“For nearly eight decades, the Fulbright Program has proven invaluable in fostering meaningful dialogue between the United States and other cultures, including notable political elites from dozens of nations across the world. Through partnerships abroad, hundreds of thousands of fellows, including myself, have been privileged to share the importance of democracy and better explain the rule of law.” – Congressman Tom Cole (R-Ok)The Former Executive Director of the Fulbright Association, Steve Reilly, met last week with Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a deputy majority whip, to discuss the future of the Fulbright Program as well as share concerns of the Fulbright Alumni community. Currently, the President’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 15, undermines the program’s sustainability moving into the future. The President has proposed a 13.5% cut to the Fulbright Program, which equates to $30.5 million. The Fulbright Association has galvanized thousands of alumni in the US these past few months to write letters, and make phone calls to have their voice heard. This groundswell of grass roots movement has been effective in securing support from the House of Representatives and Senate, both of which have rejected the president’s budget request and countered with flat funding or a slight increase. As the Fulbright Association plays a key role in advocating for the Fulbright Program, we are helping to educate our community and members of Congress about the importance and value of Fulbright in the world. Congressman Cole, a Fulbright alumnus and fellow at the University of London, stated, “For nearly eight decades, the Fulbright Program has proven invaluable in fostering meaningful dialogue between the United States and other cultures, including notable political elites from dozens of nations across the world. Through partnerships abroad, hundreds of thousands of fellows, including myself, have been privileged to share the importance of democracy and better explain the rule of law.” Congressman Cole understands the importance of continuing our investment in Fulbright and the core values of open dialogue and mutual understanding between peoples of the world. When asked for advice on how to engage our government and international audience see the important role the Association plays on the Fulbright stage, Congressman Cole responded thoughtfully and simply stated that the Fulbright Association needed a champion in Congress who would be sure to consistently represent the important role of Fulbright on the world stage. He also said it is essential that our alumni tell their stories more proactively and make sure their elected officials hear them. In spite of the discontent and outrage towards the potential cut, the alumni community can be a significant voice in preventing cuts to the program. Relationships between the Association and the Hill are being strengthened and we are working harder than ever to make sure our community’s voices are hear. The work of the Association is slowly gaining impetus through advocacy outreach initiatives that continuously draw the spotlight onto one of the country’s oldest and most respected exchange program and it’s amazing alumni community. Please be sure to get involved and have your voice heard if you have not already.