Peace Talks – The Fulbright Scholarships and Senator J. William Fulbright
by Harriet Mayor Fulbright
(Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of Wednesday talks with Harriet Mayor Fulbright, President and Founder of the J. William and Harriet Fulbright Center.)
Whenever I travel, be it in Africa, Asia, South America, or the United States, I am always asked about my husband, Senator J. William Fulbright and the creation of the Fulbright Scholarships.
J. William Fulbright (1905-1995), born in Sumner, Missouri, was raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas and was educated at the University of Arkansas. He then attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar where he received a Master of Arts degree. His experience as a foreign student would change his life and how he viewed the world.
When Fulbright returned to the United States, he studied law at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. From 1939 to 1941, Fulbright served as president of the University of Arkansas, at the time the youngest university president in the country.
He entered Congress as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in January 1943. In September of that year, in the midst of World War II, he initiated the Fulbright Resolution in the House, encouraging United States participation in what became the United Nations. It was his view throughout his lifetime, that a peaceful world would require debate, discussion and cooperation from all countries.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate and served from 1945 through 1974 becoming one of its most influential and best-known members. His legislation establishing the Fulbright Program, a direct outgrowth of his experience as a student, was signed into law in 1946.
From 1959-1974 Fulbright served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the longest serving chairman of that committee in history. In 1993 he was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton. Fulbright believed that education was the best foundation for developing leaders and active citizens, and for solving future political conflicts through rational and humane means instead of war.
He also believed in political institutions as forums where solutions for complex problems should be sought through reasonable debate and negotiations. Fulbright was the only Senator who voted against the appropriations for Senator McCarthy’s Un-American Activities Committee. He lodged serious objections to President Kennedy in advance of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. And, he was a powerful voice in opposition to the war in Vietnam.
Although Fulbright’s career was marked by these notable cases of dissent, the Senator is better known for his work in building programs and institutions for peace-making and cross-cultural understanding, most notably the Fulbright Program, the scholarship and grants program for college students and senior scholars.
From November 1 – 3, 2009, the Fulbright Center will host its first annual Global Symposium of Peaceful Nations at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. For more information, please contact: email@example.com