U.S. Embassy celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program

Remarks by Ambassador Deborah R. Malac

Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program

Makerere University

October 21, 2016


  • The Makerere University Chancellor, Dr. Ezra Suruma
  • Honorable Vice Chancellor John Ddumba Sentamu
  • Representatives and officials of the Government of Uganda
  • Distinguished professors,
  • Alumni, guests, and friends…
  • All protocols observed.

Thank you all very much for joining us this evening to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright Program.  It is a pleasure for me to share this occasion with you as we reflect on the past and look towards the future.

In 1946, President Harry Truman passed a law introduced by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, creating the Fulbright Program.  Senator Fulbright sought the “promotion of international goodwill through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science.”  In this age of instant communication and digital media we sometimes overlook the importance and value of people-to-people exchanges.  People impact local communities. People innovate and collaborate. And it is people who must work towards mutual understanding and cooperation.

In 1948, the first group of 83 Fulbrighters went on the first exchange.  From that humble beginning, we have today nearly 8,000 grants annually from more than 160 countries.  More than 370,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the program since its beginning. That group includes an amazing array of notable leaders the world over: 33 current or former heads of state or government, 54 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 29 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of others across the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

The Fulbright program is near and dear to my heart, as well.  Back when I was a senior in college, which was some time ago, I applied for a Fulbright to study abroad.  I was selected to participate in the Swiss Universities Grant program, which funded a year of post graduate studies in international law at the University of Basel under the auspices of the Fulbright Foundation.

As an academic exchange, the Fulbright Program supports the strengthening of scholarship and teaching in all fields of study – including the arts and humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences, Their ranks include university faculty, recent U.S. college graduates, graduate students, primary and secondary school educators, field-based researchers and lab-based scientists, and professionals.  The most recent round of Ugandan candidates proposed studying neglected tropical diseases, or prototyping rapid diagnosis kits to take the guess work out of diagnosing illnesses in remote health clinics.

But the Fulbright Program is more than an academic exchange.  It is about people meeting people, and about mutual understanding.  As Senator Fulbright said, “There is nothing obscure about the objectives of educational exchange.  Its purpose is to acquaint Americans with the world as it is and to acquaint students and scholars from many lands with America as it is – not as we wish it were or as we might wish foreigners to see it, but exactly as it is – which by my reckoning is an ‘image’ of which no American need be ashamed.”

A Fulbrighter is someone who has undergone a transformation – you are never the same once you come back from the program.  Your horizons are broader; you come back with a strong sense of community service, of giving back.  We recognize that fact, as we provide Ugandan Fulbrighters with community service activities while in the U.S., and we expect them to use those skills learned while abroad for the betterment of Uganda when they return.

It’s entirely evident that desire to give back exists here in Uganda.  More than 399 Ugandans have gone to the U.S. on the Fulbright, and have come back to provide valuable public service to their country in the areas of education, media, science and innovation, law and human rights, art and culture and business.  I’d like to take a moment to just recognize a few alumni of the program, including Makerere University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. Ernest Okello Ogwang (OAK – elloh OG-whang), and former Professor Livingston Luboobi (Lu-BOW-bee), who served as Vice Chancellor of Makerere University.

We also have renowned gender activist and current Vice Chancellor at Kabale University, Professor Joy Kwesiga (Quay-SEE-ga).  And I’d be remiss if I did not mention Uganda’s first Fulbright grantee, the late Professor William Senteza Kajubi (Sen-TEZ-ah Ka-JEW-bee), who distinguished himself as an icon of education in Uganda.

There are many, many, more, of course.  I wish I had more time, so that I could recount the works of artist Taga Nuwagaba (Ta-gah Nu-WAH-gah-bah), or social entrepreneur Gudula Basaza (Goo-doo-lah Bah-SAH-zah).  The organizers of this event are Fulbright alumni, led by Jessica Kaahwa (Kah-Wah) and Daniel Ddumba.  But if I listed the accomplishments of each individual, we’d be here for all night.  I think it sufficient to say those who have taken part in the Fulbright program are extremely talented, and we are thrilled to be able to call them friends, collaborators, and partners in building connections between our countries and people.

Remember also that the Fulbright program is a two-way exchange.  There have been more than 200 U.S. participants coming to Uganda, the vast majority on the Fulbright Scholar program.  U.S. Fulbrighters keep coming back to Uganda, and they bring with them colleagues and students and continue to develop wider and deeper connections between the two countries.  We have a saying that “Fulbrighters never leave Uganda.”

The program is strong, and growing stronger.  Over the next 70 years, I sincerely hope that the program will continue to address the major global challenges of our time, from sustainable energy and climate change to public health and food security.  I know that the Fulbrighters will continue to build relationships, add knowledge, and be the leaders we need to support the long-term interests of the United States and Uganda.

Among the audience here are the many Ugandan and U.S. participants of the Fulbright Program.  If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to talk to them about their experience.  Ask them how the program changed their lives, and what they wish other Ugandans knew.  If you haven’t considered applying for the program, do so today.  Ugandan women are under-represented in the program, and I hope that more women will apply.

To commemorate Fulbright’s milestone and to celebrate the Program’s contributions to people to people relationships around the world, the State Department has launched a Fulbright 70th anniversary webpage. The Fulbright 70th page includes special features, such as archival photos from the program’s early years and modern feeds to showcase today’s dynamic, innovative and inclusive Fulbright Program.  I encourage you to look at the site and at the history of the program, as well as the future.

Thank you for joining me today to celebrate 70 years of U.S.-Ugandan partnership, and I’m looking forward to the future and the exchanges and partnership to come.