Ambassador’s Remarks: Fulbright Reception, June 13, 2016

Ambassador Pearce delivers remarks at Fulbright Awards Ceremony 2016 (State Department Photo)
Ambassador Pearce delivers remarks at Fulbright Awards Ceremony 2016 (State Department Photo)

June 13, 2016 – 7:00 p.m.

Ambassador’s Residence 

Artemis, thank you for that warm introduction.

Minister Filis, scholars and students, and distinguished guests, it is my pleasure to welcome you to Jefferson House, to celebrate the Fulbright program and its Greek and American participants.

The Fulbright students and scholars with us tonight, both those Americans who are finishing their time here in Greece, and the Greeks who are preparing to travel to the United States this summer, come from a range of disciplines: engineering, archaeology, political science, fine arts, buseinss, gender studies, public health, and international relations, to name just a few.

This year we have had 33 Americans who spent part or all of this academic year as Fulbright researchers or professors.  In the coming academic year, 35 Greeks will go study at schools like MIT, Harvard, University of Chicago, George Mason University, Purdue, Yale, and Indiana University.

The Fulbright fellowship program in Greece is the second oldest in the world, beginning in 1947.  The “Fulbright” in the name refers to the distinguished US Senator, J. William Fulbright, who successfully lobbied for a way to get more American professors, researchers, and students overseas, and more foreign academics and students into the United States.

In Greece, the program awards grants of between 9000 and 13,000 euros to Greek students who have been admitted to master’s degree programs.  While not enough to cover full tuition, the award does enable many students to enter the program they want.  Competition for scholarships is cutthroat: this year only nine out of 70 applicants received a grant.

The program evolves in response to changing needs: this year, for the first time, three Greek Ph.D. candidates will go to the US with Fulbright grants for shorter periods, up to six months, to do research for their dissertations.  We now spend more time on fundraising from foundations and businesses that want to be involved in educational diplomacy.

A hallmark of Fulbright is that the student – even one in the US for several years in a degree program – must come back to her or his home country for at least two years after they’ve graduated.  Senator Fulbright did not want a program that would facilitate brain drain, but one that would enrich both countries involved in the exchange.

Since the late 1940s, almost 5,000 people from Greece and the US have studied, done research, or taught in the other’s country thanks to Fulbright.  Among them are Greek government figures, such as former Prime Minister and Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos,/ filmmaker Athina Tsangari,/ and former EU Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamondouros.  American participants in the Greek Fulbright program include Pulitzer-prize winning author Wallace Stegner, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Julia Reichert, playwright and theater director Lee Breuer, and Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes.

They and other alumni of the Fulbright program have contributed enormously to the commercial, cultural, and political lives of our two countries, and strengthened our connections to each other.

In closing, I want to say thank you, Artemis, and thank you to the staff of the Fulbright Foundation, for all your work to make sure that the next generation of students, scholars, and researchers is as talented and keen as the last.  Thank you to the Foundation’s Nikolas Tourides, who has advised thousands of Greek students, free of charge, about how to choose and apply the right school in the US.

Tonight, to the American students and scholars, I wish you a safe trip home, and to the Greek Fulbrighters, I say          

Καλό Ταξίδι και Καλή Επιτυχία!