Patrick F. Kennedy, Assistant Secretary |
for Administration and Coordinator for the Reorganization of the Foreign Affairs Agencies
Address to the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange, Washington, DC,
March 10, 1999
Supporting International Educational and Cultural Programs
It is an honor and pleasure to meet with you today. The Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange represents a "Who's Who" of prominent American exchange organizations. In partnership with the United States Information Agency, you have made many of our exchange programs what they are today. The Department of State welcomes the opportunity to learn from you and think together about how we can cross new borders with these vital programs.
Over the last few months, many of us have focused on structural borders -- the changes that will come after USIA merges with State on October 1. This will not, however, be a wholly new experience. Until 1978, the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs managed exchange programs very capably, with many USIA officers assigned to State. In the field, USIA personnel have always been fully integrated into mission activities. Embassies rely on USIS officers to maintain productive relations with the press, academia, and think tanks, and, in many countries, to foster democratic institutions and a freer press. USIA officers have also filled public affairs positions in State.
A key question with integration is how best to maintain and strengthen exchange programs. You and your organizations may question how this merger will affect your ability to interact with foreign partners which have become so critical to the health and financing of many exchange programs. You may also question whether the merger will alter the way exchange participants relate to our programs. These are pertinent questions. The right answers will help ensure that America's exchange programs address the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
Pundits, futurologists, and social scientists bombard us daily with new insights about the enormous changes taking place in the world around us. A key change is that the Internet and other rapidly expanding communications directly connect people in ways never before imagined. By 2005, over 1 billion of the world's citizens may have access to the Internet.
No aspect of our daily lives remains untouched by this borderless revolution. Private companies, NGOs, and charitable societies use the new access to manage global interests, frequently with little reference to governments. Individuals -- private citizens with a cause -- use connectivity to build coalitions of like-minded people. Empowered by the Internet, they project their cause into the arena of international decision-making, often without the prior endorsement of any government.
We can scarcely predict all the ways these changes will affect America's international relations. Yet at least two trends emerge as noteworthy: First, this revolution is giving new meaning to the 1960s battle cry, "power to the people." Or perhaps we should say, "power to non-governmental networks and organizations, to the academic world, and to individuals." Second, the new connectivity is inherently neither good or bad. It is "value-neutral." What we must understand is that it offers us vast new opportunities. What will we do with them?
To a young senator from Arkansas, the world must have looked equally precarious and uncertain in the late 1940s. Many of the empires created by the ages of exploration, conquest, and submission of peoples had been largely swept away by two world wars. Yet totalitarian rulers, repression of freedoms, outbreaks of conflicts, and the advent of nuclear weapons meant threats had not disappeared.
Senator Fulbright had a vision, one he believed would diminish these threats by fostering mutual understanding and reconciliation. He drew faith from the American belief that individuals can and must make a difference, and that students, scholars, groups, and individuals can reach across borders to erase misunderstanding and build trust and cooperation. The Fulbright-Hays Act was a triumph for his vision that promoting mutual understanding among the peoples of the world through educational and cultural exchanges would provide for the improvement and strengthening of the international relations of the United States.
A half-century later, we can reflect with pride on the accomplishments:
- Exchange programs have given Americans more expertise about other political and economic systems and other cultures and value systems, helping us make wiser decisions. Just one of the many gifted alumni who have benefited our country is Dr. Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, who was a Fulbright senior scholar in Denmark. Exchanges have also produced tens of thousands of foreign leaders whose experiences in the United States have increased their knowledge and appreciation of American values and goals.
- Exchange programs have crossed and helped erase borders of hostility. In 1993, the Oslo dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians bore the fruit of seeds planted by more than a decade of exchange programs that brought Israelis, Palestinians, and other Arabs together for discussions. That we can now sponsor a youth dialogue of Israel's Likud party and the Palestinian Fatah -- sponsored by USIA and an Alliance member -- pays tribute to the cumulative effect of exchange investments.
- In the former Yugoslavia, alumni of the Ron Brown Fellowship Program met in Sarajevo late last year to explore how to improve cooperation. Representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovenia attended this Balkan Summit.
- Exchange programs have begun to replace ideological borders with new attitudes. As the Cold War dissolved, the United States could take pride in a transition that opened the way for expanded political and economic freedoms in countries previously behind the Iron Curtain. Exchange programs are doing much to encourage development of systems based on private property, market economics and democratic pluralism. In Georgia, for example, two Muskie Fellowship graduates have helped lead major reform efforts.
True to the Fulbright vision, last year the United States invested more than $70 million in Freedom Support Act funds for exchanges and partnerships that include university affiliations and Internet and other programs. Preliminary results give us cause for optimism. In Ukraine, a law professor has drafted new laws and financial securities regulations using information drawn from a university affiliation program.
Working with many of you, USIA uses the Internet to strengthen the networks created by exchanges and help alumni in the NIS keep in touch. The Internet Access and Training program enables them and others to communicate with U.S. colleagues, obtain online resources, and publish for a global audience. Public-access Internet sites have been established by more than 60 universities, libraries, institutes, NGOs, and government agencies in the NIS.
Two recent polls of Russian alumni of the Future Leaders exchange program for high school students show they are a breed apart. While they may be more critical of the United States than other Russian youth, they are significantly more open to and accepting of Western values, democratic ideals, and foreign involvement and investment. They are much less suspicious of Western motives in offering aid and more optimistic about the future of their country. These alumni are notably more eager than others to become leaders in their society.
Senator Fulbright was right: exchanges matter. Americans have made a solid investment in creating a foundation of understanding and trust, one that has paid off handsomely in promoting our national interests. But it would hardly do, from our perspective of today, to stop with accolades and praise for past accomplishments.
We must also ask ourselves where we go from here. One part of the answer lies in the reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies. The Secretary is very actively engaged to make sure USIA integration works well. She accords high priority to educational and cultural programs and has said she will do everything she can to ensure that they receive strong leadership and support.
The academic independence and flexibility of exchange programs remains vital. They will continue to have a separate budget appropriation. The Secretary is committed to their scholarly integrity and standards of excellence. We will ensure that public diplomacy sections in our missions abroad have the staffing and resources they need to implement these programs.
This is one part of responding to the challenge. The other part is the U.S. Government's dynamic partnership with you and your organizations. Together we can foster exchanges to match the magnitude of the new opportunities. We must replicate many times over the experience of the Ukrainian professor, and thereby help countries make democratic and market reforms. We must use the Internet creatively to promote more international scholarly collaboration and further the exchange of ideas. For example, we can make available on-line the recommendations of bilateral study groups working around the world under the auspices of a citizen exchange program that fosters judicial reforms.
Finally, we must be courageous enough in this era of tight funding to reserve some of our exchange investment for matters close to the human spirit. Fortifying cultural links and showing respect for diverse heritages can enhance respect for values that are not only American but universal.
Never before has America had a greater stake in sustained efforts to engage foreign leaders, opinion-makers, NGOs, students, scholars, and cultural figures. It is a stake we must not only preserve -- we must build on it.
In conclusion, Secretary Albright has said that as far as public diplomacy is concerned, her motto is not "less is more," but rather "more is better." The world is changing, and the full integration of exchanges and other tools of public diplomacy into American foreign policy will make it more agile and open and put it on a stronger foundation of broader and deeper understanding among peoples.
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