Memory, Commemoration, Crisis

Fulbright, Arkansas, and the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Fulbright Program, 1946–2021

Part II

Fulbright Program anniversaries have been plagued by crises every twenty-five years. In 1971, a dramatic 40 per cent cut in its budget—caused by the crushing pressure military spending for the Vietnam War put on all ‘non-essential’ expenditures in the federal budget—preceded the silver anniversary of the program, which to date still has not fully recovered from that blow over fifty years ago in real terms. 1Funding for the Fulbright Program peaked in 1966 in constant (real, inflation-adjusted) dollars. For a bar chart showing the differences between constant and actual dollars from 1947–2013, see J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, ‘2014 Annual Report’ (Washington, DC: US Department of State, 2014), 10. Senator Fulbright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour accorded to civilians in the US for meritorious service, three years before the golden anniversary of the Fulbright Program in 1996, then passed away at the age of eighty-nine in early 1995, the same year the Clinton administration announced a twenty per cent budget cut for the program for 1996. 2The US government allocation fell from $120 million in 1994 to $98.9 million in 1996.The run-up to the diamond anniversary in 2021 was turbulent in all regards: COVID-19 surges interrupting education and international travel, Black Lives Matter protests, tumultuous US presidential elections with disaffected Trump supporters storming the US Capitol on 6 January, and the end of a twenty-year war in Afghanistan.

The first rule of modern communications is to control the narrative, but times change and institutions change. Institutional narratives and audiences change with the times, too, and the Fulbright narrative has also changed with different institutional narrators over the years. In 1971, the Board of Foreign Scholarships (BFS), the ten-person body of private citizens, scholars, and leaders in higher education appointed by the US president to govern and oversee the Fulbright Program, was the original voice of the program, and its silver anniversary report focused on the legislative origins and innovative structure of the Fulbright Program, its unique trademark ‘binational approach’, 3On the philosophy of the binational approach, see Donald B. Cook and Paul J. Smith, ‘The Philosophy of the Fulbright Program’, UNESCO International Social Science Bulletin, 8/4 (1956), 615–627. and its many achievements. A Quarter Century: The American Adventure in Academic Exchange embodied the original understanding and foundational narrative of the Fulbright Program. 4Board of Foreign Scholarships, ‘A Quarter Century: The American Adventure in Academic Exchange – A Report’ (Washington, DC: US Department of State, 1971), 97 p.

The Board of Foreign Scholarships—rechristened the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (FFSB) in 1990—observed in its 1996 annual report Fulbright Fiftieth that ‘binationalism remains a distinctive feature of the Fulbright Program, involving partnerships between the United States and participating countries through executive agreements, binational commissions and cost sharing’. 5J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, ‘Fulbright Fiftieth: 1996 Annual Report’ (USIA: Washington, DC, 1996), 5. Along with the United States Information Agency (USIA), which was responsible for the administrative oversight of the program, the FFSB also orchestrated a major independent evaluation of the Fulbright Program funded by US foundations, overseen by a distinguished steering committee of nineteen US and foreign leaders in higher education, scholars, and diplomats, and including eight regional conferences in the US with hundreds of panellists and thousands of participants. A tremendous amount of thought and input went into Fulbright at Fifty: Meeting the Challenges of the Next Fifty Years, 6Steering Committee on the Future of the Fulbright International Exchange Program, Fulbright at Fifty: Meeting the Challenges of the Next Fifty Years (National Humanities Center: Durham NC, 1997), 36 p. but this report—the last major attempt to reflect in public about the program’s future—was stillborn. The 1996 budget cuts pulled the rug out from under its feet.

The bureaucratic environment of the Fulbright Program changed dramatically a few years later, in 1999, when USIA was dismantled and broken up into its constituent parts in a process called ‘consolidation’. This brought the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)—the office traditionally responsible for the administrative handling of exchange programs—and the Fulbright Program into a dramatically different setting: the highly partisan lion’s den and policy-driven environment of the State Department. Thereafter, the State Department started using increasingly proprietary language to describe the Fulbright Program as ‘the flagship academic exchange program sponsored by the US government’, 7The Fulbright Program’, US Department of State, https://eca.state.gov/fulbright, accessed 24 February 2019. and it gradually crowded out the FFSB as the primary narrator of the Fulbright story.

The pandemic forced events to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary online for the most part, but most people had become accustomed to living and working in this digitalized world since March 2020. ‘Public diplomacy 2.0’ 8Nicholas J. Cull, ‘The Long Road to Public Diplomacy 2.0: The Internet in US Public Diplomacy’,International Studies Review, 15/1 (March 2013), 123–139. relies heavily on social media, and the State Department established a separate seventy-fifth anniversary internet domain—curiously using a non-for-profit, instead of a .gov URL at www.Fulbright75.org—as a commemorative website.

The seventy-fifth anniversary celebration reflected a departure from two established precedents: the traditional emphasis on the Fulbright Program’s distinctive ‘binational approach’ and the traditional acknowledgement of Senator Fulbright for his role in creating the program. First, an increasingly instrumental or functional understanding of exchanges has evolved under the auspices of US public diplomacy, which reflects the extent to which the State Department considers the Fulbright Program a proprietary tool in its ‘public diplomacy toolbox’ 9Biyun Zhu, ‘Tool Selection for Public Diplomacy Flagships: Toward an Adaptive Model’, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy (4 June 2021). conceived to serve or promote American national interests and values. This US public diplomacy narrative for the Fulbright Program hollowed out the traditional internationalist emphasis on its ‘binational approach’ by equivocally and vaguely redefining the program’s ‘binational structure’ as any ‘partnership’ that facilitated bilateral exchanges with the US. It also displaced the traditional emphasis on the equality of exchange partners by unilaterally claiming a leadership role for the US government in such ‘partnerships’. 10Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, ‘Fulbright Brand Guide’ (Washington, DC, 2019), 10, https://fulbright.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/FulbrightBrandGuide_8.5×11.pdf, accessed 20 April 2021. Second, the State Department’s seventy-fifth anniversary commemoration of the Fulbright Program was a truly peculiar event because it was devoid of any official reference to Senator J. William Fulbright. His name was not uttered, nor was an image of him shown.

The causes for these revisions in the Fulbright Program’s narrative and its history can be found in two dramatically different wars. The advent of the global war on terror after 9/11 in 2001 provides the broader historical context for the US government’s creeping appropriation of the Fulbright narrative as a US public diplomacy program, and the more recent battles in America’s ongoing culture wars provide the context for the State Department’s perfunctory dismissal of J. William Fulbright’s association with the program.

WARS OF IDEAS

9/11 and the invasions, first of Afghanistan in 2001, then of Iraq in 2003, traumatically ended a brief decade of peace for the United States, after the apparent denouement of the Cold War in 1991, reinvigorated the American security state to combat a new opponent—the ‘evil empire’ of Islamic fundamentalism—and profoundly transformed public life. Comprehensive planning for the ‘global war of terror’ based on the extensive ‘9/11 Commission Report’ that documented the shortcomings that had facilitated the terrorist attacks involved all federal agencies, departments, and activities. Consequently, educational exchange had a role to play in the comprehensive package of measures defined by the acronym CVE (‘combating violent extremism’) codified in the sweeping Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

The purpose of exchanges, scholarships, and libraries abroad was ‘to promote internationally the values and ideals of the United States […], expose young people from other countries to United States values and offer them knowledge and hope’, and to engage ‘with people of all levels of society in countries with predominantly Muslim populations, particularly with youth and those who influence youth’. 11Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, 118 Stat. 3638, Public Law 108–458, 17 December 2004, Sec. 7112. The Act called for a substantial regional expansion and prioritization of funding for programs based on people-to-people exchange with the Muslim world. 12The post-9/11 funding increases for the Fulbright Program went predominantly to US embassybased programs in the Muslim world. Between 1996 and 2016 Fulbright grants made by US embassy-based programs increased from 22.1 to 35.6 per cent of the total number of awards with the largest increases in countries in the Muslim world: almost threefold from 988 to 2,636. In 2008 the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs defined public diplomacy as ‘strategic communications’: a ‘war of ideas’ with a ‘core task to create an environment hostile to violent extremism […] by undermining extremist ideologies and by encouraging young people to follow productive paths that lead away from terrorism’. 13James K. Glassman, ‘Public Diplomacy 2.0: A New Approach to Global Engagement’, US Department of State Archive, 1 December 2008, Public Diplomacy 2.0: A New Approach to Global Engagement (state.gov)

In July 2018, the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs issued a new ‘Functional Bureau Strategy’ that reflected the diction of the national security state. ECA defined its mandate as designing and implementing ‘educational, professional, and cultural exchange programs that promote American leadership and advance US foreign policy goals’. 14Functional Bureau Strategy: Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs (for public release, approved 23 July 2018), FBS ECA UNCLASS (state.gov). This kind of language is reiterated on the ECA website as ‘programs that create and sustain the mutual understanding with other countries necessary to advancing United States foreign policy goals’ 15‘Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs – United States Department of State’, https://www.state.gov/bureaus-offices/under-secretary-for-public-diplomacy-and-public-affairs/bureauofeducational-and-cultural-affairs/, accessed 4 February 2022. and reflects an unusual and conditional understanding of mutuality.

The functional strategy of ECA is a unilateralist departure from the traditional understanding of the program so eloquently documented in the Fulbright–Hays Act’s Statement of Purpose—‘mutual understanding’, ‘strengthening the ties which unite us’, ‘international cooperation’, ‘the development of friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations’—and it is diametrically opposed to the traditional assumptions about the nature and objectives of educational exchange. For example, James Roach, chair of the Fulbright Board, observed in a classic formulation in 1970: ‘because [educational exchange] is not unilateral, in either its direction or objectives, there is a particular responsibility to study the requirements and obligations of mutuality and to understand that—perhaps paradoxically—the national interest of the United States may be best served when the interests of others are considered first’. 16Board of Foreign Scholarships, ‘24th Year: Continuing the Commitment. A Report on Academic Exchanges’ (Washington, DC: BFS, 1970), vii.

In 2016, the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board—chaired by Jeffery Bleich (2016–19), a former US ambassador to Australia and Obama appointee—proposed an initiative to ‘refresh’ the Fulbright image and ‘brand narrative’ with the intention of updating the program’s somewhat stodgy messaging and design by making it more attractive and compelling, especially for younger and non-traditional audiences. This was done quite successfully, as evidenced by the www.fulbright75.org website: ‘Innovators. Trailblazers. Fulbrighters’ is much younger and sexier messaging than ‘the promotion of mutual understanding’. However, this ‘fresh brand narrative’ for the program tacitly received a discreet ‘America first’ twist before it was launched with much fanfare in May 2019. Whether this reflected the ideological rhetoric preferred by the Trump administration or the ‘functional bureau strategy’ of ECA is unclear, but the new ‘brand language’ read: ‘Led by the United States government in partnership with more than 160 countries worldwide, the Fulbright Program offers international educational and cultural exchange programs, […].’ 17‘Fulbright Brand Guide’, 10. ‘The Fulbright Program’, US Department of State splash page, Fulbright | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (state.gov), accessed 15 December 2020. Is this mutual understanding? Mutual for whom?

‘WAR JUNK’, WHEAT SURPLUSES, AND ‘FISCAL STARVATION’

On 27 September 1945, Fulbright rose in the Senate to propose a bill based on a simple but ingenious idea. He suggested amending a piece of legislation that had nothing to do with education or exchanges—the Surplus Property Act of 1944—in a manner that would allow the US to unilaterally fund bilateral educational exchanges with revenues in nonconvertible foreign currencies it was acquiring overseas through the liquidation of wartime surpluses. (Historian Sam Lebovic has called these US assets—such as building materials, fuel, vehicles, clothing, medicines, and foodstuffs ‘war junk’. 18S. Lebovic, ‘From War Junk to Educational Exchange: The World War II Origins of the Fulbright Program and the Foundations of American Cultural Globalism, 1945–1950’, Diplomatic History, 37/2 (1 April 2013), 280–312.) The Fulbright Act of 1 August 1946 initially limited the geographical scope of the Fulbright Program to countries where monies were available from the disposal of ‘war junk’, and it also prescribed that the US sign executive agreements with countries that wanted to participate in the program to establish unique binational Fulbright commissions to manage these revenues and the exchange program on the ground, thus making them partners in the program. The first generation of twenty-eight enormously popular Fulbright commissions funded by the sale of ‘war junk’ came into being between 1947 and 1952 in former theatres of war in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific.

Subsequent legislation unrelated to educational exchange extended the logic of the Fulbright Act by allowing the US to use foreign currencies arising from other sources—or the sales of other surpluses—in literally any country, where they might be available, to finance additional bilateral exchanges under the Fulbright Act, provided these revenues were earmarked for this purpose. 19Public Law 82–400, To Amend the Mutual Security Act of 1951, and for other purposes, 82nd Congress, 20 June 1952, Sec. 10 and 11. A truly ingenious piece of legislation from 1954 combined a domestic price support and export scheme brokered by the US government, based on purchasing agricultural surpluses from American farmers—wheat, corn, cotton, tobacco, etc.—to keep domestic prices up, and exporting them to ‘friendly nations’, where they were sold at rates exceedingly favourable for the receiving countries. 20See Jacqueline McGlade, ‘More a Plowshare than a Sword: The Legacy of US Cold War Agricultural Diplomacy’, Agricultural History, 83/1 (1 January 2009), 79–102.

The Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954 resembled the Surplus Property Act of 1944 in that it provided for the sale of US surpluses overseas—in this case, subsidized agricultural exports—to foreign governments in exchange for their own nonconvertible currencies, not US dollars, frequently at discounted prices. In turn, the US reinvested these revenues locally in programs for agricultural development and economic modernization. The legislation also included all-important provisions for ‘the financing of international educational exchange programs’ under the Fulbright Act. At the time, the US was exporting these surpluses all over the world, and twenty-four new Fulbright commissions came into being between 1955 and 1964—with eight in Latin America, four in Africa, and one in communist (but non-aligned) Yugoslavia—based on such agricultural surplus sales.

Finally, the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, better known as the Fulbright–Hays Act, restructured the program and put it on a completely new financial basis by doing three things. First, it established funding for the program as a line item in the annual US federal budget. Second, it allowed the State Department to allocate these funds for expenditures in the US or to purchase foreign currencies overseas, if necessary, thus establishing a completely new and structurally different branch of the program that was unilaterally funded and managed out of US embassies all over the world. Third, it provided for the continuation of existing binational Fulbright commissions, and the establishment of new ones, based on its trademark executive agreements, and most importantly, it extended an invitation to ‘foreign governments, international organizations and private individuals, firms, associations, agencies, and other groups’ to co-fund the program ‘to the maximum extent feasible’. 21Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Public Law 87–256, Sec. 105 (f).

Cost-sharing with binational commissions provided new revenues in foreign currencies to fund bilateral exchange; diminished and in many cases eventually eliminated the program’s complete reliance on unilateral US funding; and at the same time turned bilateral exchanges into binationally funded joint ventures. In the past sixty years, funds contributed to the Fulbright Program by countries with Fulbright commissions—currently forty-nine—have increased from zero to an average of around of $100 million annually. 22Based on the statistics in annual reports of the BFS/FFSB since 1970. The average contribution of public and private contributors from abroad since 2010 has been over $104 million. Forty-nine countries with binational commissions contribute 94 per cent of the total and over 100 other
countries with US embassy-based programs 6 per cent.
The dimensions and the importance of the contributions of other countries to ‘the flagship academic exchange program sponsored by the US government’ are completely underexposed and have been largely responsible for keeping the flagship afloat.

However, there is another side to the funding story, too. In 1960, The University and World Affairs—a 1960 report by the Ford Foundation authored by a committee of nine experts, including Fulbright—concluded: ‘The major limitation on the exchange programs of the Department of State appears to be their chronic financial starvation.’ 23Committee on the University and World Affairs, The University and World Affairs (New York, NY: Ford Foundation, 1960), 6. The term ‘financial starvation’ reappears in evaluations by the US Advisory Commission on Educational and Cultural Exchange in 1963, 24United States Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs, ‘A Special Study on the Effectiveness of the Past Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs of the U.S. Department of State: A Report to Congress from the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs Pursuant to Public Law 87–256 Also Constituting the First Annual Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Education and Cultural Affairs’ (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1963), 4, 36. and it is reiterated verbatim twelve years later in a 1975 report. 25US Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs, ‘A Necessary and Noble Task: The Eleventh Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs –1975’ (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1975). (One of the Commission’s intervening reports had the plaintive title ‘Is Anybody Listening?’ 26US Advisory Commission on Educational and Cultural Affairs, ‘Sixth Annual Report: Is Anyone Listening? January 1969’ (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1969).) Finally, a 1991 ‘White Paper on the Future of the Fulbright Program’ by the FFSB opened with the alarming assessment: ‘Strangled by too few resources and subverted by too many demands, the Fulbright Program is in jeopardy, its historic mission and hard-earned reputation endangered.’
It diagnosed the ‘financial erosion’ of the program and called on Congress to double the level of its appropriations. 27White Paper on the Future of the Fulbright Program Prepared by the J. William Fulbright
Scholarship Board (1991)’, reprinted in Leonard R. Sussman, The Culture of Freedom: The Small World
of Fulbright Scholarships (Lanham, MA: Rowan & Littlefield, 1992), 172–180.

The fact that the level of funding by the US government for the program peaked in 1966—fifty-five years ago—has been a well-kept secret. 28From 1980 until 1999, the BFS annual reports annually included charts or bar graphs in constant and actual dollars to graphically illustrate the low levels of US government funding for the program and the urgent need for increased US government appropriations—an annual practice in transparency that was discontinued after 1999 when ECA was consolidated with the State Department. After 1966, funding for Fulbright experienced a dramatic 40 per cent slip-and-slash cut over three years (exacerbated no doubt by Fulbright’s colossal falling-out with Lyndon B. Johnson over the Vietnam War). In terms of its constant—or real, inflation-adjusted—value, it has undulated at various levels below its 1966 peak ever since, although the program has grown substantially in size and number since then, stretching already limited resources thinner and thinner. Funding stagnated in the 1970s, with an increase under the Reagan administrations during the ‘Second Cold War’ in the 1980s, and peaked in 1994. Then in the mid-1990s, it was cut 20 per cent by the Clinton administrations as part of a post-Cold War ‘peace dividend’, but rose again under the G. W. Bush administrations after 9/11 with the advent of the global war on terror, and peaked again in 2012. 29For the only bar chart of the funding history of the program since 1999 in constant and actual dollars, see J. William Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships, ‘2014 Annual Report’ (Washington, DC: Department of State, 2014), 10. It has stagnated at that level—in the vicinity of $240 million per annum—for the past decade, and been depreciated by inflation by almost 25 per cent.

The iconic photograph documenting the foundation of the Fulbright Program that was not shown at the seventy-fifth anniversary celebration: US President Harry Truman signing the Fulbright Act into law on 1 August 1946 in the White House in the presence of Senator J. William Fulbright (Democrat of Arkansas), author and sponsor of the legislation (center), and William Benton, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, who was responsible for using Fulbright’s name to brand the Fulbright Act and the Fulbright Program (University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville)

Given its tradition of ‘financial starvation’, the US government budgeting for the program has basically been a gigantic zero-sum game for the bean counters at the State Department for decades. After funding for the global Fulbright Program was cut by over 20 per cent and reached a low water mark of $98.9 million in 1996, they had to decide whether to try to eventually restore funding for those countries that were hardest hit by the 1996 cuts—countries with binational Fulbright commissions that are coextensive with the longest-standing friends, allies, and trade partners of the US in Europe, the Americas, East Asia, and the Pacific to a great extent—or to increase funding for those parts of the Fulbright Program managed unilaterally by the State Department, which after 9/11 basically corresponded to embassy-based programs in the Muslim world. They chose the latter. In other words, the global war on terror has undermined US government funding for the Fulbright Program as a partnership in those parts of the world where it is still understood and generously supported by its partners in its original spirit, as a program for international peace and cooperation. There is one striking example of how these kinds of considerations can play out.

On 4 March 2014, the Obama administration published its budget proposal for fiscal year 2015, which foresaw a modest 1.6 per cent increase in the $578 million of funding for the entire ECA exchange portfolio. The details in the fine print, however, were alarming. On the one hand, it proposed a $30.5 million, 13 per cent cut in funding for the Fulbright Program—traditionally the largest line item in its budget, from $234.7 to $204.2 million—and a $13.5 million, thirteen per cent cut—from $98.8 to 89.3 million—to the Citizen Exchange Program for professionals, culture, and youth. On the other, it reallocated these monies to three new line items in the ECA budget: the Young African Leaders Initiatives (YALI) and Young South-East Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI)—$29 million—and with the majority of the rest for a new, discretionary Exchanges Rapid Response war chest for ‘exchange activities that respond rapidly to countries experiencing conflict or crisis’. 30FY 2015 Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, 4 March 2014, 33–35.

The next day, the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy held its quarterly public meeting and invited five guest speakers to brief them and the public on President Obama’s new ‘signature public diplomacy initiative’: YALI, subsequently renamed the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, and its South-East Asian counterpart YSEALI. These programs were the brainchild of Brett Bruen, a foreign service officer who had served in Ivory Coast, Venezuela, Iraq, and Madagascar, before being appointed to the newly established position of Director for Global Engagement at the National Security Council, and Ben Rhodes, a young protégé and speech writer for Obama, who had advanced to Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications. David Plack, the Director of Policy and Senior Advisor to the political appointees in the brass at ECA, was also involved. YALI and YSEALI also were a symbolic double nod to Obama’s heritage: his father’s Kenyan origins and Obama’s childhood years in Indonesia during his mother’s second marriage. They also served as an impressive outreach of a Black American president to countries in the Muslim world between sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia.

There was, however, one problem. The Obama administration did not want to ask Congress to raise the level of funding for exchanges to finance its new initiatives—even though they were part of the global war on terror’s strategic communications—so it decided to tacitly move funding around under the radar between old line items and new ones inside the ECA budget: robbing Peter to pay Paul. Moving funds out of the line items for ‘old’ exchange programs like Fulbright or citizen’s exchanges into new line items for new programs would not impact on the top-line of the exchange budget at all.

On 19 March 2014—just two weeks after the Obama budget proposal had been announced—an Austrian-based, grassroots, internet and social media-based alumni initiative went online with the URL www.SaveFulbright.org and the social media hashtag #SaveFulbright. It included a petition calling for a restoration of funding for the Fulbright Program, which attracted 5,000 international signatures in twenty-four hours, 10,000 in a week, and 20,000 in less than a month, and generated a tremendous amount of online support. Perhaps the most memorable intervention was by the American journalist Ann Jones, an alumna of the Norwegian–American Fulbright Program. It was called ‘Washington’s Pivot to Ignorance: Will the State Department Torpedo Its Last Great Program?’ and published by the online news platform TomDispatch.com with the teaser ‘Ann Jones, How to Lose Friends and Influence No One (The State Department Way)’ 31See Washington’s Pivot to Ignorance – TomDispatch.com, which was reposted 19 times nationally and internationally. —and reposted globally on nineteen other portals, including The Nation, Huffington Post, and Le Monde diplomatique. The Obama administration took a bit of a social media beating—who needs a shit-storm?—and at the end of the day, Congress intervened to restore funding for the Fulbright Program and find some funding for the new youth initiatives.

Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ administration was obviously less concerned about losing friends or critical media, and proposed draconian budget cuts for educational exchanges ranging between 56 and 75 per cent of their funding for four years, running from 2016 through 2020 for fiscal years 2018–2021. 32See ‘Educational and Cultural Exchanges’ in Office of Budget and Management, Major Savings and Reforms, for fiscal years 2018 (69), 2019 (71), 2020 (72), and 2021 (70). However, funding for exchanges has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support—which is rare nowadays—and Congress restored funding to the levels of the previous year’s appropriation in each case.

Furthermore, more frequently than not in the past two decades, presidential appointees to the FFSB have not been ‘distinguished representatives’ of the cultural and public and private or non-profit educational institutions, as prescribed by the Fulbright–Hays Act. 33ECA has a statutory obligation to assist the FFSB in discharging its duties, which has been neglected. See US Code Title 22: Chapter 33, Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, Sec. 2456 Political instincts tell political appointees that they are obliged to represent the interests of the president who appointed them, which is not always the same task as advancing the interests of the Fulbright Program. ECA has to manage a large and complicated program in a turbulent world, and it is not clear whether its strategy is to work with the presidentially appointed FFSB, around it, against it, or without it.

President Trump’s appointments to the FFSB—terms are three years and renewable—show how problematic high-profile partisan appointments to this body can be: they included Trump loyalists such as Heather Nauert, the former Fox News presenter who served as the spokesperson for the State Department, as well as six former White House staff members, including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his press secretary renowned for her adversarial relationship with the press, and Hope Hicks, his former assistant and counsellor. Under these circumstances, the Fulbright Scholarship Board has effectively lost its credibility because it is not representative of the wider community of American cultural and educational institutions the Fulbright Program was conceived to serve, and there is enough political polarization in US politics already. A comparison of the stature and qualifications of the inaugural non-partisan scholars, experts, and leaders in higher education appointed by President Truman to the BFS in 1947 with those appointed by President Trump is revealing. 34See Matt Armstrong’s comparison of the hyperlinked CVs on the 1947 and current board members in ‘How Important Is Public Diplomacy? A Brief Look at the Fulbright Board’, MountainRunner. us: Political Warfare, Public Diplomacy, and Stuff (6 July 2021), How Important is Public Diplomacy? A brief look at the Fulbright Board – MountainRunner.us

Perhaps the best current example of the problematic relationship between the political appointees to the FFSB and the bureaucrats at ECA is that they have been jointly remiss for more than three years in submitting the ‘annual reports to the Congress [and] make reports to the public in the United States and abroad’, as required by federal law. 35See US Code Title 22: Chapter 33, Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, Sec. 2456 (f) and 2457. The most recent FFSB ‘2018 Annual Report’ was for the fiscal year 2017, and appeared without the customary statistical appendix. Hence, there is no commemorative annual report by the Fulbright Board and ECA in the Fulbright Program’s diamond anniversary year, 36This was a real departure from tradition in comparison with 1956, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1986, and 1996. and no up-to-date statistical information about the numbers and distribution of grantees: 400,000 plus all over the world. Is this ‘good enough for government work’?

CENSURE, OMISSION, AND SILENCE

The seventy-fifth anniversary commemorations also illustrated the extent to which the State Department has had problems addressing the paradoxical political biography of Senator Fulbright that became an object of contention at the University of Arkansas after the murder of George Floyd in June 2020. 37See Part I of this article in Hungarian Review, XII/4 (December 2021), 50–68. One year later—and after much soul-searching, debate, and deliberation by the university community—the board of governors of the University of Arkansas System passed a resolution in July 2021 to maintain the name of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and leave Fulbright’s statue on campus intact but ‘to add contextualization to the statue that affirms the University’s commitment to racial equality and acknowledges Senator Fulbright’s complex legacy’. 38The text of the resolution is in a memorandum of University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbit addressed to Bill Kincaid, Interim Chancellor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 28 July 2021. See ‘Providing Context: Fulbright’s History Now Online, To Be Added Near Statue’, University of Arkansas News (3 December 2021), Providing Context: Fulbright’s History Now Online, To Be Added Near Statue | University of Arkansas (uark.edu).

Since then, the University of Arkansas has made noteworthy progress in contextualizing Fulbright’s divergent legacies and embraced the debate about Fulbright as a learning opportunity for the university community that reflects the core values of the institution, including critical discourse and respect for diversity. A website with the title ‘J. William Fulbright: Arkansas Paradox’—a digital preview of the information that will be incorporated into the site of the Fulbright statue—went online in early December 2021. 39Consult Dean’s Office, J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, ‘J. William Fulbright – The Fulbright Paradox’, University of Arkansas, https://fulbright.uark.edu/deans-office/about-the-college/j-william-fulbright.php, accessed 3 December 2021. However, unlike the University of Arkansas, the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs never publicly addressed the Fulbright controversy. Instead, it took the precautionary measure of tacitly ‘cancelling’ Fulbright as a potential institutional liability to prophylactically ‘solve’ a prospective problem even before it emerged.

This illustrates the differences between public universities and state bureaucracies. Universities are forums of critical public discourse that ultimately make political decisions they are required to justify. The decision-making of political bureaucracies is not subject to public scrutiny, and they operate in the shadowy recesses of sovereign immunity that lends an aura of untouchability to their authority. If one consults the ECA or fulbright75.org websites, the absence of attributions to authors responsible for creating content or editors for vetting it is striking, although all texts certainly go through some form of authorization to ensure that they are ‘on-message’. Therefore, when the State Department ‘speaks’, it does so with authoritative anonymity, and when it is silent, it is authoritatively silent, too.

Consequently, the authors and editors of the revised texts that recently appeared on the ECA website about J. William Fulbright and those who scripted the remarks and commentary for the anniversary celebration of the Fulbright Program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on 30 November 2021, were official and anonymous at the same time. However, important editorial conversations about these texts certainly took place somewhere behind the closed doors of the State Department. The tacit revision of the ECA website before the seventy-fifth anniversary commemoration of the Fulbright Program combined with egregious omissions and historical revisionism in the scripted texts at the celebration itself represented an astonishing damnatio memoriae of J. William Fulbright.

In the run-up to the seventy-fifth anniversary celebration of the program at the end of November 2021, ECA posted a new text on its website under the title ‘Fulbright Program Overview’:

As our nation continues to grapple with racial justice and civil rights issues, we need to acknowledge the mixed legacy of Senator Fulbright. While his visionary leadership on international relations gave rise to greater engagement, his voting record on civil rights contributed to the perpetuation of racism and inequality in the United States. His segregationist stance and his opposition to racial integration in public places, including in education, are clearly at odds with the ideals of the Fulbright Program.

Today, as the Fulbright Program marks its 75th anniversary in 2021, its legacy is represented by hundreds of thousands of distinguished and diverse alumni, who are contributing to a more peaceful, equitable, prosperous, and just world. 40ECA Fulbright website, ‘About Fulbright, Fulbright Program Overview’, Fulbright Program Overview | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (state.gov)

This four-sentence passage is a perfunctory dismissal of Fulbright that does not remotely do justice to the intricacies of Fulbright’s ‘mixed legacy’ or thirty-two years in Congress. First, it reduces Fulbright’s complicated record on desegregation, which he had tried to justify as a ‘gradualist approach’, 41J. William Fulbright and Seth P. Tillman, The Price of Empire (Pantheon Books, 1989), 94. to a vaguely defined ‘segregationist stance’. Then with an unspecific reference to ‘public places’, it appears to suggest that Fulbright was a rigid segregationist, when he was not. Second, this passage does not engage with the paradoxical relationship between the vices of Fulbright’s voting record on civil rights and his virtues as an international educator and a dissenter. Instead, it takes his vices to discount his virtues and dismisses Fulbright from his own legacy by suggesting that ‘today’ the Fulbright Program’s legacy is represented by its alumni—his institutional offspring—not by Fulbright himself.

This text is an example of the real or perceived need ECA had to document an appropriate amount of institutional ‘wokeness’, and it did so without revealing its normative standards or motives for doing so. The University of Arkansas’ approach to the complexity of the Fulbright legacies as a learning opportunity was and is much more judicious because their ‘contextualization’ is based on engaging with them in their historical entirety. ECA appears to have hastily instrumentalized Fulbright’s record on civil rights to justify dissociating him from the Fulbright Program before the seventy-fifth anniversary event at the Kennedy Center: an event characterized by the absence of the public persona and public memory of J. William Fulbright. Out of sight, out of mind.

ECA and the State Department planned this seventy-fifth anniversary event practically alone—unlike the fiftieth anniversary commemoration in 1996 that was organized primarily by the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board in collaboration with USIA—and it was a carefully orchestrated hour-and-thirty-nine-minute-long live and live-streamed event for an in-person and online audience that consisted of some live, but mostly pre-recorded testimonials. (The entire evening or excerpted highlights thereof are archived online.) 42Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program – The Fulbright Program 75th Anniversary (fulbright75.org), cited below as ‘Fulbright Celebration online 2021’. Those who attended in person were all so happy to be there as part of the Fulbright community, with their enthusiasm magnified by the fact that it was the first big public event many of them had attended since the beginning of the pandemic. The fact that the Fulbright alumnae and alumni are exceptionally grateful for the opportunities they have received, and recognize the enduring constructive impact of the Fulbright experience on their own lives—and the lives of others—animates any Fulbright get-together, and the genuine highlights of the celebration at the Kennedy Center were the testimonials given by a diverse cross-section of grantees.

Renée Fleming, the famous American soprano and an alumna of the German–American Fulbright Program, opened the evening and also welcomed the audience in her capacity as artistic advisor to the Kennedy Center. (Unfortunately, she missed the opportunity to acknowledge the instrumental role Fulbright played in the establishment of the Kennedy Center, an achievement in which he took great pride.) 43Fulbright sponsored the National Cultural Center Act in 1958, a piece of legislation that
languished because the centre was to be funded by donations. After the assassination of Kennedy in
1963, Fulbright sponsored a joint resolution of Congress to rename it the John F. Kennedy Center
for the Performing Arts which also provided for an appropriation to fund its construction.
Fleming then introduced Douglas Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Harris and ‘Second Gentleman’, who spoke on behalf of President Biden, the First Lady, and the Vice President, and extended the administration’s greetings and congratulations.

Emhoff described the Fulbright Program as ‘our nation’s largest and most influential educational exchange program’ and as ‘a centerpiece of US public diplomacy’, and wanted ‘to thank and recognize a few key supporters’ of the program: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfeld, the members of the presidentially appointed J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board, and the ‘champions of Fulbright in the Senate and the House’. Unfortunately, he did not include the forty-nine countries with Fulbright commissions that contribute the lion’s share of $100 million to the program annually in his enumeration of the program’s ‘key supporters’, and in the course of the entire evening partner countries and binational commissions subsequently appeared only a few times in passing in the remaining scripted remarks.

Jonathan Raab, a young Black journalist and alumnus of the German–American Fulbright Program, served as the master of ceremonies for the evening and provided scripted commentary about the Fulbright Program. In his brief introduction, he praised its established merits and recited a traditionally used metric to document its highest achievers: 61 Nobel Prize recipients, 75 McCarther Foundation Fellows, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 40 current or former heads of state. He then walked the audience through the program, breaking some twenty-five testimonials down into five thematic fields—journalism, science and technology, education, the arts, and public service—with intervening musical and dance performances. It concluded with statements by the individuals and groups that ‘Second Gentleman’ Emhoff had recognized in his opening remarks.

The body of the program was an hour of impressive testimonials by a diverse cross-section of candidates in terms of their disciplines, national origins, colours, orientations, and identities, with two interluding performances. Its centrepiece was an articulate and moving, nine-minute testimonial by Ruth Simmons, 44Fulbright Celebration online 2021’, 46:40–56:47, or at A Message from Dr. Ruth Simmons – The Fulbright Program 75th Anniversary (fulbright75.org). who has had a stellar career as an educator and university leader. Born as the last of twelve children into a family of sharecroppers in East Texas in 1945, she described what it was like to grow up in the segregated Deep South, to experience non-discrimination for the first time in her life as a Fulbright student in France in 1967—‘I was no longer singled out to shun. I was just another amie [friend]’—and the transformative impact her Fulbright experience had on her personal and intellectual growth and subsequent careers as an educator and a leader.

This would have been the perfect opportunity to contextualize Fulbright in his times, to discuss the contradictory simultaneity of his faults and merits, and to point out that the guiding principles for the selection of candidates for the Fulbright Program from its very start have been merit and non-discrimination. 45Walter Johnson and Francis J. Colligan, The Fulbright Program: A History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 39–41. Ruth Simmons’s testimonial exemplified the Fulbright paradox and illustrated a point that Carl Marcy, the chief of staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, repeatedly made: ‘that probably the Fulbright Program did more for the international education of minorities than almost any other piece of legislation that came that early. Under the program people did go abroad as scholars, teachers, or artists, absolutely regardless of race, creed, or color.’ 46Donald A. Ritchie, ‘Interview with Carl M. Marcy, Chief of Staff, Foreign Relations Committee, 1955–1973, 12 October 1983’, Oral History Project, United States Senate, 118, Carl M Marcy Fulbright and Kennedy (senate.gov), accessed 28 October 2020.

An hour into the program, the master of ceremonies then turned to the origins of the Fulbright Program before soliciting remarks from its ‘champions in Congress’ and thanking them ‘for their steadfast support’. ECA’s scripted text for him was:

After the US and its allies defeated fascism in World War II, the US Congress recognized the need to avert future wars by fostering new generations of leaders with a commitment to international collaboration. The Congress created the Fulbright Program in 1946, and its members have sustained that support for seventy-five years. Fulbright 47Celebration online 2021’ at 1:04:35.

This attempt to explain the origins of the Fulbright Program in terms of Congressional post-war swarm intelligence is fanciful, revisionist, and a falsification of the historical record: a rhetorical manoeuvre necessary to eliminate any reference to the agency of Senator Fulbright in the establishment of the program.

The Fulbright Program was a bold and pioneering idea conceived by Fulbright and Fulbright alone. It is a well-documented fact that ‘perhaps more than any other piece of congressional legislation in post-World War II American history, the Fulbright exchange program is the product of one man, former Senator Fulbright’. 48Harry P. Jeffery, ‘Legislative Origins of the Fulbright Program’, in The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 491/1 (1 May 1987), 37. See also the forty-page transcript of Harry Jeffreys’s interview with Fulbright, 28 August 1984, OH 3736, Laurence De Graaf Center
for Oral and Public History, California State University, Fullerton.
Fulbright proposed his legislation on 27 September 1945 without previously consulting any other members of Congress or the State Department. Because it was ‘potentially controversial’, he moved it under the radar of its potential opponents through Congress with a combination of shrewdness and procedural finesse. He ‘decided not to take the risk of an open appeal to the idealism of my colleagues—deeply idealistic men though they be. Indeed, it occurred to me that the less attention the matter got, the greater would be the chance of a victory for idealism.’ 49J. William Fulbright, ‘Twenty Years of the Fulbright Act’, US Advisory Commission on
International Education and Cultural Affairs, ed., International Educational and Cultural Exchange
(Fall 1966), 3.
The bill was ‘little understood, at the time’, Fulbright said years later, and passed with ‘no debate in the Senate’. 50Fulbright remarks in Press Release, 1 August 1961 in Papers of John F. Kennedy, Presidential
Papers. President’s Office Files. Speech Files. Remarks on Fulbright Exchange Program Anniversary,
1 August 1961, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Finally, the initial proposal of the Fulbright Act antedated the initial proposal of the Marshall Plan in June 1947 by over a year and a half. The passage of the Fulbright Act on 1 August 1946 preceded the passage of the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act on 27 January 1948—better known as the Smith–Mundt Act—by almost eighteen months. After the end of the war, it took Congress a long time to come around to making a commitment to fund information and educational exchange programs, and this decision was more in response to the emerging Cold War than anything else. 51See Nicholas J. Cull, The Cold War and the United States Information Agency (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 22–67, on the political genealogy of the Smith–Mundt Act and pre-history
of USIA before 1953

The participation of seven members of Congress in this event was particularly important because Congress annually amends and authorizes the federal budget proposals made by the president, and they were all enthusiastic in their praise for the program. Senator Patrick Leahy (D–Vermont) and former Representative Nita Lowey (D–New York), who have served as co-chairs of the powerful appropriation committees in the Senate and the House, praised the program and have played important roles in maintaining funding for it, along with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). Lowey observed that the ‘return on investment in the Fulbright Program realized by the United States over the last 75 years is incalculable’. 52Fulbright Celebration online 2021’at 1:09:09

The Fulbright Program is also close to the hearts of the Arkansan congressional delegation, but ECA could not script the remarks of Senator John Boozman (R–Arkansas), who went off-script as the only person to utter Fulbright’s name that evening: ‘As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Fulbright understood the immense value of cultural exchanges to US foreign policy.’ 53Fulbright Celebration online 2021’at 1:06:43 In his brief remarks, Paul Winfree, the current chair of the Fulbright Scholarship Board, who held multiple high-ranking positions in the Trump White House, 54For Winfree’s bio, consult the website of the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation: Paul Winfree | The Heritage Foundation. Winfree’s chairmanship of the FFSB is ironic insofar as he was integral to the development of the first two budget proposals of the Trump administration which entailed draconian cuts for the Fulbright Program pontificated that despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘the Fulbright Program is stronger than ever’. 55Fulbright Celebration online 2021’ at 1:29:20

As far as the greatest immediate challenges for the program go, the pandemic is not yet endemic. Structurally, the fact is that the Fulbright Program has had a documented history of ‘fiscal starvation’ since 1960. The ‘steadfast support’ of Congress for the program in the past decade has consisted in maintaining flat funding by steadfastly warding off six budget cuts of various degrees of severity to the Fulbright Program proposed by three different presidents for the fiscal years 2015, 2018–21, and 2022, 56See Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related
Programs, Fiscal Year 2022, 38–41. The FY 2022 proposal of the Biden administration foresaw a
flat global budget for programs managed by ECA but included cuts to the Fulbright Program ($4.7
million) and Professional and Cultural Exchanges ($3.7 million) to fund a corresponding increase
in the ECA’s administrative budget for exchange support. Congress restored funding for the grant
programs and increased the global allocation for ECA to cover its administrative needs.
and restoring it in each case to the levels of the previous year.

Fulbright’s diagnosis regarding the deep-seated reasons for the Fulbright Program’s perennial funding problems is as relevant today as it was when he penned it in 1976: ‘Whereas we readily spend billions for the military and hundreds of millions for propaganda abroad, it is incredibly difficult to get the administration and Congress to invest the few scores of millions necessary to sustain this activity most important to this country’s future and world peace.’ 57J. William Fulbright, ‘The Most Significant and Important Activity I Have Been Privileged to Engage in during My Years in the Senate’, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 424/1 (March 1976), 1. ‘It was obvious that a new approach to international relations was essential to avoid indiscriminate destruction of life and property. It was hoped that man could be diverted from military to cultural pursuits. The Fulbright Act was introduced in 1945 to enable Americans to study abroad at the graduate level and teach in an elementary or secondary school, lecture in a university, or conduct postdoctoral research. Similar opportunities are offered to citizens of other countries to attend American-sponsored schools abroad or in the United States. The program’s success depends largely on the support and cooperation of private organizations and individuals. After 30 years in the U. S. Senate, I remain convinced that educational and cultural exchange offers one of the best means available for improving international understanding. The inadequacy and peril of traditional methods of solving differences among nations and the hydrogen bomb put us on notice to find a better way to deal with international human relations. Whereas we readily spend billions for the military and hundreds of millions for propaganda abroad, it is incredibly difficult to get the administration and Congress to invest the few score millions necessary to sustain this activity most important to this country’s future and world peace.’ Note that funding for the entire ECA exchange budget in 1975 was $54 million, $20 million of which was for the Fulbright Program. As President Biden emphatically pointed out in his remarks on the end of the war in Afghanistan on 31 August 2021, the US spent more than $2 trillion in Afghanistan in twenty years: ‘[…] yes, the American people should hear this: $300 million a day for two decades’. 58Joseph Biden, ‘Remarks by President Biden on the End of the War in Afghanistan, 31 August 2021’, Speeches and Remarks, The White House, Remarks by President Biden on the End of the War in Afghanistan | The White House.

This warrants contextualization. The US spent more on one war in one country in one day every day for twenty years—for 7,300 days in a row—than it allocates today in one year for the global Fulbright Program for over 160 countries. President Biden and Congress have the power to change the traditional ‘fiscal starvation’ of the Fulbright Program together in the future, if they decide to do so—the president proposes the budget, and Congress authorizes it—otherwise the future of Fulbright exchanges will continue to be a zero-sum game of smoke-and-mirrors as far as US government support for this great asset goes.

None of these critical remarks diminish the festive nature of the seventy-fifth anniversary celebration, and the testimonials by Fulbright alumni eloquently documented the ongoing power, impact, and popularity of the Fulbright idea. However, the absence of Senator Fulbright at this event—his name not mentioned, his image not shown, his importance ignored—was astonishing. During his lifetime, Fulbright was widely acknowledged for his accomplishments by governments all over the world with the highest honours, 59For Fulbright’s impressive list, consult the University of Arkansas Special Collections website,
J. William Fulbright Papers, 2nd Accession, Series 86, MS/F956/144-B | University of Arkansas Libraries (uark.edu), Awards and Honors.
yet at the commemorative event in Washington, DC, for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the program he called into being, he was not acknowledged at all.

Anniversaries are like birthday parties, and the memory of Fulbright was not invited to the seventy-fifth of his program. The State Department, as host, had tacitly decided not to include the late senator as the traditional guest of honour on the guest list without telling the other guests, which was more than an etiquette faux pas. The State Department’s silence was official, and it contributed to another deafening silence. Perhaps people had premonitions about the reasons for his absence, but nobody dared to ask ‘What is going on here? Where is Senator Fulbright?’ There has been no public discussion about his absence, or the reasons for it. Qui tacet consentire videtur? Does silence imply consent? No, it does not, and silence can be a sign of the kind of fear that stifles questions and critical discourse. 60Many thoughtful individuals in the US are genuinely concerned that the freedom of speech and expression are jeopardized, especially at institutions of higher education in the US. See the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education at Experienced. Nonpartisan. Defending Your Rights. – FIRE (thefire.org).

In imperial Rome, damnatio memoria was the eminently political practice new political elites used after a regime change to condemn members of former political elites after their deaths. The Romans understood that fame—an attribute of ‘immortality’—depended on the permanence of an individual’s presence in the memory of the res publica, understood as the ‘public sphere’ in the broadest sense of the word. Damnatio memoriae involved removing or obliterating all public references to individuals that could possibly serve as reminders of the fact that they had previously been deemed memorable for their meritorious achievements: names, inscriptions, images, statues, texts, and other artefacts in the public sphere of the res publica. Out of sight, out of mind. It has been practiced in many cultures throughout history, with the most obvious recent examples being in Stalin’s Soviet Union, where retouching photos to eliminate those who had fallen out of grace or rewriting entire histories was an established practice. However, this kind of revisionism rarely succeeds in rectifying the historical record. It is a questionable political exercise, and it is bad historical practice.

The State Department would be well advised to consult the Arkansans about the thorny task of contextualizing Fulbright’s legacies in public. The absence of Senator J. William Fulbright at the commemoration of the diamond anniversary of the Fulbright Program reflected the peculiar convergence of the US public diplomacy’s ‘functional strategy’ of advancing or demonstrating ‘American values’ 61ECA’s Functional Bureau Strategy mentions American values twelve times in a twelve-page text. with a specific partisan subset of American values that are operative in US cultural conflicts today, and it evidenced apprehension about the ‘appropriateness’ of acknowledging Fulbright. However, the State Department narrative is just one version of the Fulbright story, and the US is only one of many different countries participating in the program. The rest of the world does not necessarily share the Washingtonian view of things.

Finally, the Fulbright Program is not one program sponsored and funded by the US government, but at least forty-nine different programs, because that is the number of countries that have concluded agreements with the US government to establish binational Fulbright commissions, and they see the program through its traditional lens of its ‘binational approach’ in forty-nine different ways. The Fulbright Program is stronger, better financed, more professionally managed, and most robust in countries with binational commissions, and each of them also have their binational narratives to tell, many of which differ dramatically in perspective from the State Department story. Visit Seoul, Canberra, Brasilia, or Helsinki, and you will see.

  • 1
    Funding for the Fulbright Program peaked in 1966 in constant (real, inflation-adjusted) dollars. For a bar chart showing the differences between constant and actual dollars from 1947–2013, see J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, ‘2014 Annual Report’ (Washington, DC: US Department of State, 2014), 10.
  • 2
    The US government allocation fell from $120 million in 1994 to $98.9 million in 1996.
  • 3
    On the philosophy of the binational approach, see Donald B. Cook and Paul J. Smith, ‘The Philosophy of the Fulbright Program’, UNESCO International Social Science Bulletin, 8/4 (1956), 615–627.
  • 4
    Board of Foreign Scholarships, ‘A Quarter Century: The American Adventure in Academic Exchange – A Report’ (Washington, DC: US Department of State, 1971), 97 p.
  • 5
    J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, ‘Fulbright Fiftieth: 1996 Annual Report’ (USIA: Washington, DC, 1996), 5.
  • 6
    Steering Committee on the Future of the Fulbright International Exchange Program, Fulbright at Fifty: Meeting the Challenges of the Next Fifty Years (National Humanities Center: Durham NC, 1997), 36 p.
  • 7
    The Fulbright Program’, US Department of State, https://eca.state.gov/fulbright, accessed 24 February 2019.
  • 8
    Nicholas J. Cull, ‘The Long Road to Public Diplomacy 2.0: The Internet in US Public Diplomacy’,International Studies Review, 15/1 (March 2013), 123–139.
  • 9
    Biyun Zhu, ‘Tool Selection for Public Diplomacy Flagships: Toward an Adaptive Model’, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy (4 June 2021).
  • 10
    Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, ‘Fulbright Brand Guide’ (Washington, DC, 2019), 10, https://fulbright.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/FulbrightBrandGuide_8.5×11.pdf, accessed 20 April 2021.
  • 11
    Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, 118 Stat. 3638, Public Law 108–458, 17 December 2004, Sec. 7112.
  • 12
    The post-9/11 funding increases for the Fulbright Program went predominantly to US embassybased programs in the Muslim world. Between 1996 and 2016 Fulbright grants made by US embassy-based programs increased from 22.1 to 35.6 per cent of the total number of awards with the largest increases in countries in the Muslim world: almost threefold from 988 to 2,636.
  • 13
    James K. Glassman, ‘Public Diplomacy 2.0: A New Approach to Global Engagement’, US Department of State Archive, 1 December 2008, Public Diplomacy 2.0: A New Approach to Global Engagement (state.gov)
  • 14
    Functional Bureau Strategy: Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs (for public release, approved 23 July 2018), FBS ECA UNCLASS (state.gov).
  • 15
    ‘Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs – United States Department of State’, https://www.state.gov/bureaus-offices/under-secretary-for-public-diplomacy-and-public-affairs/bureauofeducational-and-cultural-affairs/, accessed 4 February 2022.
  • 16
    Board of Foreign Scholarships, ‘24th Year: Continuing the Commitment. A Report on Academic Exchanges’ (Washington, DC: BFS, 1970), vii.
  • 17
    ‘Fulbright Brand Guide’, 10. ‘The Fulbright Program’, US Department of State splash page, Fulbright | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (state.gov), accessed 15 December 2020.
  • 18
    S. Lebovic, ‘From War Junk to Educational Exchange: The World War II Origins of the Fulbright Program and the Foundations of American Cultural Globalism, 1945–1950’, Diplomatic History, 37/2 (1 April 2013), 280–312.
  • 19
    Public Law 82–400, To Amend the Mutual Security Act of 1951, and for other purposes, 82nd Congress, 20 June 1952, Sec. 10 and 11.
  • 20
    See Jacqueline McGlade, ‘More a Plowshare than a Sword: The Legacy of US Cold War Agricultural Diplomacy’, Agricultural History, 83/1 (1 January 2009), 79–102.
  • 21
    Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Public Law 87–256, Sec. 105 (f).
  • 22
    Based on the statistics in annual reports of the BFS/FFSB since 1970. The average contribution of public and private contributors from abroad since 2010 has been over $104 million. Forty-nine countries with binational commissions contribute 94 per cent of the total and over 100 other
    countries with US embassy-based programs 6 per cent.
  • 23
    Committee on the University and World Affairs, The University and World Affairs (New York, NY: Ford Foundation, 1960), 6.
  • 24
    United States Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs, ‘A Special Study on the Effectiveness of the Past Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs of the U.S. Department of State: A Report to Congress from the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs Pursuant to Public Law 87–256 Also Constituting the First Annual Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Education and Cultural Affairs’ (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1963), 4, 36.
  • 25
    US Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs, ‘A Necessary and Noble Task: The Eleventh Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs –1975’ (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1975).
  • 26
    US Advisory Commission on Educational and Cultural Affairs, ‘Sixth Annual Report: Is Anyone Listening? January 1969’ (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1969).
  • 27
    White Paper on the Future of the Fulbright Program Prepared by the J. William Fulbright
    Scholarship Board (1991)’, reprinted in Leonard R. Sussman, The Culture of Freedom: The Small World
    of Fulbright Scholarships (Lanham, MA: Rowan & Littlefield, 1992), 172–180.
  • 28
    From 1980 until 1999, the BFS annual reports annually included charts or bar graphs in constant and actual dollars to graphically illustrate the low levels of US government funding for the program and the urgent need for increased US government appropriations—an annual practice in transparency that was discontinued after 1999 when ECA was consolidated with the State Department.
  • 29
    For the only bar chart of the funding history of the program since 1999 in constant and actual dollars, see J. William Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships, ‘2014 Annual Report’ (Washington, DC: Department of State, 2014), 10.
  • 30
    FY 2015 Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, 4 March 2014, 33–35.
  • 31
    See Washington’s Pivot to Ignorance – TomDispatch.com, which was reposted 19 times nationally and internationally.
  • 32
    See ‘Educational and Cultural Exchanges’ in Office of Budget and Management, Major Savings and Reforms, for fiscal years 2018 (69), 2019 (71), 2020 (72), and 2021 (70).
  • 33
    ECA has a statutory obligation to assist the FFSB in discharging its duties, which has been neglected. See US Code Title 22: Chapter 33, Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, Sec. 2456
  • 34
    See Matt Armstrong’s comparison of the hyperlinked CVs on the 1947 and current board members in ‘How Important Is Public Diplomacy? A Brief Look at the Fulbright Board’, MountainRunner. us: Political Warfare, Public Diplomacy, and Stuff (6 July 2021), How Important is Public Diplomacy? A brief look at the Fulbright Board – MountainRunner.us
  • 35
    See US Code Title 22: Chapter 33, Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, Sec. 2456 (f) and 2457. The most recent FFSB ‘2018 Annual Report’ was for the fiscal year 2017, and appeared without the customary statistical appendix.
  • 36
    This was a real departure from tradition in comparison with 1956, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1986, and 1996.
  • 37
    See Part I of this article in Hungarian Review, XII/4 (December 2021), 50–68.
  • 38
    The text of the resolution is in a memorandum of University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbit addressed to Bill Kincaid, Interim Chancellor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 28 July 2021. See ‘Providing Context: Fulbright’s History Now Online, To Be Added Near Statue’, University of Arkansas News (3 December 2021), Providing Context: Fulbright’s History Now Online, To Be Added Near Statue | University of Arkansas (uark.edu).
  • 39
    Consult Dean’s Office, J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, ‘J. William Fulbright – The Fulbright Paradox’, University of Arkansas, https://fulbright.uark.edu/deans-office/about-the-college/j-william-fulbright.php, accessed 3 December 2021.
  • 40
    ECA Fulbright website, ‘About Fulbright, Fulbright Program Overview’, Fulbright Program Overview | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (state.gov)
  • 41
    J. William Fulbright and Seth P. Tillman, The Price of Empire (Pantheon Books, 1989), 94.
  • 42
  • 43
    Fulbright sponsored the National Cultural Center Act in 1958, a piece of legislation that
    languished because the centre was to be funded by donations. After the assassination of Kennedy in
    1963, Fulbright sponsored a joint resolution of Congress to rename it the John F. Kennedy Center
    for the Performing Arts which also provided for an appropriation to fund its construction.
  • 44
  • 45
    Walter Johnson and Francis J. Colligan, The Fulbright Program: A History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 39–41.
  • 46
    Donald A. Ritchie, ‘Interview with Carl M. Marcy, Chief of Staff, Foreign Relations Committee, 1955–1973, 12 October 1983’, Oral History Project, United States Senate, 118, Carl M Marcy Fulbright and Kennedy (senate.gov), accessed 28 October 2020.
  • 47
    Celebration online 2021’ at 1:04:35.
  • 48
    Harry P. Jeffery, ‘Legislative Origins of the Fulbright Program’, in The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 491/1 (1 May 1987), 37. See also the forty-page transcript of Harry Jeffreys’s interview with Fulbright, 28 August 1984, OH 3736, Laurence De Graaf Center
    for Oral and Public History, California State University, Fullerton.
  • 49
    J. William Fulbright, ‘Twenty Years of the Fulbright Act’, US Advisory Commission on
    International Education and Cultural Affairs, ed., International Educational and Cultural Exchange
    (Fall 1966), 3.
  • 50
    Fulbright remarks in Press Release, 1 August 1961 in Papers of John F. Kennedy, Presidential
    Papers. President’s Office Files. Speech Files. Remarks on Fulbright Exchange Program Anniversary,
    1 August 1961, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
  • 51
    See Nicholas J. Cull, The Cold War and the United States Information Agency (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 22–67, on the political genealogy of the Smith–Mundt Act and pre-history
    of USIA before 1953
  • 52
    Fulbright Celebration online 2021’at 1:09:09
  • 53
    Fulbright Celebration online 2021’at 1:06:43
  • 54
    For Winfree’s bio, consult the website of the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation: Paul Winfree | The Heritage Foundation. Winfree’s chairmanship of the FFSB is ironic insofar as he was integral to the development of the first two budget proposals of the Trump administration which entailed draconian cuts for the Fulbright Program
  • 55
    Fulbright Celebration online 2021’ at 1:29:20
  • 56
    See Congressional Budget Justification: Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related
    Programs, Fiscal Year 2022, 38–41. The FY 2022 proposal of the Biden administration foresaw a
    flat global budget for programs managed by ECA but included cuts to the Fulbright Program ($4.7
    million) and Professional and Cultural Exchanges ($3.7 million) to fund a corresponding increase
    in the ECA’s administrative budget for exchange support. Congress restored funding for the grant
    programs and increased the global allocation for ECA to cover its administrative needs.
  • 57
    J. William Fulbright, ‘The Most Significant and Important Activity I Have Been Privileged to Engage in during My Years in the Senate’, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 424/1 (March 1976), 1. ‘It was obvious that a new approach to international relations was essential to avoid indiscriminate destruction of life and property. It was hoped that man could be diverted from military to cultural pursuits. The Fulbright Act was introduced in 1945 to enable Americans to study abroad at the graduate level and teach in an elementary or secondary school, lecture in a university, or conduct postdoctoral research. Similar opportunities are offered to citizens of other countries to attend American-sponsored schools abroad or in the United States. The program’s success depends largely on the support and cooperation of private organizations and individuals. After 30 years in the U. S. Senate, I remain convinced that educational and cultural exchange offers one of the best means available for improving international understanding. The inadequacy and peril of traditional methods of solving differences among nations and the hydrogen bomb put us on notice to find a better way to deal with international human relations. Whereas we readily spend billions for the military and hundreds of millions for propaganda abroad, it is incredibly difficult to get the administration and Congress to invest the few score millions necessary to sustain this activity most important to this country’s future and world peace.’ Note that funding for the entire ECA exchange budget in 1975 was $54 million, $20 million of which was for the Fulbright Program.
  • 58
    Joseph Biden, ‘Remarks by President Biden on the End of the War in Afghanistan, 31 August 2021’, Speeches and Remarks, The White House, Remarks by President Biden on the End of the War in Afghanistan | The White House.
  • 59
    For Fulbright’s impressive list, consult the University of Arkansas Special Collections website,
    J. William Fulbright Papers, 2nd Accession, Series 86, MS/F956/144-B | University of Arkansas Libraries (uark.edu), Awards and Honors.
  • 60
    Many thoughtful individuals in the US are genuinely concerned that the freedom of speech and expression are jeopardized, especially at institutions of higher education in the US. See the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education at Experienced. Nonpartisan. Defending Your Rights. – FIRE (thefire.org).
  • 61
    ECA’s Functional Bureau Strategy mentions American values twelve times in a twelve-page text.

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