J. William Fulbright
In 1942, J. William Fulbright was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District. After one term in the House, he began a career in the Senate that was to last 30 years and to influence the lives of people the world over. Before arriving in Washington, Fulbright had already served as president of the University of Arkansas, from 1939 to 1941. He was the youngest college president in the nation. Fulbright spent all his school years at the University until 1925, the year he left for Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. After returning to the states, he earned a degree from the George Washington University in 1934.
Peace Through Education
Selected quotations by J. William Fulbright on international educational exchange:
"International educational exchange is the most significant current project designed to continue the process of humanizing mankind to the point, we would hope, that men can learn to live in peace--eventually even to cooperate in constructive activities rather than compete in a mindless contest of mutual destruction....We must try to expand the boundaries of human wisdom, empathy and perception, and there is no way of doing that except through education." [From remarks on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Fulbright Program, 1976]
"Education is the best means--probably the only means--by which nations can cultivate a degree of objectivity about each other's behavior and intentions. It is the means by which Russians and Americans can come to understand each others' aspirations for peace and how the satisfactions of everyday life may be achieved.....
"I have thought of everything I can think of, and the one thing that gives me some hope is the ethos that underlies the educational exchange program. That ethos, in sum, is the belief that international relations can be improved, and the danger of war significantly reduced, by producing generations of leaders, especially in the big counties, who through the experience of educational exchange, will have acquired some feeling and understanding of other peoples' cultures--why they operate as they do, why they think as they do, why they react as they do--and of the differences among these cultures. It is possible--not very probable, but possible--that people can find in themselves, through intercultural education, the ways and means of living together in peace." [From The Price of Empire]
A Senate career that was to be marked by an unwavering dedication to global cooperation began during World War II, years during which U.S. foreign policy was transformed. Americans began moving from a cautious isolationism toward internationalism in world affairs. Acting on his belief that an international peacekeeping organization was crucial in formulating a humane foreign policy, Fulbright sponsored a resolution committing the U.S. to a leadership role in forming the United Nations.
Public Servant, Statesman & Author
Fulbright was a dominant intellectual force in Congress. He chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee longer than any other Senator in American history. He introduced legislation that led to the founding of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and was also the only senator to vote against funding the so-called "Un-American Activities" investigations of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin.
Fulbright authored several notable books, including The Arrogance of Power, The Crippled Giant and The Price of Empire. Empathy, a theme throughout these three texts and much of his writing, is at the core of Fulbright’s international educational exchange programs. Only by understanding our neighbors – whether they are across the street or across the world – will we be able to achieve a world that chooses diplomacy over war.
An Exchange Program for People Across the Globe
He also created the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program. His vision to promote international understanding through the worldwide exchange of university students, teachers, artists, and other professionals was realized in 1946. Today, 51 binational commissions join the U.S. in underwriting a program that has awarded more than 325,400 scholarships.
Preserving the Fulbright Legacy
In 1982, the University of Arkansas formally dedicated the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, adding the senator’s name to the university’s largest college in recognition of his contributions toward international understanding and education. To mark the 50th anniversary of the Fulbright Exchange Program, the U.S. Postal Service issued a special commemorative stamp during a ceremony held February 28, 1996, in Fayetteville.
Fulbright College is committed to Fulbright's belief that knowledge promotes tolerance and understanding among peoples. The College mission is taken from his writings:
...the highest function of higher education is the teaching of things in perspective, toward the purposes of enriching the life of the individual, cultivating the free and inquiring mind, and advancing the effort to bring reason, justice, and humanity into the relations of men and nations.
On October 24, 1999, the University of Arkansas dedicated the Fulbright Peace Fountain in his honor. The fountain, designed by world-renown architect and Arkansan Fay Jones, is dedicated to the possibility of peace through education. Former President William Jefferson Clinton joined former and current Fulbright Scholars on October 21, 2002, to dedicate a sculpture of Fulbright, which faces the Fulbright Peace Fountain.
President Clinton said that Fulbright believed:
"The best thing America could do was to be an intelligent example of the world through material helpfulness without moral presumption. He said that we should make our own society an example of human happiness, make ourselves the friend of social revolution, and go beyond simple reciprocity in the effort to reconcile hostile worlds. He would far prefer to see us be a sympathetic friend of humanity, rather than its stern and prideful schoolmaster."