• Senator Fulbright

    JWilliamFulbright

    Senator J. William Fulbright

    Senator J. William Fulbright (1905–1995)

    William Fulbright was born on April 9, in Sumner, Missouri in 1905. He was raised and educated in Arkansas, and had never seen a major American city before he received a Rhodes Scholarship in 1925 to study in the University of Oxford in England. He later attended the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.

    In 1934 he served as a special attorney in the US Department of Justice for a year.  He later went on to becoming a lecturer at the George Washington University from 1935 to 1936 and then at the University of Arkansas from 1936 to 1939.  He became the president of the University of Arkansas and served his term from 1939 to 1941, being the youngest serving university president in the country.

    Fulbright was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1942 and later to the US Senate in 1944.  He witnessed a world devastated by World War II.  Awed by the overwhelming destructive capacity of atomic power, Fulbright drew upon his overseas experience during his student years.  It was in fact his three-year experience at Oxford and his travels in Europe that provided him with insight about the importance of relating to people by seeing the world through each other’s eyes and national experiences.

    Overwhelmed with the desire to see the United States as a source for peace, and not just war, he pioneered a program which was ingenious in its mechanics and far-reaching in its impact on hearts and minds.  Fulbright’s plan was to fund the academic exchange of young Americans and foreign nationals through the sale of surplus war materiel left behind in Europe and the Pacific.  He was able to gain Congressional support for the plan by tacking the program onto other, unrelated legislation.  As it required no funding initially, Congress gave its imprimatur.  Of course, this opened the door for a funded program in later years as the sales of war surpluses dried up.

    Fulbright’s enduring legacy will be simply that he believed that people might develop a capacity for empathy by living and studying in other countries; that this would help them develop a distaste for killing other men and, in turn incline them more to peace.  It was this simple concept which brought about the core and foundation of the exchange program that later became one of the most successful components of US foreign policy.  Having survived the vicissitudes of partisan politics and even attacks by Senator Joe McCarthy’s red scare, the Fulbright-Hays Act continues to provide funds for the exchange of students, scholars, and teachers between the United States and other countries around the world.

    Fulbright continued being an influential senator and became a leading critic of the US foreign policy before his resignation from the US Senate in 1974.

    His writings include Old Myth and New Realities (1964) and The Arrogance of Power (1967).

    Selected Quotations by Senator J. William Fulbright (1905-1995) on International Educational Exchange

    “Education is a slow-moving but powerful force. It may not be fast enough or strong enough to save us from catastrophe, but it is the strongest force available for that purpose and in its proper place, therefore, is not at the periphery, but at the center of international relations.”

    “International educational exchange is the most significant current project designed to continue the process of humanizing mankind to the point, we would hope, that men can learn to live in peace—eventually even to cooperate in constructive activities rather than compete in a mindless contest of mutual destruction…. We must try to expand the boundaries of human wisdom, empathy and perception, and there is no way of doing that except through education.”

    “Perhaps the greatest power of such intellectual exchange is to convert nations into peoples and to translate ideologies into human aspirations. To continue to build more weapons, especially more exotic and unpredictable machines of war, will not build trust and confidence. The most sensible way to do that is to engage the parties in joint ventures for mutually constructive and beneficial purposes, such as trade, medical research, and development of cheaper energy sources. To formulate and negotiate agreements of this kind requires well-educated people leading or advising our government. To this purpose the Fulbright program is dedicated.”

    “Our future is not in the stars but in our own minds and hearts. Creative leadership and liberal education, which in fact go together, are the first requirements for a hopeful future for humankind. Fostering these—leadership, learning, and empathy between cultures—was and remains the purpose of the international scholarship program that I was privileged to sponsor in the U.S. Senate over forty years ago. It 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. I believed in that possibility when I began. I still do.”

    “Of all the joint ventures in which we might engage, the most productive, in my view, is educational exchange. I have always had great difficulty—since the initiation of the Fulbright scholarships in 1946—in trying to find the words that would persuasively explain that educational exchange is not merely one of those nice but marginal activities in which we engage in international affairs, but rather, from the standpoint of future world peace and order, probably the most important and potentially rewarding of our foreign-policy activities.”

    “There is nothing obscure about the objectives of educational exchange. Its purpose is to acquaint Americans with the world as it is and to acquaint students and scholars from many lands with America as it is—not as we wish it were or as we might wish foreigners to see it, but exactly as it is—which by my reckoning is an ‘image’ of which no American need be ashamed.”

    “The Program further aims to make the benefits of American culture and technology available to the world and to enrich American life by exposing it to the science and art of many societies.”

    “Finally, the Program aims, through these means, to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby to increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.”

    “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.”

    “I have thought of everything I can think of, and the one thing that gives me some hope is the ethos that underlies the educational exchange program. That ethos, in sum, is the belief that international relations can be improved, and the danger of war significantly reduced, by producing generations of leaders, especially in the big counties, who through the experience of educational exchange, will have acquired some feeling and understanding of other peoples’ cultures—why they operate as they do, why they think as they do, why they react as they do—and of the differences among these cultures. It is possible—not very probable, but possible—that people can find in themselves, through intercultural education, the ways and means of living together in peace.”

    “It is in a way a mystery that, instead of demanding that their governments give primary attention to their own needs and aspirations, most of the citizens of big counties–those, that is, that have the status of being “powers” in the world—far from being self-centered or materialistic as they are commonly credited with being, the ordinary citizen and his elected representative all too often turn out to be romantics, ready and eager to sacrifice programs of health, education and welfare for the power and pride of the nation.”

    “Education is the best means—probably the only means—by which nations can cultivate a degree of objectivity about each other’s behavior and intentions. It is the means by which Russians and Americans can come to understand each other’s’ aspirations for peace and how the satisfactions of everyday life may be achieved.”

    “Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations. Man’s capacity for decent behavior seems to vary directly with his perception of others as individual humans with human motives and feelings, whereas his capacity for barbarism seems related to his perception of an adversary in abstract terms, as the embodiment, that is, of some evil design or ideology.”

    “Man’s struggle to be rational about himself, about his relationship to his own society and to other peoples and nations involves a constant search for understanding among all peoples and all cultures—a search that can only be effective when learning is pursued on a worldwide basis.”

    “The preservation of our free society in the years and decades to come will depend ultimately on whether we succeed or fail in directing the enormous power of human knowledge to the enrichment of our own lives and the shaping of a rational and civilized world order…. It is the task of education, more than any other instrument of foreign policy to help close the dangerous gap between the economic and technological interdependence of the people of the world and their psychological, political and spiritual alienation.”

    “With respect to the creation of the program, I introduced the bill in September 1945, immediately after the end of the war with Japan, in August of that year. A number of considerations, of course, entered into my decision to introduce the bill, growing from my own experience as a Rhodes scholar and the experiences our government had had with the first Word War debts, [Herbert] Hoover’s efforts in establishing the Belgian-American Education Foundation after World War I, [and] the Boxer Rebellion indemnity.”

    “My experience as a Rhodes scholar was the dominant influence in the creation of the Fulbright awards. Coming, as I did from an interior section of our country, quite remote and isolated from foreign association, the Rhodes scholarship probably made a more vivid impact on me than it did on some of my colleagues from metropolitan areas. That experience, together with the devastation of the second World War and the existence of large uncollectible foreign credits, resulted in the bill creating the scholarships…The recipients of these awards may be considered as grandchildren of Cecil Rhodes, scattered throughout the world.”

    “The exchange program is the thing that reconciles me to all the difficulties of political life.”

    “We must dare to think about unthinkable things because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless.”

    “We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world. We must learn to welcome and not to fear the voices of dissent.“

    “Law is the essential foundation of stability and order both within societies and in international relations.”

    “Insofar as international law is observed, it provides us with stability and order and with a means of predicting the behavior of those with whom we have reciprocal legal obligations.”

    “Power confuses itself with virtue and tends also to take itself for omnipotence.”

    “There is an inevitable divergence between the world as it is and the world as men perceive it.”

    “In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but its effects”

    “Fostering these—leadership, learning, and empathy between cultures—was and remains the purpose of the international scholarship program… It 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.”

    “When public men indulge themselves in abuse, when they deny others a fair trial, when they resort to innuendo and insinuation, to libel, scandal, and suspicion, then our democratic society is outraged, and democracy is baffled.”

    “In the long course of history, having people who understand your thought is much greater security than another submarine.”

    “The rapprochement of peoples is only possible when differences of culture and outlook are respected and appreciated rather than feared and condemned, when the common bond of human dignity is recognized as the essential bond for a peaceful world.”

    “There has been a tendency through the years for reason and moderation to prevail as long as things are going tolerably well or as long as our problems seem clear and finite and manageable.”

    “To be a statesman, you must first get elected.”

    “What a curious picture it is to find man, homo sapiens, of divine origin, we are told, seriously considering going underground to escape the consequences of his own folly. With a little wisdom and foresight, surely it is not yet necessary to forsake life in the fresh air and in the warmth of sunlight. What a paradox if our own cleverness in science should force us to live underground with the moles.”

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