It is a special pleasure to inaugurate the 7th Annual Conference of Fulbright and Humphrey Alumni this year as we celebrate the 60th year of the Fulbright Program in Pakistan.
The Fulbright Program in Pakistan
I understand that we have participants present today from all six decades of the Pakistan Fulbright program. Many of you are Vice-Chancellors, professors, senior civil servants, or otherwise distinguished leaders in your fields of endeavor, who have had your lives enriched by the Fulbright or Humphrey opportunity, and through it, enriched the lives of others both here and in the United States. Our bi-national agreement initiating the program was signed on September 23, 1950 – and the first Pakistanis and Americans traveled each way that same year. It was one of the very first agreements of its kind and has since been extended to 144 countries around the world. Over the arc of 60 years, nearly 4,000 Pakistanis and Americans have participated in Fulbright exchanges administered by the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan.
The late Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, from my home state, a graduate and later President of the University of Arkansas, was the principal architect of the American educational exchange program that carries his name. Having studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from 1925-28, he well understood the powerful impact on young imagination of a combined international exchange and scholarship experience. He wanted Americans and young people from around the world to benefit from a similar experience.
Another extraordinary American politician, the late Senator Hubert Humphrey was widely respected and admired for his liberalism over a long career of service in American politics. After his death, the Humphrey Fellowship program was created to provide mid-career professionals from all around the world with an opportunity to take time off from their important work to study on an American university campus. Since the establishment of the Humphrey Fellowship, nearly 100 Pakistanis have been able to participate in this extraordinary program to refresh themselves, intellectually and professionally, for the important work they do in this country.
Why Support Academic Exchanges?
It is good to see so many Fulbright and Humphrey alumni with us here today.
America has spent many years building some of the world’s leading educational and research institutions, many of which have contributed substantially to our economic growth and technological achievements. In the competitive global economy of the future, it may be difficult for even our greatest institutions to attract scholars from around the world to live and work on American campuses. Scholars from around the world may choose to remain in their home countries, collaborating with other scholars using new communications technologies or participating in short visits rather than living through the cold Boston winters. Just like our business colleagues, American educators are preparing for a globalized future -- building productive partnerships and engagement with talented people like you.
But nothing can substitute for the people-to-people contacts achieved by inviting some of the world’s best scholars to enrich America’s campuses by teaching, studying and conducting research alongside their American counterparts. Foreign scholars contribute to our universities not only in their scholarly pursuits, but also by weaving strands of their home culture into the American fabric.
The more we see Pakistanis on our campuses, the better Americans will understand Pakistan and South Asia – a region with which America’s long-term future is closely interwoven. Moreover, alumni of American educational institutions are the people who often turn student and scholarly academic relationships into long-term research and business partnerships.
In sum, then, our support for the Fulbright and Humphrey programs is another part of America’s investment in a long-term relationship with Pakistan. We see, in the large number of young Pakistanis, a community of potential business partners and consumers that will strengthen the U.S. – Pakistan people-to-people and business-to-business relationships.
Over the past five years, our State Department and Government of Pakistan funds for this program have been supplemented by funds from the Higher Education Commission and USAID, making our program in Pakistan the largest of any country in the world.
This is an impressive record, but there is still much more to do. We are planning, through our expanding assistance programs, to invest more in Pakistan’s higher education. We are looking to help build capacity here in Pakistan by developing with your government several higher education “centers of excellence” where investments in curriculum development, full-tuition scholarships and infrastructure improvements will begin to build for Pakistan the capability to research and propose policy solutions for its socio-economic challenges.
This year, we are proposing that the Fulbright program and the American Institute for Pakistan Studies make a concerted effort to bring Americans back to teach and conduct research at Pakistani institutions. We believe that seeing Americans on your campuses will help connect Pakistani young people to the world, much as having Pakistanis on our campuses helps us. I hope that you will work with us to bring Americans teachers and scholars back to Pakistan – to broaden and deepen our educational partnership.
Transparency and Diversity
Those of you who have been through the Fulbright program know that scholarships are based on merit and awarded after a transparent selection process that has never been tainted by corruption or inappropriate preference. The program also brings together people of diverse backgrounds from every region in Pakistan and gives them an opportunity in forums like this one to exchange their views.
In the last five years, 947 individuals were sent to the U.S. on Fulbright grants. Of these, about 42 per cent were women. The scholars come from 74 cities from all over Pakistan to do work in almost every academic discipline. Another 96 Pakistanis have participated in Humphrey Fellowships and have also returned to every corner of Pakistan, bringing new ideas, new technology, and a transformed vision.
New programs, such as the Community College Development Initiative which allows people with two-year Bachelor degrees to compete for a year-long program in a community college, have further extended the reach of educational exchanges between our countries. Looking at the American model of community colleges is a priority of the Ministry of Education for addressing the training needs of Pakistan’s young people. The experiences of the 102 participants who have taken part in this new program to date, a large proportion of whom are from previously underserved areas, may be instructive as the Government begins to build its own program.
Bilateral cooperation and service
I want to especially thank the many of you who have contributed your service to the Fulbright and Humphrey Programs. Your participation in recruiting candidates, screening applications, sitting on interview panels, leading discussions, and organizing alumni activities makes it possible to run our program to the highest standard which people in both our countries expect.
I want to sincerely thank those of you, including Pakistanis and Americans, who have served on the bilateral Board of Directors of the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan. Your service to our shared goal of strengthening mutual understanding between our countries is the model of consultation and cooperation that we seek in many other areas of U.S. – Pakistan relations. The staff of the USEFP, including its Acting Executive Director Rita Akhtar also deserves our thanks for their hard work in keeping this large program running – and for organizing this conference and celebration today.
Finally, I want to thank all of you Fulbright and Humphrey alumni for the contributions you have made to the friendship between Pakistan and the United States over the past 60 years. I hope and believe that the next 60 years will bring us even closer as a result of our sustained efforts to promote educational and cultural exchanges between our two countries.