Harriet Mayor Fulbright:
World Peace through Education
Luminous is a word that comes to mind when you meet Harriet Mayor Fulbright, Founder and President of the J. William & Harriet Fulbright Center. Warm and accessible, with pale blue eyes that set off a face defined by high cheekbones, Mrs. Fulbright, a gifted and powerful speaker, travels frequently and is equally at home speaking to Nobel Laureates in Sweden or students in a village square in Africa or South America.
Now, in her mid-seventies, Mrs. Fulbright has embarked on an ambitious agenda that would exhaust most people half her age. Through education and outreach, her organization is enlarging the mission of her late husband, Senator J. William Fulbright, who was instrumental in encouraging U.S. participation in the United Nations and was the creator of one of the world’s most successful scholarship programs, the Fulbright Scholarships.
“Oh, I don’t think I have more or less energy than anyone else,” says Mrs. Fulbright. “But I am committed to the Fulbright Center’s mission, which focuses on Peace and Education, International Educational Exchange, and the Fulbright legacy.”
She goes on to define the Center’s roles. “We are partnering with other organizations to act as a promoter of peace and education,” she says. “Our aim is to illuminate the links between educational programs and peaceful communities, and to foster that growth.”
The Fulbright Center also serves as an advocate of international exchange, “to teach young people about other cultures and broaden their worldviews,” she says.
And finally, through Fulbright Publishing, the Fulbright Center serves as a modern library, publisher and caretaker of the Fulbright legacy. It has produced a DVD and companion workbook for classroom and general audiences offering critical analysis and illumination of Senator Fulbright’s career, as well as his views in context of U.S and world history.
I recently spoke with Mrs. Fulbright in the living room of her townhouse in Arlington, Virginia, a room filled with mementos from a lifetime of travel, as well as numerous photos of her large and close-knit family. As she settles on the sofa with a cup of tea, you can almost imagine her late husband, Bill Fulbright who passed away in 1995, sitting beside her nodding his head in admiration as she speaks about her life and work.
Although Mrs. Fulbright and Senator Fulbright didn’t meet until later in life- she was the divorced mother of three grown daughters; the Senator was a widower, and father of two – the vision they shared in furthering peace at home and abroad through education and dialogue drew them together and endures today.
Mrs. Fulbright met the Senator in 1986, three weeks after she took a job as Director of The Fulbright Association, founded by alumni of the Fulbright Scholarship Program. “Bill was retired at that point,” she says, “but remained the honorary chair, so he would invite me to lunch.”
During those discussions, Mrs. Fulbright and the Senator found that they had much in common; and then an accident changed the balance of their relationship.
“I would ride my bike to work,” says Mrs. Fulbright. “Ten months after I began my job, I was on that bike when a truck backed into me, crushing my left leg and leaving me in the hospital for almost a month. As soon as I returned home, Senator Fulbright called to say that there was no way I could feed myself while balancing on two sticks. And by that, he meant my crutches. ‘Since I have a housekeeper,’” he added. ‘I want you to have supper with me from now on.’
From that day forward, we shared a wonderful friendship built on conversation ranging from family history to world politics and philosophy.”
Thus began a partnership that continues to bear fruit through Mrs. Fulbright’s direction of the J. William & Harriet Fulbright Center.
WRR: Tell us about your background and where you grew up.
Mrs. Fulbright: I grew up a nomad, really. My father graduated from Princeton University in 1929 as an engineer. You can well imagine how impossible it was to get a job as an engineer, so he finally found work in a funny little magazine on the 8th floor of the Grand Central Building in New York City run by a man named Henry Luce. That little magazine transformed itself over the years into a larger magazine called TIME.
My father was moved often so he could open up the branch offices, and ended up by the end of the Second World War as the vice president of the overseas offices of TIME. My mother was a very traditional woman who did not go to college. She graduated from high school and was expected to stay home and take care of the family. They had four children and I am the oldest. Unfortunately, my mother was killed when I was twelve, which was a terrible shock. My father remarried a very wonderful woman who added another girl and a boy to the family. They were married for 60 years before my father died at the age of 100. She is now 88.
WRR: In the era in which you were raised, most women were expected to marry, stay at home and raise their children. You attended Radcliffe College. How did you choose to study policy and government?
Mrs. Fulbright: I was fascinated by how the world worked. When I was fifteen, I happened to mention to my father and stepmother, “Gee, I’d like to learn Spanish.” And three months later, I found myself on an airplane flying to Bogotá, Colombia where I spent the summer with friends of theirs learning intensive Spanish, but also how people in different cultures live, and that fascinates me to this day. That summer influenced my choice to study policy and government at Radcliffe. After graduating from Radcliffe, I came to Washington with my first husband and worked as Assistant Director of Career Services for George Washington University. My husband took a job in the Foreign Service and a year later, I found myself in Seoul, Korea where I taught at a woman’s university.
WRR: You went to South Korea in 1958, five years after the Korean War, which divided North and South Korea. You had an opportunity to see a country still recovering from war.
Mrs. Fulbright: What war does and what occupation does is lower the standard of living for all. When I arrived in Seoul, many of the main streets were still dirt. There were ox carts and people with A frames on their backs walking in the street. There was only one building in the city that was taller than two or three stories. That was the Bando Hotel and it was eight stories.
In 1991, I took my husband, Bill Fulbright, to a Fulbright event there. And of course he said, “Well, show me around.” I told him I couldn’t possibly show him anything because Seoul now looks like New York City.
In 1958, there wasn’t a tree to be found because trees had been used for fuel. The South Koreans had experienced extreme violence and repression. From 1915-1945, they had been occupied by the Japanese, and then a few years later went through their war of separation from the North Koreans. The buildings had no heat. Mind you the temperature in Seoul is equivalent to that of New York or Paris or Prague. I taught in a classroom that was below freezing for more than two months in winter, but the students didn’t seem to notice. It was simply a part of life.
WRR: That’s a tremendous amount of change in 25 years. Why did Korea advance so rapidly?
Mrs. Fulbright: Because of the students. A year after I arrived, I had two jobs, and the second was as a copyreader at the English language paper, The Korea Times. I was driving into Seoul to teach at the University when I was confronted by a large group of shouting, howling students. Some of my own students saw me and jumped in the car. “You have to get out of here now,” they said. “The police are going to start shooting within twenty minutes.”
Mrs. Fulbright: Because, in my opinion, this was the closest thing to spontaneous revolution the world has ever seen. The students had had enough of dictatorship. The dictator, Syngman Rhee, took over after the Second World War and the Korean War, and his was a complete dictatorship. After a reasonably bloody, but short battle (I don’t think it lasted more than 10 days), he fled to Hawaii. There was unbelievable excitement throughout Korea because now they were going to have democracy. Well, it would take another forty years before they got a democracy, but they did get rid of the complete dictatorship. These students rose up and the country was rid of Syngman Rhee.
WRR: What does one find out when they immerse themselves in a foreign country?
Mrs. Fulbright: I was in Korea for two years and teaching and it was interesting because I walked into class on that first day and all the students looked alike to me. But, on the last day they didn’t look alike at all. They had extraordinary, different personalities and purposes in life, and one of them even reminded me of my younger sister. So, what one finds out is how alike we are as human beings, how we have the same desires, how we long to be seen for who we are, not defined by our country, our race, or our religion.
WRR: Which brings us to an initiative that is near and dear to your heart: the Global Peace Index.
Mrs. Fulbright: The Global Peace Index (GPI) attempts to measure those aspects of human society that stimulate peace, and points out that one of the most important elements or drivers toward peace is education – that countries with good, universal education through the primary grades and beyond are significantly more peaceful.
The GPI was founded by an Australian named, Steve Killelea, whose aim is to create meaningful discussion about the role of peace and its relationship to sustainability. He hired the Economist Intelligence Unit, the world’s foremost provider of country, industry, and management analysis, to complete groundbreaking research on the indicators and drivers of peace. The result is a highly sophisticated statistical model designed to highlight peace research and to create further clarity when discussing the relationship between peace, economics and business.
WRR: How can peace be measured?
Mrs. Fulbright: The GPI has gathered a number of indicators within a country such as levels of violence, crime within the country’s borders as well as external relations such as military expenditure and wars to determine their level of peacefulness. Other measurements include bio-diversity, healthcare, birth and death rates. It speaks to my husband Bill Fulbright’s work to establish the United Nations and the Fulbright Scholarship program. His aim was to send scholars across the globe to conduct research and gain firsthand knowledge of what models work for different societies and what doesn’t.
WRR: Senator Fulbright had a long career in the Senate. But his legacy is firmly established in the Fulbright Scholarship Program, which is considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious awards.
Mrs. Fulbright: After Senator Fulbright graduated from the University of Arkansas, he was chosen to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and for the rest of his life he maintained that more than any other factor, it determined the course of his career. For three years, he was tutored by the Pembroke Master Robert McCallum, studying history and learning to write and think with precision and clarity.
He spent a fourth year in Europe, first in Vienna for several months where he met Hungarian journalist Mike Fodor, who befriended him and offered to take him on a tour through the Balkans. Fulbright accepted immediately, but after three months he became seriously ill and had to return home early.
The success of Fulbright alumni is astounding; over 40 have become Nobel Prize winners and dozens more have won Pulitzer Prizes and other honors for their work. Ambassadors as well as heads of such countries as Poland and Korea and numerous members of national governing bodies are proud to call themselves Fulbrighters. And even though only four to five percent of the grants awarded have gone to artists, those who have received a Fulbright often become famous worldwide: opera singer Renee Fleming and visual artists Chuck Close, Philip Pearlstein and Nancy Graves; actors John Lithgow, Edward Hermann and Michael Moriarity are just a few of them.
WRR: When and why did you establish the J. William & Harriet Fulbright Center?
Mrs. Fulbright: I started work on a documentary about my husband shortly after he passed away in 1995, because I could not find anyone among our leadership who was discussing the important issues of the day in the eloquent way that he did, nor were there programs underway that implemented his ideas. In April of 2006, I established the J. William & Harriet Fulbright Center and incorporated it as a nonprofit organization. All Center activities fit under the ultimate goal of encouraging world peace through education.
WRR: You’ve created a DVD that speaks not only to the Senator’s work but also to U.S. history in the 20th Century.
Mrs. Fulbright: The documentary Fulbright: the Man, the Mission, & the Message highlights the Senator’s role in the founding of the United Nations, his opposition to the McCarthy investigations, his questioning of American policy in the Vietnam War, and the establishment of the Fulbright Program. The film and this companion Web site offer insights into topics in American history including the Senator Fulbright’s Civil Rights Record, abuses/limits of power, the dilemmas that surrounded policy decisions in Korea and the Vietnam War, and the relationship between the President of the United States and Congress.
WRR: How can this be used in school curriculums?
Mrs. Fulbright: We configured the video to be divided into 5 to 15 minute chapters so that it can be used a teaching tool that encourages open dialogue. Along with that we’ve created a 70-page curriculum guide, and have made it available for use in high school and college classrooms.
WRR: How do you envision the Center growing in the coming years?
Mrs. Fulbright: By expanding our educational initiative. A high school teacher exchange program is now under discussion at the Organization of American States. The Fulbright Center is working to collaborate with them on a program that will send American high school teachers to Latin America, and possibly other parts of the world, for month-long educational immersion into differing cultures. An initial outline has already been developed for review, and the project now requires extensive design and planning.
WRR: Your trip to Colombia as a fifteen-year-old was only the beginning of a lifetime of travel, most of it in service of your country. Where do you get your energy?
I am energized when I see students and teachers, artists and diplomats working to create peaceful solutions to our world’s very difficult problems. And it’s particularly gratifying when I meet young people who tell me their lives have been changed for the better by the opportunity to live and study in another culture.
My impetus might best described in an eloquent paragraph written by my husband, Bill Fulbright in his last book, published in 1989, The Price of Empire:
“Our future is not in the stars but in our own minds and hearts. Creative leadership and liberal education, which in fact go together, are the first requirements for a hopeful future for humankind. (It aims at) the achievement in international affairs of a regime more civilized, rational and humane than the empty system of power of the past. I believed in that possibility when I began. I still do.”
In 2006, Joy E. Stocke founded Wild River Review with Kimberly Nagy, an outgrowth of the literary magazine, The Bucks County Writer, of which Stocke was Editor in Chief. In 2009, as their editorial practice grew, Stocke and Nagy founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.
With more than twenty-five years experience as a writer and journalist, Stocke works with many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
In addition, Stocke has shepherded numerous writers into print. She has interviewed Nobel Prize winners Orhan Pamuk and Muhammud Yunus, Pulitzer Prizewinner Paul Muldoon, Paul Holdengraber, host of LIVE from the NYPL; Roshi Joan Halifax, founder of Upaya Zen Center; anthropologist and expert on end of life care, Mary Catherine Bateson; Ivonne Baki, President of the Andean Parliament; and Templeton Prizewinner Freeman Dyson among others.
In 2006, along with Nagy, Stocke interviewed scientists and artists including former Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman and Dean of Faculty, David P. Dobkin for the documentary Quark Park, chronicling the creation of an award-winning park built on a vacant lot in the heart of Princeton, New Jersey; a park that united art, science and community.
She is president of the Board of Directors at the Cabo Pulmo Learning Center, Cabo Pulmo, Baja Sur, Mexico; and is a member of the Turkish Women’s International Network.
In addition, Stocke has written extensively about her travels in Greece and Turkey. Her memoir, Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses & Saints, based on more than ten years of travel through Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner was published in March 2012. Her cookbook, Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking will be published in March, 2017 by Quarto Books under the Burgess Lea Press imprint . Stocke and Brenner are currently testing recipes for a companion book, which will feature Anatolian-inspired mezes from around the world.
Stocke’s essay “Turkish American Food” appears in the 2nd edition of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America (OUP, 2013). The volume won both International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) for Beverage/Reference/Technical category, 2014; and the Gourmand Award for the Best Food Book of the Year, 2014.
She is the author of a bi-lingual book of poems, Cave of the Bear, translated into Greek by Lili Bita based on her travels in Western Crete, and is currently researching a book about the only hard-finger coral reef in Mexico on the Baja Sur Peninsula. She has been writing about environmental issues there since 2011.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from the Agriculture Journalism School where she also received a minor of Food Science, she participated in the Lindisfarne Symposium on The Evolution of Consciousness with cultural philosopher, poet and historian, William Irwin Thompson. In 2009, she became a Lindisfarne Fellow.
Works by Joy E. Stocke in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
COLUMNS – THE MYSTIC PEN
FOOD & DRINK – ANATOLIAN KITCHEN
FREYMAN & PETERSON- Your Life is a Book: How to Craft and Publish Your Memoir
LITERATURE – BOOK REVIEWS
LITERATURE – ESSAYS
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
The Euphoria of Ignorance: Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish, The Paradox of Being Carlo Ginzburg
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
Paul Holdengraber – The Afterlife of Conversation
2013 – Three Questions: Festival Director Jakab Orsos talks about Art, Bravery, and Sonia Sotomayor
Critical Minds, Social Revolution: Egyptian Activist Nawal El Saadawi
INTERVIEW – Laszlo Jakab Orsos: Written on Water
Tonight We Rest Here: An Interview with Poet Saadi Youssef
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
On the High Line: Diamonds on the Soles of Our Shoes
Car Bombs on the West Side, Journalists Uptown
New York City – Parade of Illuminations: Behind the Scenes with Festival Director Jakab Orsos
The Pen Cabaret 2008: Bowery Ballroom — Featuring..
Anatolian Days and Nights: A Love Affair with Turkey, Land of Dervishes, Goddesses and Saints
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library Composing a Further Life: with Mary Catherine Bateson
WRR@LARGE: From the Editors – UP THE CREEK
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 1
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 2.5
Up the Creek: Volume 1, Number 3.3
Up the Creek: Number 4.4
Up the Creek: Beautiful Solutions
Up the Creek: Blind Faith, July 2009
Up the Creek: Create Dangerously
Up the Creek: What Price Choice?
Up the Creek: Before and After: September 11, 2001
Up the Creek: Candle in a Long Street
Up the Creek: Crossing Cultures: Transcending History
Up the Creek: Man in the Mirror; A Map of the World
Up the Creek: Stories and the Shape of Time
Up the Creek: The Divine Road To Istanbul
Up the Creek: What It Means to Yearn
WRR@LARGE – WILD COVERAGE
UNESCO World Heritage Site Under Threat of Mega-Devlopment Sparks International Protests
The Other Side Of Abu Ghraib — Part One: The Detainees’ Quest For Justice
The Other Side of Abu Ghraib – Part Two: The Yoga Teacher Goes to Istanbul