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Remarks at the Fulbright Scholarship Program 50th Anniversary Dinner

June 05, 1996

Ladies and gentlemen, let me say a special welcome to all of you, especially to our distinguished guests from overseas, to the Members of Congress, and of course, particularly to the members of the Fulbright family, to Harriet and to Betsey and Bosey and Tad. We're delighted to have all of you here tonight.

Hillary and I have looked forward for some time to celebrating this 50th anniversary of the Fulbright program, to honor the dream and legacy of a great American, a citizen of the world, a native of my home State, and my mentor and friend, Senator Fulbright—a man who understood, long before others did, that the only way we could ever have peace in the world was by increasing understanding among people, by the open trading of ideas and knowledge and world views and friendships as well as goods and services.

Those of us who shared his roots in the Arkansas Ozarks owe him a special debt of gratitude. His vision and brilliance and the power of his example said to a whole generation of us who were landlocked—and most of us had never been very far from home by the time we were nearly grown—that we could still imagine a world beyond the borders of our State and relate to it, to participate in it, that we needed to understand that world, and that perhaps we had something to give to it. To all Americans, Senator Fulbright gave the gift of understanding that the only way to lasting peace is for people to understand one another, the simple act of giving and receiving the best that each of us has to offer.

Now for five decades, the Fulbright program has stood as a proud symbol of our Nation's fundamental commitment to that ideal. For hundreds of thousands of scholars here and abroad, it has cemented America's mission as a nation that cares about and is engaged in the world community. Many of our world's finest leaders and artists have benefited from this special experience. Some of them are here tonight, and I thank them for their presence. No matter their native tongue, all of them are now known by the proud name of Fulbrights.

Senator Fulbright once said, "The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy, the ability to see the world as others see it and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see." Parenthetically, we might need a interparty Fulbright program in Washington these days. [Laughter] He went on to say that "the simple purpose of the exchange program is to erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets our nations against one another. It is not a panacea but an avenue of hope."

Tonight, as we celebrate 50 years of bipartisan support for the Fulbright program, let us all rededicate ourselves to this ideal; let us pledge to do all we can to give the Fulbright program to future generations of aspiring young people across the globe.

And let us close as we offer a toast to the Fulbright scholarship program, to the Fulbright scholars, and to the memory of Senator Fulbright.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:27 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Senator Fulbright's widow, Harriet Mayor Fulbright; daughters Betsey Fulbright Winnacker and Roberta (Bosey) Foote; and son-in-law Edward Thaddeus Foote.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Fulbright Scholarship Program 50th Anniversary Dinner Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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