While most academics know the Institute through some aspect of the Fulbright Program, my introduction was due primarily to its work on behalf of the United States Information Agency (USIA) International Visitor Program, which has since been renamed the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and is now managed by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. For some wonderful reason, it was my telephone number at Georgetown that someone from IIE would call when a visitor was seeking to meet with someone at the University or interested in learning more about its School of Foreign Service.
“I'd rather be in Philadelphia"
For some reason this is what President Reagan said (quoting the humorist W.C. Fields) after being shot. I had good reason to agree last month after speaking at the opening of the 31st Ivy League Model United Nations Conference (ILMUNC) organized by University of Pennsylvania students.
Senator J. William Fulbright was a Rhodes Scholar, and the experience gave him the idea that more Americans ought to have the opportunity to study abroad. We know where that led, of course.
This year's CIEE annual conference addressed the "three Cs" that are making it hard for our students to study abroad: Cost, Curriculum, and Culture. It was my privilege to speak at the luncheon, which was then devoted to working groups to come up with ideas on how to reduce obstacles in each area. Many good ideas were reported and will be shared as part of CIEE’s commitment to IIE's Generation Study Abroad initiative, which also included a generous package of $20 million in scholarships and actions designed to help students throughout the United States to take advantage of international opportunities.
It was a real lesson in globalization. The airplane announcement went something like this:
"The local authorities have asked us to spray the cabin to prevent the spread of disease by mosquitos. Please do not breathe in if you are allergic to spraying. And due to the recent outbreaks of Ebola, MERS, H1N1, and bird flu, please report to local authorities upon landing if you have any of the following symptoms: ..." You can imagine the list.
"All men are brothers." The sentence came back to me here in the middle of a dinner hosted by the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange for about 100 Fulbright U.S. English Teaching Assistants soon heading home. The words are from a novel published in China in 1589, Tale of the Water Margin, about what one learns through struggles in a world almost constantly at war. The sentence was later used by Gandhi as part of the title for his book of autobiographical reflections on how many people with many differences could live together if they thought about the aspirations that bound them together.
In the middle of June, when the team at the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund realized we were facing a third Iraq emergency—as well as requests for help from scholars in many other parts of the world—Senator Leahy of Vermont reminded us why we do this work. He told the story of a man walking along a beach where many starfish had washed ashore. The man was picking them up one by one and tossing them back into the ocean. A passerby noted that there were many hundreds and that the effort was pretty much futile. “Not to the one I just managed to throw back,” replied the man.
We stand now at approximately 500 days from the initial target date for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals set in 1990. These goals represent the most ambitious shared aspirations of humanity the modern world ever assembled. As we take measure now of the successes and shortfalls of this global effort, redouble our efforts for real, sustained progress in these final 500 days, and establish the framework for beyond 2015, I am inspired by what has been achieved and worried about what comes next.
Last month, the President of Brazil announced that the Federal Government would provide an additional 100,000 scholarships for Brazilian undergraduates to participate in the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, which enables them to study during their junior year in the United States and other countries. Currently over 80,000 students are participating in the program. The announcement means that by 2018, some 200,000 will have had the chance to learn another language and study and intern in relevant fields for the country's employment needs.
The reception for Spain's new king, Fulbright and Georgetown alumnus Felipe VI, involved a very long receiving line at the Palace. Besides the setting, which is magnificent and historic, it was the modest event it was proclaimed to be. The guests were divided into a number of immense waiting rooms filled with friends, diplomats, ministers, and military leaders. I am sure there were other Americans, but none that I could see or hear.