Remarks at Fulbright Teaching Assistant Event

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
October 11, 2013

Well, let me thank you all. This is really exciting. First of all, I am a huge, huge fan of the Fulbright Program, all of it, and – thank you. (Applause.) I actually knew Senator Fulbright. I met him way back in 1971, which is dating myself. (Laughter.) But he was really an inspiration and he had a vision, obviously. And I can’t think of a Senate program, with maybe the exception of the risk reduction which Senator Nunn and Senator Lugar engaged in, when it had the kind of global impact and had made such a difference as this. You listen to these young kids, as I just did, beyond the fact that they want to eat a “lobstah” and they’re now talking “Wicked awesome,” and all of that – leaving that aside, they are seeing the world differently, and the possibilities for them are opening up in wonderful ways. And so we have a young man here who wants to go study at the University of Massachusetts.

And it really teaches confidence as well as changes the possibilities of life itself. And I’ll tell you, it was really interesting for me, because as – I just came from Bali, where we were at the Asian Pacific Economic Conference, and around the table as we talked, most of the leaders – and also at ASEAN, which is the Asian – the Southeast Asian gathering of leaders – everybody was talking English. And 15 or 20 years ago, that never would have happened. It wouldn’t have been able to happen. English has become, obviously, the language of business, the language of exchange, of diplomacy, and of the world in many ways.

And so learning it is a huge tool for young people to be able to dream and be able to think about a whole different set of possibilities. I’m really an admirer of these three young ETAs who are here – English Teaching Assistants – who are doing just an extraordinary job, obviously. And you can see it in the photographs that I just looked at over there – the energy, the enthusiasm, the fun.

Kelsey Grab, who’s from Massachusetts and a 2012 graduate of Brandeis, and also, I think, a Sorensen Fellow, which means a lot because President Kennedy obviously inspired us all into turning words into deeds, and that’s exactly what she’s doing. So being a Sorensen Fellow is an appropriate transformation for that.

And then, of course, we have Erica Toews who is in Perak, and I think James is also – James Greisler is down there. Erica is a philosophy graduate from Stanford who went to Google, worked at Google for a while, and just told me she wanted to do something different. And how different can you be than coming out and teaching people in Perak English, which is just a fantastic contribution to her country, to Malaysia, to our relationships, and it’s so valuable.

And finally, James Greisler, a Hamilton College English teacher and also a theater buff, a guy who loves to act and act out probably a little bit. (Laughter.) But he, I am told, renowned into Orang Asli, the first person to do that, and not only tasted the local culture and the food and he got to meet the families and everything, but he actually put on a play of Macbeth adapted to local customs and history, and so that’s really pretty spectacular. (Applause.)

So for all of these ETAs, for all of you involved in the Fulbright Program, thank you for being part of the remarkable transformation. It is by far one of the great programs that exists anywhere in the world. My daughter was a Fulbrighter, and I can tell you it was transformative. She loved doing it. She did – during that period of time, she actually studied at the London School of Economics, and it was – got a Master’s and it changed a lot of her view of health and global health, and she’s now working in global health as a result of that.

So Fulbright makes a difference, folks, and each of these young people here, they’re going to – what’s so funny? Are you going to share? (Laughter.) Each of these young people are going to go out and just, I’m confident, make a huge difference, and they’re going to look back all of their lives – this participation in the Fulbright will be a measuring point and a starting point at the same time.

So thank you all for your support of Fulbright. Thank you all for what you’re doing and each of you teaching, thank you so much for what you’re doing. (Applause.) Really appreciate it. Thank you very, very much. It’s great to be with you. Thank you, and let me pass this to somebody.

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PRN: 2013/T15-22