Richard LeBaron, Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy London

Chargé d'Affaires Richard LeBaron addresses the Fulbright reception at Winfield House.

Chargé d’Affaires Richard LeBaron addresses the Fulbright reception at Winfield House.

I am delighted to welcome you all here to Winfield House tonight. I am especially pleased to welcome the newly-selected British scholars, as well as the American scholars and teachers who are here.

I’ve hosted a number of these receptions and I find that even more delightful than meeting the grantees is the opportunity to meet the parents and friends of the British grantees. They are simply bursting with pride at the achievement of their son, daughter, spouse or partner. Congratulations to all of you

To the new British grantees, about to travel to the United States, I extend my heartiest congratulations. If you had not realized before, now that you have had a chance to meet some of the people involved in this program here tonight, you may be getting an idea of just what an amazing (and very select) club you are joining!

You are becoming part of the worldwide Fulbright family at an exciting time. This has been an impressive year for the bilateral program, certainly. It celebrated its 60th anniversary not only by some very special events, including a Presidential Proclamation, but also by increasing the program’s scope beyond what anyone would have thought possible – especially in these straitened times.

I know that Simon Lewis is going to mention some of these achievements in more detail, so I won’t do so. But I do want to congratulate the staff, Commission members and all the other supporters of Fulbright whose hard work and commitment have made these successes possible.

In particular, I’d like to pay tribute to the Commission members, all of whom give of their time and expertise so generously. They are an essential part of Fulbright.

There are three individuals who I’d especially like to thank for their tremendous contribution to the program. All of them are just coming to the end of their terms as Commission members. Both Lord (John) Kerr and Professor Rick Trainor have steered the program through many different challenges and issues over the past several years (five and six years, respectively). Their wisdom, dedication and skill have been instrumental in helping the organization to come out ahead at all times. I would like to thank them both for their invaluable contribution to the Program.

I’d also like to thank Ruth Thompson, who has been a ‘bridge’ (if I may put it thus) between the Commission and the UK Government, representing the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills on the Board. The United States Government greatly values its bilateral partners in the Fulbright program, which is one of Fulbright’s great strengths, and Ruth has been a fine example of the relationship at its best. She has been a strong supporter of the Fulbright program, and during her term the Commission benefited from annually increased grants from the UK government.

We are delighted to welcome Martin Williams of DIUS as Ruth’s successor on the Commission. Another retiring Commission member is Sir Andrew Cubie, who played a major role in strengthening the relationship between Scotland and the Fulbright Commission. I’d also like to thank Eva Wisemark, who made such a valuable contribution during her time as a Commission member.

Baroness Amos joined the Commission board last year, and who sadly is departing, but for the best of reasons. She has been appointed as the UK Government’s High Commissioner in Australia.

I’d like to welcome the new Commission members who have taken their place: Dr Janet Lowe; Naguib Kheraj; Professor Michael Arthur, and the Commissioners representing the U.S. Government, Sandra Kaiser and Liza Davis.

Lastly, I’d like to pay tribute to someone who is only somewhat leaving the Fulbright board! The Commission’s Chair, Simon Lewis, and long-serving Commission member, is now taking a year ‘off’, during which time he will be deputy chair, so that he can make more time for his new job. Since that job is Gordon Brown’s Director of Communications at Number 10 Downing Street, I think we can all appreciate his reasoning.

Simon, thank you for steering the Commission so well as Chair, and we wish you all the best in your new high-profile post. We hope and trust that you will indeed rejoin us as the Chair in a year or so’s time.

When the program between the U.S. and UK began 60 years ago, scholars travelled by boat, and it was unusual for British citizens to spend time in America. Katherine Whitehorn, an illustrious journalist and one of the first Fulbrights, wrote recently: “You couldn’t get to America without a darn good reason and a visa, but there were Fulbright scholarships.”

Nowadays, of course, it is quite unremarkable for people to travel between Britain and America. But the program remains just as valid as it was 60 years ago. Nothing can match the impact made by young leaders in every field travelling to study, research, teach and make lasting bonds, between the U.S. and the UK.

Senator Fulbright’s vision of hope, conceived in the dark days of World War II, remains as bright as ever, in our modern world which has so much of good about it, and yet some issues of real concern. Many of those issues relate to how different countries perceive us, and we them. It’s good to know that the Fulbright program continues to work its magic.

I now have the pleasure of asking Simon Lewis to describe some of the achievements over the last year.

Larger photos on Flickr