Remarks At The United States-India Educational Foundation

Judith A. McHale
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs 
New Dehli, India
February 7, 2010

Date: 02/02/2010 Description: Under Secretary Judith McHale lighting ceremonial lamp at the U.S.-India Educational Foundation. Photo Courtesy of the USIEF.

Thank you, Ambassador Roemer, for your kind introduction, and thank you for the strong support you are providing to the U.S.-India Educational Foundation and our bi-national academic exchange program. I also want to thank Adam and Members of the USIEF Board for inviting me to participate in this important celebration at this magnificent location.

It is an honor to be joined today by Foreign Minister Krishna and the many friends of the United States-India Educational Foundation and the Fulbright Program gathered here with us this evening.

On this day 60 years ago, Prime Minister Nehru and U.S. Ambassador Loy Henderson, as Adam said earlier, signed the first Fulbright agreement between our two countries. At that time, India was a new nation but an ancient civilization. Then, as now, we shared a belief in democracy, but there were many differences between our two countries.

A very wise man – the late Senator J. William Fulbright -- had the idea that differences between nations could be better bridged if their citizens better understood each other through overseas study and living in proximity to one another. So he persuaded his colleagues in Congress, a task that Mr. Roemer knows was no easy task, to establish the scholarship program which bears his name.

In his words, “Of all the joint ventures in which we might engage, the most productive, is educational exchange…probably the most important and potentially rewarding of our foreign policy activities.” And I must say the same words ring true today, perhaps more than ever.

Since 1950, more than 8,000 American and Indian citizens have been awarded scholarships under the Fulbright program in almost every area of importance to the U.S.-India relationship. These participants have been, and are, individuals of achievement and leadership. They represent the diversity of both our countries and are selected through a transparent, merit-based competition that is open to all.

Around the world, Fulbright participants and alumni impact the lives of millions of people – as evidenced by Foreign Minister Krishna, as we noted earlier, a former Fulbright scholar himself. These leaders have returned to their home countries to share global experiences and provide deeper understandings of other cultures.

The women and men who have participated in the India-U.S. Fulbright Program have helped lay the foundation for the strategic partnership that Prime Minister Singh and President Obama recently launched. The next generation of Fulbrighters will surely be at the forefront of seeing our partnership grow and expand.

When Secretary Clinton visited India last July, she and Minister Krishna issued a joint statement of intent to accelerate the growth of our bilateral relationship to enhance global prosperity and stability. Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna identified five principle pillars of a Strategic Dialogue. One of those five pillars was education and development.

Expanding educational cooperation through exchanges and academic collaboration, and enhancing the role of the private sector, are important elements to this strategic approach. The individuals who participate in such exchanges share their experiences with their fellow citizens upon returning home, strengthening the friendship between our two nations.

I’d like to share with you two examples which demonstrate the ongoing power of the Fulbright program.

One American Fulbright participant, Annette Danto, came to India in 2002 and again in 2004, to work on a documentary about women's health and prenatal care in rural Asia. As the Ambassador noted, from my background at Discovery, I understand the importance of documentaries. Today, she brings groups of students from the City University of New York to India every autumn in collaboration with the Prasad Film and Television Academy in Chennai.

Professor Danto’s study abroad program, where American film students interact with university and college students in India, provides participants with a rewarding, life transforming experience while enhancing their academic learning.

Joining us this evening is Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath, an Indian student who went to the United States as a Fulbrighter at Georgetown University, and who is now the Principal of Lady Shri Ram College. She has assumed an important role in promoting leadership among women in the areas of peace, security, and international cooperation.

And she continues to be an active Fulbrighter, sponsoring US Fulbrighters here in India and encouraging academic exchanges between our two countries.

Her efforts have resulted in the empowerment of a new generation of women with the skills and expertise for peace activism. She has received many awards for her work to empower women, including the ‘Padmashri,’ award, awareded by the President of India for her distinguished contribution to the field of Literature and Education.

Both of these women are powerful examples of the generations of leaders the Fulbright Program has and will continue to produce.

In November, to recognize the essential role of these exchanges, President Obama and Prime Minister Singh announced that each of our governments will increase our contribution to the Fulbright-Nehru Program by $1 million this year, roughly a 45% increase.

In addition to increased funding, the U.S.-India Education Foundation Board is looking at new and expanded areas of focus that will strengthen the partnership between our two countries. These programs will do much to facilitate recruitment of Fulbrighters across all sections of society.

While we have made much progress, there is still tremendous opportunity for synergy and collaboration. We are happy to support USIEF’s new office of Higher Education Cooperation, which is intended to enhance information exchange, facilitate higher education collaboration, and form research partnerships.

I am so pleased to be here with you all tonight. Not so much to look back over the past 60 years of accomplishments, which are many, but to look forward to the more exciting and promising future, which we are building together.

Thank you.