On May 24, 2018, the Fulbright Association held a special Advocacy Day, welcoming 22 Executive Directors of bi-national Fulbright Commissions to Washington, D.C. from around the world to meet with members of Congress. In total, 40 participants met with 32 Congressional offices throughout the day. This even marked the third Fulbright Association Advocacy Day in less than eight months — an unprecedented act of commitment and engagement by our community in support of the Fulbright Program.
“We are grateful to all who joined us for our May Advocacy Day, including many who traveled long distances to take part. Fulbright Commission Executive Directors are uniquely positioned to share the impact of Fulbright exchanges on bilateral relations and international diplomacy. It’s important to remember — and to remind members of Congress — that our partner nations collectively contribute over $100 million annually to support the Fulbright Program in their countries,” shared Fulbright Association Executive Director John Bader.
The Fulbright Program has powerful, longstanding relationships with over 160 countries worldwide. The original Fulbright Act authorized the U.S. Secretary of State to enter into funding partnerships with other nations, and early program administrators recognized the value of a bi-national approach in pursuing shared interests. Today, there are 49 Fulbright Commissions that direct the Fulbright exchanges in their countries; identify local institutions to host U.S. Fulbrighters; provide support for students, scholars, and alumni; and fulfill a variety of other functions. They are essential partners in managing the Fulbright Program abroad, and in the Association’s work to engage alumni and advocate for international exchange funding.
Senator John Boozman (R-Arkansas) joined the group of Commission leaders and Fulbright advocates during the morning advocacy training session to offer remarks and encouragement. He spoke of the enduring power of the Fulbright Program and its special connection to the state of Arkansas, where Senator Fulbright was raised and elected to office. “There’s simply no substitute for you being here today and talking with members of Congress,” he stressed, noting the critical role of sharing stories of impact with legislators.
Following the day’s meetings on Capitol Hill, Advocacy Day participants reconvened at the Mexican Cultural Institute for a debrief and reception. The Institute, which previously housed the Embassy of Mexico, is a stunning twentieth-century mansion designed in the Beaux Arts style by the architects who designed the West Wing of the White House. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as well as the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. Among the mansion’s striking architectural and stylistic details are a series of murals by Roberto Cueva del Río, a painter from Puebla, Mexico, which feature heroic portraits, bright colors, and historical symbolism. As the Association prepares for its 41st annual conference in Puebla in November 2018, we are especially grateful to the Mexican Cultural Institute for hosting us for this reception.
During the debrief session, each advocacy group shared takeaways from their meetings and engaged in dialogue about the experience and the Fulbright Association’s ongoing advocacy goals. To conclude the evening, participants mingled with one another, enjoyed a spread of Mexican-inspired hors d’oeuvres, and enjoyed the beautiful backdrop of the Mexican Cultural Institute. Thanks to all who joined us on May 24 in a strong showing of support for the Fulbright Program.