(As prepared for delivery)
Thank you, Ambassador Galt, for your introduction – and thank you for the work that you and your staff do in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. I also want to thank the staff of the Institute of International Education. We sincerely appreciate your efforts.
On behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I am very pleased to welcome our Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTA) to Washington, DC, for the mid-year conference. I, and my colleagues at the State Department, are strongly committed to people-to-people exchanges as a key means of advancing our foreign policy goals.
I am delighted to speak with outstanding Fulbright Teaching Assistants from so many different countries. I understand that your group includes 399 Teaching Assistants from 50 countries – teaching 33 different languages at 205 institutions in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
I feel a special connection with this group, because I was a teacher early in my career. I taught social studies for five years, and in many ways, I still think of myself as a teacher.
I want to thank you for helping American students learn your languages – Arabic, Chinese, Brazilian Portuguese, Turkish, and many more – and better understand your countries. By sharing your languages and cultures with us, you increase our citizens’ ability to engage meaningfully with the world; you inspire Americans to study overseas; and you help our young people prepare to engage with businesses, governments, and organizations abroad. Your work has a broad reach – last year’s cohort of FLTAs taught more than 11,000 students, and their interactions with communities outside of the classroom reached even more people.
The Fulbright FLTA Program benefits your home countries as well. Many of your governments are eager for their citizens to gain English skills, in order to expand their educational and economic opportunities. When you return home, sharing your new knowledge and expertise will help your students at home speak English more fluently, take advantage of the many opportunities that speaking English provides, and be better informed about the United States.
I would like to highlight, and commend, a few of the many innovative ways you are contributing above and beyond your regular classroom responsibilities:
Valentina Kurenshchikova is a Russian language FLTA teaching at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Outside the classroom, she shares Russian language and culture with elementary school children at a local magnet school. Speaking at local schools is a good way to share your background and experiences and get a different view of American life beyond the university campus. Thank you, Valentina.
Winicel May Ancheta is a Filipina FLTA teaching at Skyline College in California who has been actively engaged in her local community. She has conducted a cultural dance workshop, participated in a Filipino history month celebration, and is writing a script for a play on Filipino culture. Winicel, all your efforts are appreciated. Great work.
Dan Basil is a Kenyan FLTA at the University of Pittsburgh where he teaches Swahili. Outside the classroom, Dan volunteers to plant trees in his local community, visits high schools to share his language and culture, and helped organize “A Taste of East Africa,” an event that brought students together to share food, music, poetry, and stories from East Africa. Thank you, Dan, for all the ways you have found to get involved and connect with Americans while you are here.
I wish there were time to mention the outstanding contributions of everyone here. You are having a positive impact in so many creative ways on your host schools and communities. We hope that your participation in this mid-year conference will help you continue to make the most of your experience in the United States.
Now, I would like to speak for just a moment about the Fulbright Program, the flagship educational exchange of the U.S. government. Its goal is to foster mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic exchange. The program builds knowledge and promotes cooperation to address shared challenges and create more peaceful and prosperous societies.
Our hope is that your Fulbright exchange will allow you to understand the United States better – and help Americans better understand your countries – through your academic and professional relationships and personal friendships. We hope that you will share your insights about the United States with your friends and colleagues back home.
As a Fulbright scholar, you are part of a global network of more than 380,000 alumni around the world. Among the ranks of Fulbright alumni are 59 Nobel Prize recipients, 71 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 37 current or former heads of state or government, and many outstanding teachers and faculty around the world. Your contributions as Fulbright scholars and educators will influence thousands of young people and have a lasting impact. Please plan to stay connected with our embassies and Fulbright commissions, and our alumni network, after you return home.
Let me conclude by thanking all of you for participating in this exchange – and for the hard work and dedication you bring each day to your classrooms and communities. Please use this conference as an opportunity to reflect, build new skills, and discuss ways that you can share and extend your experience with others.
I wish you all success in the rest of your time here. Thank you.