Ambassador Pyatt’s Remarks at Fulbright Awards Ceremony

Ambassador Pyatt delivers remarks at the Fulbright Award Ceremony (State Department Photo)

Ambassador’s Residence
Athens, Greece

June 14, 2017

As Delivered

Artemis, thank you very much for that kind introduction.  It’s my pleasure to welcome you as we celebrate the Fulbright program and its Greek and American participants.

We are honored to have with us here tonight Minister of Education Kostas Gavroglou.  When we met in your office, you talked about how important your own educational experience in the United States was, and I know that you appreciate the tremendous benefits that these programs provide – to Greece, but also to the relationship between our two countries.  The Minister’s presence is also very important to me, because it underlines that Fulbright is a binational program.  It is a joint undertaking of both of our nations.  So thank you, Minister, for making the time to be with us.

It’s also a real privilege to welcome so many bright young people, scholars.  These are the kind of events that renew my faith in humanity and my optimism about the future.  I want to congratulate all of you on your participation, your success so far, the experience that you will have, for those of you who are preparing to travel to the United States, or the experience you have already had, for those of you who are coming to the ends of your programs.

This is my first Fulbright reception here in Greece, but I know the program very well, and am a passionate believer in the Fulbright model.  I have seen, over nearly three decades as an American diplomat, the transformative power of these exchanges, and I am committed to using my office to support them however I can.

It’s worth remembering where Fulbright came from. In the 1940s, U.S. Senator Fulbright was looking for a way to get more American professors, researchers, and students to spend time overseas, and to encourage more foreign academics and students to study and research in the United States.  Senator Fulbright wanted to enrich the United States and the scholars’ home countries through these kinds of academic exchanges.

And as Artemis noted, we are now coming up on the 70th anniversary of Fulbright in Greece, making it the second oldest program in the world.  Those of you who are heading out as Fulbright scholars are joining a distinguished group of alumni going back to almost the end of the Second World War.  Since the 1940s, almost 5,000 people from Greece and the U.S. have studied, researched, or taught in the other’s country – all thanks to Fulbright.  And I am particularly honored that we have some of those alumni from the early days of the program with us here this afternoon.

Fulbright program alumni have made enormous contributions to the economic, cultural, and political strength of our two great democracies, and have strengthened our people-to-people ties.  The connections you make with your colleagues, your students, your friends, all strengthen the longstanding bilateral relationship between the United States and Greece.  And we hope that the program will enrich your lives and the lives of all of the people you meet.

In addition to the great work that you’re all doing in fields ranging from engineering, archaeology, political science, business, and more – you’re also representing your country, and building a strong foundation for the work we all do as diplomats to promote our countries’ shared democratic values.

In closing, I want to thank Artemis and the rest of the Fulbright Foundation staff for all of the work you do throughout the year to encourage and support the next generation of students, scholars, and researchers.  I want to thank the Foundation’s Nikolas Tourides, who has advised thousands of Greek students, free of charge, about how to choose and apply to the right schools in the U.S.

And, over the next year, we look forward to working with the new Fulbright Alumni Association Board of Directors on projects that really address the real challenges that Greece faces.  To support this effort, the newly-elected President of the Fulbright association, Professor Gazouli, recently attended the 10th Conference of the European Network of Alumni Associations with the Embassy’s support.  We look forward to seeing new regional initiatives from the Alumni Association over the coming months and years – building connections with your European colleagues.

I also want to say great thanks to the many, many Americans who have come to Greece, as Fulbright scholars, for the work that you do to represent our country.  You really do represent the best of America, the values, the principles that make our country so strong, and I know you’ve enjoyed the experience but, also, have given something to this country.

To close, I want to wish the American students and scholars a safe trip home and, to the Greek Fulbrighters, Καλό Ταξίδι και Καλή Επιτυχία!  Thank you all for joining us, and I hope you enjoy the evening.