Fulbright program alumni continue to make a difference to the world even decades after they complete their studies. Fulbright scholar Colville Norbert Young, Governor General of Belize, disproved this general rule by stepping into his position as head of State of Belize in 1993, only a year after completing his Fulbright program. But others, including Ingvar Gosta Carlsson, Prime Minister of Sweden, served two terms as prime minister of Sweden, the second term over thirty years after completing the Fulbright Foreign Student Program.
Fulbright scholars has achieved the world’s highest accolades, include dozens of Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. Among them are Henry Kissinger, John Steinbeck and Milton Friedman. But there are many, many more. And beyond them are thousands of others who have exceled in life main contributions to society and the world around them. In physics, medicine, engineering, political science, economics, human rights and literature Fulbright scholars have sought and achieved personal excellence in a way that makes the world a better place for all of us.
Volunteerism and service to country, service to world is not always an easy path to follow. The Fulbright program helps smooth out some of the bumps and straighten some of the curves financially. But more importantly, the road ahead is better mapped by closely monitoring and mentoring the scholars who enter this endeavor to make a difference.
Despite the turmoil in today’s world, around the world, volunteers and workers in community development, civil society, in teaching, agriculture, industry, business and family welfare push back against the negativity with amazing success stories that are a testament to the other side of the human race – the drive toward excellence.
Perhaps the fundamental theme of the Fulbright program is increasing understanding among mankind to all corners of the world. This is done by immersion of the student or the researcher into the domestic environment of the foreign culture being observed. Exchange programs allow Fulbright participants to take their personal toolkit of mind, heart and soil onto the foreign ‘worksite’ to build there, and at the same time, hone their skills to return home…or in some cases to travel further abroad…to apply those skills.
In 2016 the Fulbright program will be seven decades old, having achieved many of the goals that its founder, J. William Fulbright expressed so succinctly with, “The Fulbright Program aims 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.”
“Little more” might be seen by today’s observers as a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor in a sense. Rather than a little more, there has been a lot more. Knowledge of others has provided important insight into not just how others think, but wisdom into how to relate with them. Reason has been instrumental, despite some failures, in highlighting the interrelationship among nations. Compassion has increased perhaps logarithmically with additional children based on the Fulbright program and those similar such as the Peace Corps and thousands of civil society efforts now stretching around the globe. If the Fulbright program provided a little more, its alumni provided a great deal more. And the world is much better off because of it.