of students. On August 1, 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed the bill into law and Congress created the Fulbright Program, which today remains the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government.
Senator J. William Fulbright said at the inception of the program that it would aim to bring “a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs, and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.”
The rest, as they say, is history. You are all a part of this amazing Fulbright history that creates lifelong friendships and that strengthens bilateral relations around the world.
During my nearly three decades in the Foreign Service, I have been privileged to work across a wide variety of regions and countries including: Georgia, Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Latvia, and Australia.
In each of these places, I have met Fulbright scholars, researchers, and students, and have valued the opportunity to learn about their research and their areas of expertise.
Fulbright is a very important program for the United States, and we are proud that the best scholars and researchers from the United States and around the world can take part in this unique academic exchange program.
You belong to a renowned and respected group. There have been more than 380,000 participants on Fulbright exchanges from over 160 countries. We count Fulbright alumni among Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, including the 2021 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Maria Ressa. There are also 37 Fulbright alumni who currently serve, or have served, as heads of state or government.
You know from your own experience how international exchanges foster mutual understanding and respect. The people-to-people exchange you have experienced is one of the most important ways we can build vital connections in an ever-changing and dynamic world.
Everything I just said is true and important. I would like to add one more true, important and urgent message for all of you. Our democratic systems, way of life and exchange programs – like the Fulbright program – are being challenged today in too many places. Some students and scholars face intimidation or worse from their governments or from anonymous trolls online as a result of their research and activities. We must stand together to support them and to support science, academic research and exchange, and democracy worldwide.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S., and so I would like to end with part of a Thanksgiving Day commentary written by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1949. She was the first Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights and one of America’s greatest leaders. She believed strongly in hope, mutual understanding, and the ability of humankind to improve society:
“Today is Thanksgiving Day and, like so many other people in the United States, I will be looking back over the year and counting over in my mind the things for which I am most thankful in this year of 1949.
For my country I am grateful that the United Nations still holds the peoples of the world together and that we are still working for peace with the other nations of the world.
There are anxieties today but, certainly, as we look back over the accomplishments in our history we must be of good cheer and say our Thanksgiving Prayer with deep and heartfelt gratitude.
We can, I think, approach the coming year with courage. We are a very big family now in comparison with the little one of that first Thanksgiving Day. I heard a wise psychiatrist say the other day that he wished the parents of the children who came to see him would stop inspiring them with fear and give them a little more sense of the good things that prepare us to meet dangers and adventures with confidence and with hope. Many people suffer more in anticipation than they do under the actual blows of misfortune that fall upon them.
Though I believe that we should face our problems, our own shortcomings and our own weaknesses, I think it is even more important for us to recognize our achievements, the strides that we have made in many directions and the growth of the mind and spirit which has permitted us to be a part of a second world organization striving to achieve the longings of the human heart for brotherhood among men.
May the good Lord look down upon us and the world that we know, and think us worthy of His blessing on this Thanksgiving Day.”
Thank you all for being ambassadors of the Fulbright program. You are lifetime representatives of this prestigious exchange, and I know there will be so many more opportunities for you to continue to build international bridges.
Learn more about the U.S.-Norway Fulbright Foundation and the Alumni Article Prizes here.