My name is Leland Lazarus, a U.S. diplomat currently serving as Deputy Public Affairs Officer in the Eastern Caribbean, and I have previously studied and worked in China and Latin America. I would like to share with the committee why it would be an honor to serve on the Fulbright Board of Directors. It is not an understatement when I say that Fulbright changed my life. When I touched down in Panama as an English Teaching Assistant in 2013, I was eager to give back to the country of my heritage, improve my Spanish, and make a difference in the lives of my students. Little did I know that this experience would inspire me to form a 501 c-3 nonprofit to help Panamanian students study English in the United States.
More than seven years later, I serve as a U.S. Public Affairs Officer, helping to cultivate people-to-people ties between the United States and young Caribbean students, academics and entrepreneurs. The Eastern Caribbean Fulbright program is currently administered out of our Public Affairs office. After studying Chinese history, language, and culture at Brown University, I worked as an Associate Producer for China Central Television before and after my Fulbright experience in Panama. I studied and conducted research in Beijing, then completed a Master’s Degree focusing on Chinese foreign policy at the Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
For my first tour in the Foreign Service, I was assigned to work at the U.S. consulate in Northeast China. I traveled to cities large and small through northeastern China, giving speeches to hundreds of students at local schools and universities to encourage them to study abroad in the United States. And no matter where I went, I always highlighted my own international experience as a Fulbright scholar. The theme that runs through my professional journey is a deep passion to share and expand the opportunities that were available to me because there are many young people around the world who were just as curious and driven as I was. It is this same passion that urges me to serve on the Fulbright Association Board of Directors.