Ministry of Foreign Affairs
June 14, 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
I am delighted to be here today to celebrate with you the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Italy. This program was conceived by the young American Senator J. William Fulbright and approved by the Congress in 1946. He suggested selling surplus materials from World War II and putting the proceeds toward an international exchange program for the advancement of world peace. In the aftermath of the Second World War, in a world emerging from tragedy and devastation, this new exchange program developed and proved fundamental to positive cultural and academic relations between our two countries.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational and cultural exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. It provides participants – chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
The Fulbright Program is a priority for the U.S. Government. It is the most important and largest cultural and academic exchange program run by the U.S. Department of State. It offers opportunities for students and scholars to undertake graduate studies, advanced research and university teaching worldwide. It plays a crucial role in promoting educational and cultural exchanges and fostering people-to-people contacts.
Founded in 1946, it now operates in 155 countries and awards approximately 1,900 grants per year. Approximately 360,000 students and scholars worldwide have participated in Fulbright programs since 1946. 395 alumni are current or former heads of foreign governments, including former Italian Prime Ministers Giuliano Amato and Lamberto Dini. 54 alumni have received Nobel Prizes, including Italian physicists Emilio Segre, Riccardo Giacconi and Carlo Rubbia.
American Fulbright alumni include current and former ambassadors, members of Congress, judges, heads of corporations, university presidents, journalists, artists, professors and teachers, among others.
Value of cultural exchange and the U.S.-Italy Fulbright Program: Along with Belgium, Greece, France and the UK, Italy is one of the oldest Commissions in Europe. Since Fulbright’s start in Italy in 1948 (two years after the program began elsewhere), more than 5,000 American scholars and students have come to Italy on Fulbright grants and about an equal number of Italians have gone to the United States.
Expansion of the U.S. – Italy Fulbright program through public and private partnerships.
Today, 30 percent of all U.S.-Italy Fulbright scholarships are funded under agreements between the Commission and public or private partners.
Most notable example: Roberto Wirth and his deafness program. It is the Commission’s longest running public-private partnership, now in its 25th year. It funds one scholarship per year for an Italian student specializing in deafness-related issues at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
Examples of Programs that the Commission runs in collaboration with public and private partners:
- Fondazione Con il Sud: funds scholars to conduct research on scientific topics in a university in the south of Italy.
- Fulbright – Fondazione Falcone – NIAF: funds one scholarship for American students to research issues in criminology in Palermo and one Italian to research issues in criminology in the U.S.
- Fulbright – Ethenea: through this program, the Commission can offer funding for two Masters in Business Administration in the United States. Each scholarship amounts to $100,000 for two academic years.
- Zegna: Italian Fulbright Graduate Students can access the Ermenegildo Zegna Founder’s Scholarship and obtain further funding for expenses not covered by the Fulbright Grant. As a result, grantees receive scholarships that cover their full costs.
Among the many notable Fulbright alumni here today:
- Simonetta Agnello Hornby, Italian, lawyer and writer
- Debora Cheverino, U.S., composer and conductor
- Sofia Corradi, Italian, pedagogist and creator of the Erasmus Program
- Franco Ferrarotti, Italian, is an Italian sociologist and a former member of the Italian Parliament. He is considered “the father of Italian sociology”
- Sylvia Poggioli, U.S., journalist and radio reporter
The Fulbright Program in Italy also has six Nobel prizes among its Fulbright Alumni.
Thank the Italian Government, which last year increased its allocation to the Fulbright Commission by 40% to support more grants over the next several academic years.