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Fulbright promotes need for global citizenship at Drake visit

Lauren Derebey, a former Drake Fulbright scholar, listens intently as Harriet Fulbright discusses the need for global involvement over lunch on Drake’s campus.

World peace promoter Harriet Mayor Fulbright discussed global issues with Drake students over lunch Wed., Jan. 31, in Olmsted Center, and gave an open lecture in Sheslow Auditorium later that evening.

Fulbright is president of the J. William and Harriet Fulbright Center, a nonprofit center that promotes global peace and understanding through nonviolent associations and educational programs. Joining Fulbright was Ann Schodde, executive director of the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy in Des Moines. The center supports cultural and educational exchange at the individual, educational, corporate and organizational levels.

At lunch, Fulbright and Schodde discussed the need for individual cultural awareness and global involvement with former Drake Fulbright scholar Lauren Derebey and global ambassador students Lauren Smith, Sami Auger and Stephanie Sonderegger. Fulbright told the students that citizen diplomacy is a crucial part of U.S. foreign policy. Less than 1 percent of the national budget is spent on overseas education projects each year, Fulbright said. The amount that the U.S. government has allocated for three years of these projects is roughly equivalent to the amount spent for three days of national defense.

Fulbright also spoke of her late husband, U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright. “My husband was a man of peace, but he had no illusions that peace was warm and fuzzy — because it’s not,” Fulbright said. The establishment of peace takes hard work and patience, she explained, but it doesn’t have to require fighting. “It’s much better to keep talking than to start fighting,” she said. Sen. Fulbright introduced legislation for the Fulbright Program in 1946, which has since granted scholarships to more than 250,000 individuals around the world.

Fulbright’s lecture, titled “Citizen Diplomacy: An Essential Element of Foreign Policy,” was attended by an enthusiastic and highly engaged group of students and community members. Fulbright’s message reflected on and furthered the points she had pursued at lunch, primarily the importance of Americans’ first-hand interaction with citizens of other countries. She said the need to establish a global community and international understanding is of higher priority even than the advancement of mass communication technology, which she said is only somewhat effective as a community-building tool.

“Recent studies show that the rest of the world knows little about our actual daily lives in America,” she said, asserting that media-driven stereotypes dominate the perception of Americans overseas. First-hand experiences with artists, scholars, businesspeople, companies, sports figures and other Americans help break down stereotypes and promote cultural understanding.

“Relations between countries are too important to be left in the hands of governments,” Fulbright said.

The lecture concluded with an extended question-and-answer session. Fulbright fielded inquiries on her own experiences abroad, the characteristics of a ‘model American’ and the potential of expanding the Fulbright Program into Muslim nations.

The lunch and lecture were funded by Drake’s Center for Global Citizenship and the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy. More information about the centers is available online at www.drake.edu/international/cgc and http://www.uscenterforcitizendiplomacy.org.