The Fulbright Association has always been dedicated to advocating for the Program on Capitol Hill. As part of our mission, we play an important advocacy role in supporting, growing, and saving the Program. We have national reach through our chapters and members who live in every congressional district. We represent a unified voice of Fulbrighters and supporters of international exchange. Congress listens when we speak with that voice.
Yet we have not spent enough time or resources advocating within the Administration. We have not thanked those who do support the Program within key institutions, like the Department of State. Perhaps we have assumed they already understand the Program and its impact, and/or that our input would make no difference outside the representational ethic of Congress.
In rethinking these assumptions, we decided to reach out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We wanted to thank him for his support, and alert him to the profound impact that the Fulbright Program has had and continues to have on American higher education.
The Program has been an invaluable resource to colleges and universities for more than 71 years, powering the commitment they have made to global education and understanding. U.S. colleges and universities lead the world, and the Fulbright Program helps make that possible. Our institutional members understand that, and they stand with us in advocacy.
At the suggestion of Claire Gaudiani (former president of Connecticut College), an alumna and member of our Presidents Council, we crafted an Open Letter to Mike Pompeo, and asked college and university leaders—primarily presidents—to sign this letter.
The results have been astounding.
338 institutions signed the letter, an extraordinary act of unity and urgency by hundreds of leaders in education, a testament that the Fulbright Program should be cherished and strengthened. We are grateful to all those who signed the letter—institutional members and others—and took a public stand for the Program and its impact.
We appreciate Claire’s leadership and the support of our Presidents Council, composed primarily of alumni who are former college and university presidents. A special thanks to Rich Ekman, the president of the Council of Independent Colleges, and Millie Gracia, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Both the CIC and AASCU strongly supported this campaign, promoting it among their membership—who responded enthusiastically.
We will be sending the letter to Secretary Pompeo shortly, and we will update you in a future newsletter. While we remain focused on congressional advocacy, this was an important step in widening our reach, and we thank everyone who has helped.
–John Bader, Executive Director