It is an honor for me to be here this evening and to represent the Embassy of the United States of America in Romania on the occasion of the conferral of the Order of Cultural Merit to the Fulbright Commission.
Educational and cultural exchanges are powerful diplomatic tools and among them, the Fulbright Scholarship program is the greatest.
This year, the Fulbright program will celebrate 70 years since it was founded by Senator J. William Fulbright in the aftermath of World War II. The program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other nations.
The Fulbright program has operated in Romania since 1960 and in 1993 the Romanian -U.S. Binational Commission was officially established. The first exchanges between our two countries took place at the height of the Cold War, and Professor Keith Hitchins, a historian, was the first American academic to be granted a fellowship to study in Romania. Professor Hitchins, now a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois, went on to publish several books on Romanian history.
One of the first Romanian recipients of a Fulbright scholarship was Professor Ionel Haiduc, who in the end had two opportunities to study molecular chemistry in the United States. He first conducted research at Iowa State University in the late 1960s and then, in the early 1970s, he was able to further his work at the University of Georgia. Pioneers like Dr. Haiduc, along with many other Romanian fellows, created bonds between the American and Romanian scientific research communities, bonds that provided continuity after the revolution of 1989. Romanian Fulbright Fellows have contributed greatly not only to their fields of study, but also to the democratic and economic development of their country.
In 2014 the Romanian Parliament agreed to strive for parity in Romania’s financial contribution to the Fulbright program. Given the resulting significant increase in funds, it is expected that the number of Fulbright grants in the next academic year will increase by almost fifty percent.
I wish to recognize the Romanian government for its generous contribution. The additional scholarships will enable more students and scholars from our two countries to contribute to their fields of study. An already strong and exceptionally valuable program, worthy of the Romanian Order of Cultural Merit, Fulbright scholarships will in the future be able to contribute yet more strongly to creating bonds and deepening understanding between Romanian and American scholars and students. It is with full confidence that I expect the Fulbright program to continue to make valuable contributions to our alliance, our strategic partnership, and to the friendship that exists between the people of the United States and Romania.