In Honor of Representative John Lewis

In Honor of Representative John Lewis

Approximately nine months ago (October 24-26, 2019), I had the privilege of attending the Fulbright 42nd Annual Conference and Advocacy Day.  This conference happened to coincide with Congressman’s Elijah Cummings memorial at the capitol.

As our multicultural cohort was enroute to render our respects to Representative Cummings, we encountered Congressman John Lewis.  For whatever reason, he stopped and began a conversation with one of our colleagues which resulted in the rest of us joining in the discussion which culminated with this group selfie.

As you can see, no one would have imagined that he was battling cancer and would be deceased nine months later.  Rep Lewis epitomized what we should all strive to represent:  He was a man of passion – not based on what he read or felt, but because of his experiences.  He represented what our society is currently struggling to achieve – the ability to highlight a problem but work to provide solutions through legislation and healthy debates versus violence.

His efforts were also essential as the foundation for so many who were previously deprived of the right to vote.  The picture to the right highlights how Representative Lewis’ participation on the Bloody Sunday, March on the Edmund Pettus Bridge (March 7, 1965) paved the way for people to vote, people to have equal opportunities of access, and people to achieve their personal/professional desires if they are willing to work for it.  It is unfortunate that historically, less than 40% of eligible Americans currently participate in our voting process.

Even though Representative Lewis continued his strong position to change policy that adversely impacted the minority community, his passion extended to other underrepresented groups and he consistently worked with members of opposing parties to develop mutually beneficial solutions to serve all Americans.

Representative Lewis, your legacy will live on forever and I hope that we extend your legacy by promoting dialogue, policy, and an unwavering commitment to preserve the sanctity of the greatest nation on this earth – The United States.  God Bless you in your journey home and God Bless the USA.

 

Janice M. Gravely, PhD

Virtual Walden Chapter

July 23, 2020 1

Advocacy Update: May 2020

Advocacy Update: May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unexpected challenges—and opportunities—when advocating for the Fulbright Program on Capitol Hill. The challenges are obvious. To protect our members and advocates, we had to cancel our March 26 Advocacy Day. Congressional offices closed to visitors. The State Department had to suspend the Program itself, sending Fulbrighters home prematurely. And, of course, the pandemic has raised barriers to travel and doubts about the future of exchanges.

On the face of it, that’s a pretty bleak landscape.

We quickly learned that there are always opportunities in crisis, especially if you have spent the time—as this community has for over 40 years—to build strong, bipartisan relationships.

First, we learned that congressional offices are operating just like a lot of other offices. Staff are working remotely, glad to take phone calls rather than visitors. So we have had calls with many offices, with a special focus on senators on the Appropriations Committee, including:

    • Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
    • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
    • Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX 2)
    • Representative Ted Budd (R-NC 13)
    • Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)
    • Representative Dean Phillips (D-MN 3)
    • Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
    • Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)
    • Representative David Trone (D-MD 6)
  • Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA 5)
  • Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
  • Senator James Lankford (R-OK)
  • Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
  • Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC)
  • Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)
  • Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  • Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
  • Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY 5)

Second, we found that staff members and their bosses continue to be strongly supportive of the Fulbright Program. In fact, we had decided before the pandemic to ask for added funding for the Program with a total ask of $300 million, to begin rectifying years of flat funding.  Members of Congress, from both parties and both chambers, were very open to considering such a spending boost, despite many other pressing priorities caused by the pandemic.

And third, they shared our concern about the suspension of the Program and its future. We reassured them that the State Department had facilitated the return of all Americans who wanted to come home, that all Fulbrighters would receive their full grants, and that returning Fulbrighters would receive an additional $1000 relocation fund. We explained that many Fulbrighters chose to continue their work, especially those in the U.S.

We also explained to them that the pandemic has required agile planning for the coming year, as conditions continually change. The current plan calls for a delay in the start of many grants, with confidence that the Program will resume more fully in 2021. They understood and supported the argument that an interruption in funding was not acceptable to our community nor a viable policy option, particularly as that would cede exchange leadership to other countries, including China. Every office assured us of their full support for stronger funding in the next fiscal year.

These assurances guarantee nothing, so we will remain active and vigilant in the coming months. I urge you to contact your chapter to explore how you can get involved, especially this summer. You can also email advocacy@fulbright.org and explore our advocacy website.

-John Bader
Executive Director, Fulbright Association

May 29, 2020 0

2019 Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill

2019 Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill

Senator Fulbright, during the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, called for alumni to create an active body to advocate for the program. Today, the main responsibility of the Fulbright Association is serving as the unified voice of the Fulbright community in advocating for the program to the U.S. Congress.

The primary source of funding (approximately 65%) for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. We support Fulbright Program funding at the $252 million level for FY2020.

Fulbrighters gathered on the Capitol Hill in the early morning October 24 and had the opportunity to listen of the Bruce Fowler, from the Associate Advocacy Task Force, and watch an advocacy video message from Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Bader Association executive director, and Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR-ret) giving their advice before meeting with the representatives. During more than 100 meetings, Fulbright alumni shared their stories of the impact of the Fulbright Program at home and abroad.

The Association pursues a strategic and non-partisan approach to advocacy at the local, national, and global levels. Supporters including Fulbright alumni and friends defend the program by focusing their efforts on the decision-makers in Congress. In 2019, more than 90% of the members of Congress have received letters from their constituents calling on them to prevent cuts. This citizen action aided by the association shows the scale of support for the Fulbright program. The Fulbright Association has been involved in such initiatives as local grassroots campaigns across the U.S. including in many local visits organized by chapters in local congressional offices as well as petition and write in. According to the teams visiting Congress this year, the campaign received positive feedback and bipartisan declarations of support for the program.

Additionally, to physical campaign during the Advocacy Day, the Fulbright Association has run a very effective campaign on social media using the hashtag #StandForFulbright where Fulbright alumni shared a highlight from their Fulbright experience and joined the global Fulbright community in showing their support for one another and the Program on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn highlighting the positive impact of the Fulbright Program worldwide.

This year’s annual Advocacy Day was not only a great experience for supporting the program but also an excellent opportunity for Fulbright alumni to meet with their state representatives in Washington, D.C. and attend in 42nd Annual Conference in the home city of the Fulbright Association.

 

Marek Siek, Fulbright Association

October 24, 2019 0

June 2019: Advocacy Update

June 2019: Advocacy Update

In politics, numbers matter.  The more voices you raise, the better you will be heard.  The more constituents speak up, the more attentive a member of the House or Senate will be.   

This spring, our community proved that by once again responding to threatened cuts to the Fulbright with impressive, powerful numbers.  5,700 Fulbrighters and friends from every state and the District of Columbia signed our petition to continue funding the Fulbright Program at $271.5 million.  That’s a 26% response rate from the 22,000 on our mailing list—which is very strong, and we are grateful to all of you who signed. 

All of you were also asked to “Contact Congress,” and I’m pleased to say that 100% of the Senate, and 75% of the House received emails from their constituents asking them to support Fulbright.  We had great response from those of you from New York, California, Illinois, Florida and Pennsylvania.   

The constituent connection is our most powerful tool and the focus of our strategy.  You make that happen by taking actions like these. Thank you! 

No point in signing a petition if you don’t deliver it!  Last week, the wonderful interns in our Washington office delivered those printed petitions by hand to 18 key leadership offices in Congress, including the leaders of both parties in the two chambers, and the chair and ranking member of the two Appropriations committees, as well as House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations (a committee Senator Fulbright once chaired). 

If you did not participate in this campaign, do not worry—take action!  We want at least 200 of you to come to Washington for Advocacy Day on October 24, attached to our Annual Conference, which begins the next day.  We hope to break our record of 215 advocates who participated in 2017.  

Remember: numbers matter.  The more of you that join us, the more teams we can assemble, and the more offices we can visit.   

Geography matters too!  Even better, if we can get just one person from every state, we can arrange appointments with every Senate office.  Many House members will only meet with groups that have at least one constituent.  So we need folks from every corner of America if we are to have the impact we need to keep the Fulbright Program strong. 

You can register right now to participate.  Please join us! 

–John Bader
Executive Director


Interns Sara Williamson, Ben Adkison and Minjung Kang deliver petitions to offices on Capitol Hill.

June 25, 2019 0

April 2019: Advocacy Update

April 2019: Advocacy Update

Fulbrighters love a challenge.  We imagined an adventure overseas (which also means coming to the U.S.) as an optimistic act of discovery and diplomacy.  We then tackled the unexpected problems of living that adventure, and then we returned, eager to give back to the communities—and the taxpayers—who had funded our grants. 

Our current and ongoing challenge is how to help the Fulbright Program steer through the stormy waters of this political era.  And, like shipmates tossed about by a squall, we know the answer to that challenge is to work together and throw our full and collective energies into weathering that storm. 

Right now, you can join this “crew” of tenacious Fulbrighters by signing our petition and contacting your representatives in Congress, asking them to continue funding the Program at $271.5 million.  Your voice is essential, and taking these actions will take only a few minutes, if you have not already.   

As of this writing, over 3000 of you have signed the petition—and we want to reach 10,000.  Nearly 500 have sent a communication to Congress, and we hope for many more.  Writing directly to your representative, using this link, is a powerful opportunity to tell your own story to those who make funding decisions.  Please do so, even if you have signed the petition already. 

You can also join us for Advocacy Day on October 24, connected this year to our Annual Conference here in Washington, DC.  Look for our registration announcement on May 15, and then join what we hope will be the largest group of Fulbrighters and friends ever to visit Capitol Hill at one time. 

Some updates: 

  • Our spring Advocacy Day, scheduled for February, was cancelled due to a second possible government shutdown.  Sometimes it is better to avoid a storm.  The cancelation was an inconvenience to many registered advocates, and we apologize. 
  • President Trump eventually signed a spending bill for the State Department that included $271.5 million for the Fulbright Program.  This 13% boost in spending from $240 million was a budgetary wash, however, as it represents a transfer of funds for the Fulbright in Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 
  • Association members in New Hampshire, Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri visited state and district congressional offices in April.  We thank them for taking the time to speak directly to these offices about the Fulbright, telling stories of the impact of the program here and overseas.  (Inspired by this work, folks in Kentucky and Missouri are starting the process of opening the first Association chapters in those states.) 

 –John Bader
Executive Director 


April 29, 2019 0