Welcome to the Benjamin Franklin Room. It is entirely fitting that we gather here today to honor the first group of International Fulbright Science and Technology Fellows, in the room named after our nation's first scientist and first diplomat. Those of us at the State Department certainly know Benjamin Franklin as the “Father of the American Foreign Service,” the first U.S. Ambassador to France, and one of the most influential “Founding Fathers” of our country. But Franklin first made his name as a scientist. His desire to find solutions to everyday problems resulted in a number of inventions throughout his life -- most notably the lightening rod, the Franklin stove, and bifocal glasses.
The world has changed a great deal since Franklin’s time, but I know he would have been delighted to meet you, and to hear about your experiences in the United States as part of the program. This is the most prestigious grant offered through the Fulbright Program, which remains the U.S. Government's flagship international educational exchange program. Since its inception, the Fulbright Program has provided nearly 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists from over 155 countries with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international problems.
Today, I congratulate you on your achievements as the inaugural cohort of the Fulbright Science and Technology Program. You came from every part of the world, almost three years ago, and are doing impressive programs at many of our nation's top research institutions. Your passion, intelligence, and commitment are helping to develop solutions to some of the world's most pressing global challenges, such as food security, public health, climate change, and renewable energy.
We believe in the universality and importance of science, and of the benefits we gain from working in partnership with others in the fields of science and technology. We all share a curiosity about the world around us and understand the huge potential of science and technology as engines for shared economic advancement and as a means of improving the everyday lives of our citizens. As President Obama said just two months ago, "Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before."
As Fulbright Science and Technology Fellows, you are not only solving problems in research labs alongside your U.S. and international colleagues, but you are also directly experiencing life in our country and enhancing the U.S. communities in which you live. I hope that at the end of your studies, you will return to your countries with memories, friendships, and professional networks that will be of enduring value in the years to come.
I am pleased to tell you that we will all be able to follow your accomplishments and achievements on the new Fulbright Science and Technology website that was recently launched to coincide with this event.
I, and all of us gathered here today, admire what you have achieved, and we will expect -- and ask -- you to do more in the years to come. We know your work will involve long hours doing research and analyzing data -- but you did not become Fulbright Science and Technology Fellows because of your academic brilliance alone. You were selected because you demonstrated that you can be both outstanding scientists and outstanding, active, and engaged citizens of your countries -- and the world. I am confident that you will demonstrate these strengths, time and again, as we follow your scientific and other achievements in the future.
In his autobiography, Ben Franklin wrote, “As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad for an opportunity to serve others by an invention of ours.” In the coming years, I look forward to learning of the inventions, innovations and opportunities you will create and offer for others.
Just before I came up here, I had a meeting with one of my colleagues, and we are engaged in bilateral efforts as part of the bilateral commission between the United States and Russia under the auspices of our two presidents. We are looking at a number of ways to bring the people of the United States and Russia together. And one of the initiatives that we are looking at is a virtual science fair or challenge that will use the Internet to bring teams of high school students in Russia together with their peers in the United States, focused on science projects and initiatives. And I can’t think of a better way of bringing countries together, just as all of you are gathered here today, by the means of scientific collaboration.
All of you are at the top of your game in terms of academic achievement. We are trying to reach out to the people who will be following in your footsteps, across Russia and the United States, and around the world, so they can follow the trails that you are blazing. And I can’t imagine a better group of people to be the leaders of these future scientists than all of you. So thank you very, very much for being here. Thank you.