Fulbright Anniversaries: Celebrating Legacies of International Educational Exchange

In 2012, the Fulbright Program celebrates significant anniversaries in 14 countries: Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Lithuania, Morocco, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. The U.S. Department of State, U.S. embassies Fulbright Commissions, partner governments and organizations that administer Fulbright worldwide will commemorate the formalization of relationships between the United States and partner countries—connections that have ranged from twenty to sixty years—with conferences, symposia, galas and concerts. Fulbright anniversary events are reminders of the impact of decades of educational exchange on bilateral relations, scholarship and civil society linkages.

In February, Germany celebrated its 60th Fulbright Program anniversary at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin with remarks by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who serves as the honorary chairman of the program. Cornelia Pieper, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, delivered a speech citing Fulbright’s role in the reinvigoration of transatlantic relations, particularly as new generations of Americans lose ties with their European roots. Just seven years after the end of World War II, the newly formed Federal Republic of Germany signed a bilateral agreement with the United States, which grew to be the largest such agreement within the framework of the Fulbright program. The Fulbright Commission in Germany has recently focused its efforts on the integration of students from recently emigrated families.

The Japan-U.S. Fulbright Program also began seven years after World War II and has been instrumental in bolstering post-war U.S.-Japan relations. To celebrate the impact of Fulbright on this important relationship, the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission (Fulbright Japan), the Japan Fulbright Alumni Associations, and the Japan-U.S. Educational Exchange Promotion Foundation (Fulbright Foundation) sponsored the Japan-U.S. Fulbright Program 60th Anniversary Symposium, "Paving the Path - Envisioning the Future.” Fifty to sixty Fulbrighters from both the U.S. and Japan are selected each year and there are over 8,000 alumni of the program.

Hungary's 20th Fulbright anniversary was accompanied by a 20-minute video detailing the stories of Hungarian and American scholars whose work and lives have been impacted by their participation in Fulbright. The Hungarian Commission also commemorated its anniversary with a daylong program at the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The events included panel discussions given by diplomats and professors on American-Hungarian political and cultural relations and the future of Fulbright in Hungary.

Indonesia celebrated the 60th anniversary of its Fulbright Program, which has been administered since 1992 by the nonprofit organization AMINEF (American Indonesian Exchange Foundation). President Obama sent his greetings to the anniversary celebration, citing the impact of his childhood experience in Indonesia on his life and stating, “In Indonesia, the Fulbright Program has strengthened ties between our countries that are based on mutual understanding and respect. Since 1952, Indonesia scholars have participated in the Fulbright Program, learning and teaching in the United States.  The Program has provided Americans similar opportunities to experience Indonesia and its people firsthand.”

At the end of June, Cyprus celebrated its 50th Fulbright anniversary with a mini-conference called “Ideas That Flow: A Stream of Ideas Toward Sustainability in Cyprus.” Scholars in Cyprus came to together to present on subjects including renewable energy, climate change and water resource management.

On July 10, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at an event in Hanoi, Vietnam for the 20th anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Vietnam. Since its inception in 1992, the U.S.-Vietnam Fulbright Program has funded the exchange of approximately 1,000 U.S. and Vietnamese citizens.  “People often ask me: What can an individual, what can a nation do? Well, the world we live in is unpredictable. There is no way that we will know everything that will happen in the future. But the best insurance policy is a good education at a great university,” Secretary Clinton stated.

Other programs have events planned for the remaining months of 2012, including Morocco and Sweden this fall. Happy birthday to all the countries celebrating anniversaries this year!