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Fulbrighters of the Last Decades Symposium

Remarks By
Ambassador Victoria Reggie Kennedy
Fulbrighters of the Last Decades Symposium
October 11, 2022

Austrian-American Society

group photo
Werner Fassmann, Alma Zadić, Ambassador Victoria Kennedy, Hannelore Veit, Barbara Weitgruber and Hermann Agis (from left to right)

Minister Zadić, Dr. Fassmann, Ms. Veit, Esteemed Fulbright Alumni, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am delighted to be with you for this first-ever Fulbrighters of the Last Decades symposium. So many thanks to Julia, Sibel, and Hannes who have done the extraordinary work of organizing this terrific event.

Along with Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research Martin Polaschek who is represented today by Director General Weitgruber – thank you so much for being here, Director General – I am proud to serve as honorary co-chair of the Fulbright Austria Board and am honored to welcome all of you here today.

The Fulbright program is the United States’ most significant and well-known exchange program. Indeed, since 1950, more than 6,000 students have participated in the U.S.-Austria Fulbright exchange program.

I have heard time and again from Fulbrighters that their experience caused them to see the world through a new lens and that it had a transformational impact on their personal and professional lives. I would not be surprised if those of you here this afternoon feel the same way.

I know you must share in the pride of one of your fellow Austrian Fulbrighters, Dr. Anton Zeilinger [tSEYE ling uh], who just won, along with an American and a French scientist, the Nobel Prize in Physics. In the mid- 1970s, Dr. Zeilinger was a Fulbright Scholar at MIT in my adopted home state of Massachusetts. Who knows…maybe that experience helped pique his interest in entangled photons! It’s certainly possible.

I’m so delighted that in just a few minutes, we’re going to hear from three other extraordinary Fulbrighters who also have gone on to rewarding, impactful and diverse careers – Federal Minister of Justice Alma Zadic, President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and former Minister of Education Dr. Heinz Fassmann, and Journalist and Moderator extraordinaire Hannelore Veit. Each of these three remarkable individuals has followed a different path, but each has made a significant impact in the world. The sky really is the limit for Fulbright Scholars.

After you hear from the three keynote scholars, the symposium will focus on the work of Fulbright alumni in: (1) human rights; (2) education; and (3) diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), all areas important in a vibrant democracy. Especially today, as we look at the state of the world, and particularly at the brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine, it is clearer than ever that the work to defend and nurture democracy is never ending…and that the work is essential. And who better than Fulbrighters to be discussing and upholding democratic principles? I submit, there is no one.

As alumni of a world-recognized people-to-people exchange program like Fulbright, when you uphold shared values through democratic discourse or promote a strong relationship with our like-minded partners and allies, you are uniquely positioned to build the relationships necessary for us to face the current challenges of the world together.

For the sake of democracy and our shared values and common interests, I encourage to do just that and to continue to build on your Fulbright experience. When you share your Fulbright story with others — your peers, your family, your friends — then the power of the program to build bridges – to nurture democratic values – to make a difference — grows exponentially.

Your Fulbright experience is a badge of honor – I hope you wear it with pride, including on your CV — for the world to see and make the impact the program has had on your life as visible as you possibly can.

Fulbright changes lives. And it can change the world. As Senator J. William Fulbright himself once said “We must dare to think ‘unthinkable’ thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world.” You’re Fulbrighters – I can think of no one better to do just that.

Thank you very much. I hope you have a wonderful conference.