The regime change in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine remind us that our world may always be rocked by violence, and that we must each do what we can to build a lasting peace based on understanding. For our part, Fulbright alumni work continuously to ensure that the Fulbright Program remains an effective instrument of diplomacy and education. That is why the Association puts advocacy to Congress as a centerpiece of our programming, and why we always need your help to speak out.
This year, for the first time in a dozen years, the Fulbright Program may finally get a spending increase thanks, in part, to these advocacy efforts. First, the House Appropriations Committee endorsed a $10 million increase, thanks to the strong leadership of Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY)—all of whom attended the Fulbright Prize event for Bono on March 31. After that event, Rep. DeLauro met with Board member and Advocacy Chair Melanie Horton and Executive Director John Bader, promising to do what she could for Fulbright—and she delivered!
The Senate Appropriations Committee followed their lead, but proposed $15 million more than the current $275 million of spending, for a total of $290 million. Also attending the Prize event was the Committee’s chair, Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT). Senator Leahy has always been a great champion of the Fulbright Program, and this year—sadly, his last in the Senate—he gathered support to boost funding.
The Fulbright Prize event hosted nearly 20 members of Congress from both chambers and both parties—including Minority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). This perfectly reflects our longstanding commitment to building bipartisan friendships in support of the Fulbright Program. The Prize also reminds everyone—members of Congress, the diplomatic corps in Washington which had nearly 30 countries represented, and leaders of higher education—of the positive impact of Fulbright and the principle of peace through understanding.
But one event, however successful, is not enough. We must stand together nationwide and reach out to as many members of Congress as possible. That is why we followed the Prize with our annual Advocacy Month, once again conducted virtually. We organized more than 50 meetings with over a hundred Fulbrighters from across the country, all to explain why the Program works so well and why it requires a significant boost in spending. We were so pleased that several principals joined these calls, including Fulbright alumnus (to Greece), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN).
We are not done yet, of course. The added monies included in the Appropriations bills may not become law, so we are continuing efforts to build support for those bills. Board member Bruce Fowler and Advocacy Committee member Sudha Haley met recently with Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to deliver that message. Thanks, Bruce and Sudha!
Next year, we hope you will join us in advocating for a stronger Fulbright Program. We will be planning visits to local and state offices in February so that you can participate in-person while staying close to home. An in-person Advocacy Day will immediately follow the Fulbright Prize event next spring, if you can join us in Washington. Keep an eye out for announcements and visit our advocacy website, www.fulbright.org/advocacy. We look forward to hearing your voice raised for Fulbright!