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Fulbright Reception 2022

Remarks by
Ambassador Victoria Reggie Kennedy
Fulbright Reception
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Ambassador’s Residence

Dear Director General Weitgruber; Dr. Agis; President Fassmann; Fulbright Students, Scholars and Alumni; Gilman Scholars; Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you all here tonight. Despite the challenges the Fulbright community has been facing, including COVID, the Fulbright program has continued to flourish and promote mutual understanding between the U.S. and its partners and allies.

As we consider the current state of the world, with a specific focus on the threat to democratic values evidenced by the war in Ukraine, it has become clearer than ever that the work to defend democracy is never ending. The Fulbright program is an integral part of that mission.

Now, it is my great pleasure to officially welcome all of you. If you don’t mind raising your hands, then we can all get to know each other a little better. I’d like to start with the recently returned Austrian grantees, who have completed their Fulbright experiences and earned the lifetime honor of calling themselves Fulbright alumni. Please raise your hands briefly so we know who you are. Welcome back!

And now, to the U.S. grantees who have just arrived, Herzlich willkommen, which is the Austrian way of saying warm welcome. Your Fulbright experience is just beginning in this beautiful country, and I wish you the best.

Also, I want to say hello to our Gilman International Scholarship grantees who are with us tonight and just starting their exchanges. I’m so glad you could join us.

Ambassador Kennedy at the lectern
Ambassador Kennedy welcomes her guests

A warm welcome to representatives of Fulbright partner organizations; to Fulbright alumni, and to board members who have steered the course of Fulbright Austria with dedication and care; and of course, Executive Director Agis and his capable staff at Fulbright Austria.

Thank you all for your valuable contributions and for keeping the Fulbright spirit alive.

The Fulbright program is arguably one of the United States’ most historically significant and well-known exchange programs. Since 1950 more than 6,000 individuals have participated in the U.S.-Austria Fulbright program.

But the Fulbright Program is so much more than that. It is the principal program promoting mutual understanding in a world that needs just that more than ever. The program calls on you to be the change that you want to see in the world. As Fulbright alumns, you have joined the ranks of citizen ambassadors and are vital players in strengthening the enduring relationship between our countries.

Meanwhile, a Fulbright grant comes with considerable prestige which is why I call on you to mention this distinction in your resumés.

As you’ll see on the screen, there are a number of photographic impressions of the history of the Fulbright program as well as quotes from the founder and namesake of the program, Senator J. William Fulbright. One of my favorites quotes is this:

“The essence of intercultural education is the acquisition of empathy – the ability to see the world as others see it, and to allow for the possibility that others may see something we have failed to see or may see it more accurately.”

This is what the Fulbright idea is all about: combining academic achievement with a spirit of mutual understanding. I really hope that your exchange experiences will be marked by both and stay with you as you continue on your journeys.

Thank you for taking the time to join us tonight and I look forward to talking with as many of you as possible.

And now, I would like to welcome Director General Weitgruber on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Science and Research to share some remarks.