If you’re already a fan of Fulbright, “the 68-year-old operation that annually arranges for thousands of educators, students and researchers to be exchanged between the United States and at least 155 other countries” and want to #SaveFulbright, just click here to sign the petition now.
If you need some convincing, please read this article.
This quote from the article really shows the value of Fulbright, specifically for Americans and the American educational system:
Only about 1 percent of American college students ever study abroad. Fewer than 20 percent speak more than one language—a figure that includes immigrants for whom English comes second or third—but all students benefit from the presence of international “Fulbrighters” on their campuses and the return of their own professors and grad students from study and teaching in other countries. Those Fulbrighters chosen according to standards of academic excellence may seem to be an elite group, but their presence on campuses from North Dakota State to Notre Dame is thoroughly democratic. Their knowledge gained abroad, unlike money in our economy, trickles down and spreads out.
The article goes on to make other excellent points, and it’s well worth a read. But it doesn’t capture the deep value of Fulbright (as experienced by just one little Fulbright grantee).
One of my dear colleagues at the Fulbright Commission got me thinking the other day when he said,
Fulbright is a cultural exchange program. Each nation on earth spends such a tiny fraction of their budget on culture in general (on art, music, and creative programs).
Too often, cultural programs are the first to be cut.
Culture! (that fascinating business of how particular groups of humans think/interact/play/dance/worship/create!) is too important to be so constantly relegated to the cutting board.
We must seek to understand, befriend, and collaborate with people across borders, especially as the challenges facing our world increasingly have little respect for the scribbles on our maps.
Fulbright is not just an American program but a bilateral one, one that over 50 participating countries (including Romania) help to fund.
However, Americans should be proud to have a founding role in establishing this type of cultural diplomacy, based on the simple idea that peace is possible between friends.
(And we should fight to keep it.)
Cultural exchange and diplomacy are exceptional, and it only takes a little imagination to see how:
– In a time of crisis, no news report or international tweet can take the place of picking up the phone to understand how the situation may affect your internationally located friend, or that friend’s grandmother. This kind of deep understanding can overcome apathy and lead to action.
– No amount of reading foreign books can take the place of seeing cultural ideas played out in daily situations. This hands-on experience broadens each exchange alumni’s cultural playbook and gives us more tools to cope/adapt/invent, and better the world.
– No horde of soldiers can bring peace the way that committed scholars, students, and relationships can.
The idea of Fulbright is as simple as it is beautiful: Know your neighbor so that you can love them.
No matter what your nationality is, please sign here to #SaveFulbright and tell the Congress of the United States that cultural diplomacy, the exertion of soft power rather than military might, and simply effective ideas like Fulbright matter to you.