(As prepared for delivery)
It is a pleasure to have had a chance to get to know you yesterday over dinner and to be here again with you today.
Thank you again, Sam, for hosting such a lovely evening.
The Board has a vital role in overseeing the Fulbright Program, and I thank you all for your service to ensure the Program’s strength, diversity and renown, both nationally and globally.
ECA values its close and collaborative relationship and open dialogue with the Board, to help ensure that Fulbright remains at the forefront of international academic exchange.
As a career Public Diplomacy officer and Ambassador, I have worked with the Fulbright Program and other exchange programs throughout my career, and I have seen first-hand the value of such programs to U.S. foreign policy, as well as the incredibly valuable contributions made by alumni.
In Mongolia, after each democratic election, my first request was to see where in the new parliament and cabinet our alumni were serving.
Also in Mongolia, alumni of U.S. government exchange programs brought back a spirit of volunteerism that I saw flourish across Mongolian society; alumni tutored disadvantaged youth in English and were credible voices about the United States – a particularly valuable group in an environment where Chinese and Russian disinformation about the United States is ever-present.
As you know, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Steve Goldstein, was sworn in on December 4. The President has nominated Marie Royce as Assistant Secretary for ECA; we are currently awaiting her Senate confirmation.
On Monday, we welcomed our new Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Michelle Giuda, who comes to the Department from Weber Shandwick public relations firm in New York.
I am pleased to report that Under Secretary Goldstein’s first engagement with current participants of Bureau programs was at the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTA) mid-year conference, where he addressed 399 FLTAs from 50 countries. As a former high school English teacher, he had an immediate connection with these young Fulbrighters.
Last week I had the opportunity to meet with recent alumni of the Fulbright U.S. student , Gilman and Critical Language Scholarship programs at IIE’s headquarters in New York. These young alumni were remarkably engaging, showcasing the diversity and quality of the talent pool from which we select Fulbright students from all over the United States.
We are also pleased that the Secretary met with Fulbrighters during his trip to Latin America.
On the eve of his departure last week, he spoke at the University of Texas Austin.
We invited seven Fulbright students from the countries he is visiting in the Western Hemisphere to be part of the audience for his speech at the LBJ School and one of the Fulbright students had the opportunity to ask a question following the speech.
Under Secretary Goldstein was also present and took part in a photo op with the students which was widely disseminated on social media.
We continue to have strong bipartisan support for Fulbright and ECA exchanges writ large.
We are awaiting Congressional action on a final FY 2018 budget but we anticipate funding for ECA to be somewhere between our FY 16 and FY 17 levels, based on Senate and House mark-ups.
The President is expected to send his FY 2019 budget request to Congress on February 12. As was the case in FY 2018, the President’s request will likely reflect a very tight fiscal environment.
The Department continues under the hiring freeze instituted at the start of the Administration, with some recent adjustments to allow some vacant civil service positions to be filled, primarily from among existing Department staff through lateral reassignments and competitive promotions.
We intend to make use of this option to help ensure we have the staffing we need to fulfill our responsibilities to our programs.
In the meantime, we continue to spread the word about all the terrific international education programs and initiatives we sponsor in ECA, and their extraordinary impact.
I recently participated at an event co-organized by IIE with the House of Representatives Caucus on International Exchange and Study.
Joining me as presenters were two distinguished U.S. university presidents and Fulbright alumni, Harris Pastides of the University of South Carolina and Angel Cabrera of George Mason University.
I talked not only about the Fulbright Program, but also the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, Critical Language Scholarships, our Young Leaders Initiatives, and the global network of EducationUSA educational advising centers that provides information on U.S. study to international students worldwide.
I also highlighted our high school exchange programs and exchanges for professionals, such as our International Visitor Leadership Program, and our role in overseeing private sector exchanges that provide opportunities for approximately 300,000 individuals each year to benefit from exchanges.
Secretary of State Tillerson recently highlighted the importance of having a qualified work force that represents the diversity of America, and ECA programs are directly contributing to increasing both the quality and diversity of our own work force at the State Department.
Approximately 25 percent of newly recruited Foreign Service officers are alumni of an ECA exchange program, including Fulbright.
Also of note, more than 500 ECA alumni have gone on to become heads of state of their respective governments, and one in three current foreign leaders has previously taken part in an ECA exchange program.
On the program funding side, I stressed to the House Caucus that over 90 percent of ECA resources is directly invested in U.S. citizens or reinvested into the U.S. economy through grants to U.S. non-profit organizations, tuition at U.S. colleges and universities, and support to U.S. local communities through expenses such as transportation, housing and related costs.
In an effort to demonstrate the value of exchanges to the United States, we are working to tie our narrative on exchanges to the newly released National Security Strategy.
In reviewing the new strategy, I was pleased to find significant parallels with the Bureau’s mission under Fulbright-Hays.
Specifically, the strategy states that “Diplomats must identify opportunities for commerce and cooperation, and facilitate the cultural, educational, and people-to-people exchanges that create the networks of current and future political, civil society, and educational leaders who will extend a free and prosperous world.”
We might call such networks alumni.
Recognizing that the United States possesses great strengths – great competitive advantages – we will align ourselves with them and leverage them to our advantage in our international leadership.
These competitive strengths include our values, such as democracy, freedom, liberty of conscience and individual dignity. They also include our higher education system, our popular culture, our spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation, and the English language.
ECA’s mission also aligns with Secretary Tillerson’s statement of December 12, 2017, on the mission of the Department of State: “On behalf of the American people, we promote and demonstrate democratic values and advance a free, peaceful, and prosperous world.”
Going forward, as we welcome a new A/S to ECA, we will continue to make the argument that our exchange programs, including the Fulbright, are a worthwhile investment and bring value to Americans and to the United States.
I appreciate your abiding support in this endeavor.
I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.