U.S. Embassy Rome
June 12, 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
Undersecretary Della Vedova, Ms. Sartorio, Fulbright Board Members, Italian and American Fulbright Fellows welcome to the Embassy.
It is wonderful to be here this morning to wish well our departing American Fulbright awardees and Italian awardees that are just starting their experience. Italy and United States have a strong history of friendship: as Fulbright grantees, you all are now an integral part of the continued intellectual and cultural exchange between our two nations.
The US-Italy Fulbright Commission is now dawning on its seventh decade: since 1948, our two nations have worked together to promote peace and scholarship through these educational exchanges that you are embarking upon or have just finished. By pursuing this experience to teach or continue your studies, you are promoting the peaceful exchange of cultures and ideas between the future leaders of the world – our students. The fact that this program is now nearly seventy years old attests to the past success and future desire to continue the reciprocity in language and culture between Italian and American students. The conversation between our two countries will continue to grow long after you have finished your studies.
Educational exchanges are deeply important, now more than ever. They give a personal touch and a human face to an increasingly bustling and globalized world. Educational exchanges not only promote empathy and build trust, they reflect the relationship between nations and their people. They create a bond of friendship between future leaders and create a global community of culturally diverse and compassionate individuals – who will go on to promote peace and prosperity in our world.
As Senator William Fulbright once observed “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. The simple purpose of the exchange program is to erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets nations against one another.”
Today’s world is connected in ways that were not thought possible. It is more and more important to engage in the exchange of ideas of peoples of different nationalities, beliefs, and backgrounds across the globe. Understanding only results from contact; this is the step you are taking and have taken in your choice to study abroad.
Few Fulbright grantees have distinguished themselves more over the years than the Italians and Americans who have participated in this exchange. Within the alumni of this particular exchange alone, there are eight Nobel Prize winners. Among this group also are countless scientists and economists, university presidents and outstanding scholars, eminent jurists, distinguished politicians and journalists, and – in keeping with Italy’s incomparable cultural heritage – a dazzling roster of composers, conductors, musicians, novelists, poets, sculptors, and other artists.
You all in this group are growing to the top of your field, whether it is in international relations or oceanography, architecture or economics, electrical engineering or music. The breadth of activity and interest in this room is truly remarkable, and I have no doubt that this experience was and will be transformative in your journey throughout your scholarship.
I give you all of my best wishes in the beginning of your journey and research in the United States, and my congratulations for those of you departing Italy after your experience here. I am sure this was and will be a unique and unrepeatable source of cultural enrichment between our two nations.