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Senator J. William Fulbright

Senator J. William Fulbright

James William Fulbright (1905-1995) was U.S. senator to the state of Arkansas. He successively earned a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Arkansas, and an M.A. degree from Oxford University. His attendance to Oxford was a transformative international experience. He then earned a law degree from George Washington University in Washington, DC. In the 1930s, he successively was an instructor at the George Washington University Law School and returned to Arkansas as a lecturer in law to then become president of the University of Arkansas.

Amid World War II, and at the beginning of his career as a Congressman, the House of Representatives adopted the Fulbright Resolution supporting an international peace-keeping mechanism encouraging the United States participation in what became the United Nations. The Fulbright Program was then founded in 1946 and signed into law by President Truman under the name of Fulbright Act. Since then, more than 400,000 Fulbright grantees have contributed to the development of their own countries as well as embodied the ideal of mutual understanding.

While the core project of Senator Fulbright is to encourage mutual understanding, and peaceful international cooperation, it is important to acknowledge his opposition to civil rights legislations through his signing of the Southern Manifesto alongside other Congressmen. His actions contributed to the perpetuation of racism and inequality in the United States, which are at odds to the values, and ideals promoted by the Fulbright Program itself.

Nevertheless, the mixed legacy of Senator Fulbright should invite us, the Program, and its administrators as well as Fulbright grantees, to reflect on the significance of pursuing this peaceful international dialogue that has been going on for 75 years now. Through its alumni, the Fulbright Program is engaged to represent the aspirations of society as they are today, and strongly values the continuity of discussions on peace, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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