Hello Fellow Beavers and Beaver Fans. I am excited to once again be a part of the DOSL Team. This quarter, I will be working as part of the CSSA Transitions team to assist the incoming CSSA Cohort with their transition into the Program. Specifically, I will be working on the 2013 CSSA Cohort Facebook group, providing important information about their next steps, making the move, getting acquainted to the program, and so on. I also hope to facilitate dialogue between the members of the incoming cohort, so that they may begin to establish their cohort love.
But today, I have other things on my mind. In light of all the global conflict that has made headlines in recent years, I am reminded once again about the fragility and difficulty of maintaining world peace. It may sound like a cliché, but I want to bring about world peace, and I want to be a change agent that can make this world a better place. I firmly believe that the best and perhaps the only way to do this, is by educating our future leaders and providing them with opportunities to see that people are people, regardless of their customs, beliefs, race, and other differences. My career as an international educator has been driven by this belief, a philosophy that was instilled in me by the late Senator J. William Fulbright. I’d like to share with you a little bit about this man and how his vision for world peace is as relevant today as it was when he first set about his work over 60 years ago.
J. William Fulbright, affectionately known as Bill Fulbright, is an important figure in American political history. As the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has been recognized for his tremendous contributions to international affairs and his profound influence on U.S. foreign policy. The list of his accomplishments are endless, ranging from his resolution to support the U.S. participation in a peace-keeping mechanism that later became the United Nations to his principled dissent on the McCarthy hearings regarding communists and his objection to President Kennedy’s invasion of the Bay of Pigs. However, the most notable is his vision for promoting mutual understanding among peoples of the world through an educational exchange program, the Fulbright program, which has gained international recognition for its contributions to world peace in the sixty plus years since its inception.
In the aftermath of World War II, Fulbright realized that misunderstanding, or a lack of understanding, was the root cause of strife among the peoples of the world. Though a very simple concept, he proposed to educate our future leaders to understand that, in essence, people are people. He advocated for the promotion of mutual understanding by providing opportunities for American youth to be exposed to other cultures and for youth from other cultures to be exposed to American culture. This program, to borrow his words, is “a modest program with an immodest aim – the achievement in international affairs of a regime more civilized, rational and humane than the empty system of power of the past…Fostering these – leadership, learning, and empathy between cultures – was and remains the purpose of the international scholarship program.”1
I greatly admire Fulbright’s passion for world peace and his drive to educate our future leaders. As someone who has spent most of her life in an international environment, I have always been keenly aware of the complexity of international relations. Many of the conflicts faced around the world today are, I believe, due to a lack of understanding or communication. The Fulbright Program has made an impact on this world by educating future leaders and fostering mutual understanding and cross-cultural communication. Indeed, its alumni have contributed greatly to changing the global landscape, making it more peaceful. Fulbright’s leadership is admirable and I am but one of many who have been moved by his vision, philosophy and dedication toward global peace.
In addition to his vision and passion for world peace, I deeply respect Fulbright for his dedication, perseverance and ingenuity. Before the program could be implemented, Fulbright needed to find a means to fund his grand scheme. He creatively amended the Surplus Property Act of 1944 to allow the State Department to dispose of surplus military supplies that had been left behind in foreign countries at the end of WWII. Fulbright proposed “selling” these supplies to the foreign countries that could “purchase” them in exchange for assisting in the financing and/or administration of the exchange program that would allow its citizens to study in the U.S. and for U.S. citizens to partake in educational activities in their country. Not only was this solution a creative one, but Fulbright expended great efforts and patience in convincing fellow congressmen to support this bill. Furthermore, he presented it in a manner that did not give rise to much attention and therefore prevented any controversy over jurisdiction of the federal government in international education or concerns about the possible costs to American tax payers. Thus, Fulbright’s creativity, wit and persistence helped pass the bill which paved the way for one of the world’s largest and most effective international educational exchange programs.
“Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations… I do not think educational exchange is certain to produce affection between peoples, nor indeed do I think that is one of its necessary purposes; it is quite enough if it contributes to the feeling of a common humanity, to an emotional awareness that other countries are populated not by doctrines that we fear but by people with the same capacity for pleasure and pain, for cruelty and kindness, as the people we were brought up within our own countries.”2 In these words lay the key to social change. J. William Fulbright was a man with a vision and the foresight to take a simple concept and make it into a driving force that has helped make this world a better place. I am humbled and honored to have had a role, though very small, in working with this great program and carrying on the legacy of this great leader whom I truly respect.
For more information about the Fulbright program, please visit the U.S. Dept. of State website at http://eca.state.gov/fulbright
Written by: Marigold Setsuko Holmes, DOSL Intern, Spring 2013
1 J. William Fulbright, The Price of Empire
2 J. William Fulbright, Speech before the Council on the International Exchange of Scholars, Washington, D.C., 1983