In this video produced by the German Fulbright Alumni Association in 2014 former German and US grantees talk about the relevance of their exchange experience and their reasons to get involved with the Alumni Association.
The video captures the importance of the Fulbright program quite well. Authentic, personal, no exaggerations. After watching it, you will probably want to get in touch with the German Fulbright Alumni Association or learn how to get a Fulbright grant: For Germans going to US, for Americans going to Germany, for all other nationalities and destinations.
The last link takes you to the State Department and promotes the Fulbright Program as "the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. (...) Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 160 countries worldwide." Most programs with rich countries are financed jointly. The German-American Fulbright program has received 2.6 Mio EUR from the State Department and US Host Institutions, but the much larger amount of 5.6 Mio EUR from Germany's federal and regional governments in 2013/2014. 332 Americans and 408 Germans received grants in that academic year.
The American Fulbright Alumni Association has just released this promotional video:
Unleashing the Power of Fulbright
In the video Stephen Reilly, former Executive Director of the Fulbright Association, describes the Fulbright program as the oldest academic exchange program in the world, which is not quite true. The Rhodes Scholarships are 43 years older. And there are probably even older programs. I bet even some monasteries in the Middle Ages had international academic exchange programs.
When he is boasting that many presidents are Fulbright alumni the video shows Bill Clinton, who has been a Rhodes Scholar, but not a Fulbrighter. Clinton has, however, interned for Senator Fulbright.
The history of the Rhodes Scholarship is impressive, and its mission similar to Fulbright:
There were originally 57 Scholarships each year - in effect, 32 for the United States, 20 for various parts of what was then the British Empire (later the Commonwealth), and five for Germany. In 1901, Cecil Rhodes wrote, in providing for the German Scholarships: 'The object is that an understanding between the three great powers will render war impossible and educational relations make the strongest tie.'
But: Let's remember the scholarships were established with the money that Cecil Rhodes has made with colonialism in Africa. BBC:
Rhodes was an imperialist, businessman and politician who played a dominant role in southern Africa in the late 19th Century, driving the annexation of vast swathes of land. He founded the De Beers diamond firm which until recently controlled the global trade. Scholarships allowing overseas students to come to Oxford University still bear his name. Many institutions, including Cape Town University itself, benefited from his largesse. Both Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) were named after him.
Just two months ago Cape Town University removed a statue of Rhodes after protests. Is "still bear his name" criticism ?
And before someone makes a comparison by mentioning Senator Fulbright's support for segregation, let me quote from Tom Healy's excellent article:
He started the Fulbright program by drafting legislation that required the government to sell war surplus supplies and use the money to start the Fulbright Program in 1946. Later, in 1954, he was the only senator to vote against appropriations for the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the vile home of McCarthyism. Fulbright came to his skepticism through acknowledging his own terrible moral blindness: He had been a segregationist senator from the South, filibustering against civil rights legislation on several occasions. The racism he learned to rid himself of and denounce was an enduring shame for which he felt he could never be forgiven, though many civil rights leaders did forgive him and called him their friends. Few legislators have ever been so skilled at the alchemy of turning hate to good, swords into plowshares. And that alchemical effect extended to those who knew and worked with him.