The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Delta Caucus Praises Senators Pryor & Boozman for Fulbright Program Funding

Posted on June 19, 2014 at 05:04 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus is delighted to praise Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ar) and Senator John Boozman (R-AR) as well as the full Senate Appropriations Committee for voting $236 million in funding for the great Fulbright Scholarship Program today.

This not only rejects President Obama’s request for a $30 million cut in the famous exchange program and provides an amount $32 million higher than the President’s budget proposal at $204 million, and actually increasing funding for the program from last year’s amount of $234,666,000.

This subject was discussed at the June 12-13 Delta conference at the Clinton Library. Senators Pryor and Boozman are strong supporters of the Fulbright Program, Rep. Rick Crawford of the First District expressed his support at the conference, and we are encouraging the other House and Senate members from all eight states of the region to support this excellent educational program.

Caucus Director Lee Powell said “This is a huge victory for the venerable Fulbright Program that has promoted education in the Delta and all 50 states and across the globe since Senator Fulbright and President Harry S. Truman worked together to create it shortly after World War II.”

“We could not have achieved this result without the vital support of our bipartisan Senators Boozman and Pryor, both of whom are members of the powerful Appropriations Committee,” Powell said.

Powell said “We want to emphasize that we support the Fulbright Program, the Young African Leaders Initiative, and the southeast Asian leaders initiative. President Obama had wanted to cut the Fulbright Program by $30 million to bring about increases in the other two programs, but our position is that all three are good programs, and we should not be carving a huge chunk of funding out of the hide of the venerable Fulbright Program for increases to the other two projects. We support all three and support level funding for all three.”

Sen. Pryor said, “I’m proud to report that the Appropriations Committee has fought back the President’s proposed cuts to the Fulbright Program. By giving our students the chance to experience the diverse cultures and history of other countries, this program is helping strengthen American ties around the globe. I will continue to work with the Delta Grassroots Caucus, as well as Senator Boozman, to secure funding to keep the Fulbright Program strong.”

Sen. Boozman said, “This bill is a strong show of support for the Fulbright Program. Not only was the President’s proposed cut rejected, but the bill’s language is nothing short of a full endorsement of the program’s contributions. It is very well-respected program and we have every intention of continuing it despite these very tough budget times.”

The Delta Grassroots Caucus commends the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the Fulbright Association that represents over 300,000 Fulbright Scholar alumni, and supporters of the Fulbright Scholar Program across the globe in opposing President Obama’s proposal to make a huge cut in this venerable educational program. Funding should stay level for the Fulbright Program, which has been a shining light for international good will and education for over half a century.

Here is key language from the bill regarding funding of “Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs:”

“The Committee does not support the proposed $30,466,000 reduction to the Fulbright Program, including the Humphrey Fellowship Program, and the act provides sufficient funds to avoid such reduction. The Committee notes that in recent years the Department of State has justified reductions to one-way exchanges with a specific regional focus on the grounds that the Fulbright Program offers bi-directional exchanges with greater flexibility and strong country and university support. Ye in the fiscal year 2015 budget request the Department proposes to reduce the Fulbright Program to fund region-specific exchanges. This reversal indicates a lack of long-term planning.”

In an important statement to Secretary of State John Kerry that is relevant for highly diverse, impoverished regions like the Delta, the Committee stated:

“The Committee directs the Secretary of State to broaden participation of high priority groups that have been traditionally under-represented such as youth and other individuals from rural and impoverished areas and minorities.”

Steve Reilly, executive director of the Washington, DC-based Fulbright Association representing over 300,000 Fulbright Scholar alumni in the USA and across the globe, said: “With a proven track record of success over seven decades, the Fulbright Program is the most important academic exchange program the world has ever known and a government-funded program that works. Who would cut a program that boasts 350,000 alumni, 155 participating countries, 53 Nobel Prize winners, 83 Pulitzer Prize winners, one Secretary General of the United Nations, an astronaut who walked on the moon, countless university presidents, hundreds of executives from Fortune 500 companies, thousands of teachers and university professors, internationally recognized artists, writers, scientists, and artists, dozens of heads of state, countless Pulitzers, and some of the world’s foremost leaders in every academic discipline and professional field? Fulbright is critical to our standing and relationships in the world.”

Todd Shields, Dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, said” Senator Fulbright had a vision of turning nations into individual human beings and forging peace through education and understanding. The Fulbright Program has turned this vision into reality. It changes lives. It’s a proven outcome that deserves our support.”

Powell said “The Delta Grassroots Caucus is deeply gratified by this result. Delta Caucus Vice chairman, Rep. Mark McElroy and everyone else I have talked to in the Delta region and elsewhere supports the Fulbright Program. Supporters are not just Fulbright Scholars and those involved in higher education, but many concerned citizens from all walks of life.”

“Any education issue is especially sensitive for the Delta Caucus, because we see improved education as the fundamental key to a brighter future in resolving the issues facing our region” Rep. Mark McElroy said.

Many African Americans support the Fulbright Program, which has enjoyed major successes in sub-Saharan African over its history in countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria. Dr. Gwendolyn Willis-Darpoh is an African American woman who was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in Nigeria and is now senior researcher at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, DC, said:

“As a woman of color I support the Young African Leaders Initiative; however, cutting the Fulbright Program funding would have a devastating effect on the ability of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), community colleges, and other minority service institutions (MSIs) to provide international academic exchange opportunity for faculty and students. One of the most effective ways to internationalize the curricula across disciplines is through these cultural, global partnerships.”

This program has led to the creation of tremendous international good will across the globe for the United States of America since our own Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright worked with President Harry Truman in creating it right after World War II. It promotes education and is a major plus for American foreign policy. Hundreds of thousands of scholars and students have participated in the program over the years, and it has always been supported by Presidents of both parties.

President John F. Kennedy praised the Fulbright Program as “the great modern example of beating swords into plow shares” and promoting international understanding.

Powell is the author of a comprehensive, scholarly biography of Senator Fulbright, whom he knew well for over 20 years (the biography is J. William Fulbright and His Time, with a foreword by President Bill Clinton, published in 1995).

In his interpretation based on 17 years of research and many interviews with Fulbright, on some issues he was positive and on other issues his assessment was much less favorable, but the one issue where Fulbright’s record shines brilliantly is in international education and above all the Fulbright Program. Many Arkansans from both parties take pride that a Senator from Arkansas founded this great program.

Many other countries contribute quite generously to the Fulbright Program, so this is not just the USA carrying the load for everybody else.

This program gets a huge bang for the buck and when we have a program that is a tried and true plus for our country, we ought to stand behind it.