The 2018 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding was awarded to Dr. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, in a ceremony taking place at the AXICA Congress and Convention Centre located right next to the historic Brandenburg, on January 28, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. With this award, the Fulbright Association honors Chancellor Merkel for her remarkable, compassionate leadership and her strong commitment to mutual understanding, international cooperation, and peace. The Fulbright Association believes that Chancellor Merkel embodies the best of leadership in times of unrelenting global crises and challenges.
For the first time in the award’s 25-year history, the Fulbright Association hosted this event outside of the United States. Fulbright Association members, German alumni, academics, think tanks, nonprofit leaders, politicians, diplomats, current Fulbright grantees in Germany, and friends of international education gathered to honor Chancellor Merkel.
“She has championed the promise of reconciliation in a way that distinguishes her as a Fulbright Laureate that has committed to the issues and ideas that keep the peace on our continent, and in the world,” said renowned news anchor Christiane Amanpour, delivering a special introduction of Chancellor Merkel. Amanpour continued, “I’ve covered Chancellor Merkel from afar, and wholeheartedly second the Fulbright citation that honors her for her remarkable, compassionate leadership and her strong commitment to mutual understanding, international cooperation, and peace.”
During the ceremony a recorded congratulatory message was also delivered by acclaimed opera singer Renée Fleming. The event also highlighted the history of the prize since 1993 with an inspiring video. Short remarks were also made by Oliver Schmidt, Executive Director of the German-American Fulbright Commission, and Manuel Pauser (German Alumnus). Reflecting on his experience in the US as a German grantee, Manuel said, “if you want to find out what the American soul is, you have to dance in a night club in Mississippi, or listen to a wedding sermon in Kansas, or digest a sumptuous Thanksgiving meal with friends in Idaho or drive down a sheer endless highway in Wyoming. And yes, you may find many contradictions, curiosities, and opinions you may or may not agree with. Indeed, the American soul is complex. But the American heart is good.”
Former Fulbright Association president Manfred Philipp and Fulbright Prize Committee chair Mary Ellen Heian Schmider presented the Prize to the chancellor.
“The Fulbright Prize is the very symbol for how important international friendship is,” said Chancellor Merkel upon receiving the Prize. She thanked the Fulbright Association for its work and stated that she believes “the Fulbright Program decisively contributes to the good relations between Americans and Germans.”
The event venue was filled with over 120 media outlets/journalists, attendees representing the United States, Germany, and a wide range of other countries, and thousands more joined in online to watch the event livestreamed on the Fulbright Association’s media channel. Viewers engaged throughout the globe under the hashtag #FulbrightPrize, and offered their congratulations to Chancellor Merkel. Fulbright Association members organized viewing parties in their cities to share in the celebration through their local chapters and communities.
“The evening was thrilling. The beautiful venue was packed with nearly 350 alumni and distinguished guests, along with over 120 people from the press—giving us unprecedented global coverage,” says Executive Director John Bader, who attended the ceremony in Berlin. “The chancellor was so excited to accept our award and genuinely pleased to be with our community. That is why she stayed for many pictures and the reception. This is unprecedented in the history of the events the chancellor has attended at AXICA.”
The J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding was established in 1993 by the Fulbright Association to recognize outstanding contributions toward bringing peoples, cultures, or nations to greater understanding of others. The inaugural Fulbright Prize was awarded to former South African President Nelson Mandela. Chancellor Merkel joins a list of impressive Prize Laureates, which also includes Jimmy Carter, Corazon Aquino, Mary Robinson, Bill and Melinda Gates, and others.
The Fulbright Association thanks its generous sponsors for making the 2018 Fulbright Prize ceremony a success. We are especially grateful to the University of Maryland University College, the Franz Collection, ASUS, Thrivent Financial, and Auburn University, as well as the National Capital Area and South Carolina Chapters of the Fulbright Association. We also thank the German-American Fulbright Commission for its partnership and support.
Click here to view photos of the event or view the full ceremony below.