The Prince of Asturias Awards are a series of annual prizes awarded in Spain by the Prince of Asturias Foundation upon those whose scientific, technical, cultural, social, and humanitarian work “constitutes an outstanding contribution at the international level.” I was honored to accept the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, on behalf of the Fulbright Program, from His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain on October 24. The Award, however, belongs to Fulbright alumni from around the world who have made the Fulbright Program successful since 1946.
Five Fulbrighters, past and present, accompanied me on stage during the award ceremony in Oviedo, Spain. These remarkable young people are emblematic of the Fulbright program’s excellence, breadth, and spirit around the world. The “Fulbright Five," as they became known during the award festivities, included a Pakistani filmmaker, a Spanish telecommunications pioneer, a South African musician, an American educator, and an Indonesian microbiologist studying sustainable aquaculture.
Other honored guests and representatives of the Fulbright Program included two members of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Chairman Tom Healy, and former U.S. Ambassador Gabriel Guerra-Mondragón, as well as Mrs. Harriet Fulbright.
In June of this year, H.M. King Felipe and I spoke of our countries’ shared commitments to supporting academic exchange as a means to promote mutual understanding and to foster increased economic competitiveness for the 21st century. The King is a long-time supporter of the Fulbright Program, and is an honorary alumnus who studied at Georgetown University.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and was created to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Program includes academic exchanges between the United States and over 160 countries with more than 360,000 alumni, including 53 Nobel laureates and 80 Pulitzer Prize recipients.
For nearly 70 years, the United States Congress has funded and supported the Fulbright Program in partnership with other governments worldwide and the global higher education community. A model of international cooperation that connects people, institutions, and ideas around the world, the Program thrives thanks to the dedication of staff at the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the work of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Bilateral Commissions, and U.S. embassies around the world, as well as partner institutions that administer the program on the government’s behalf.
Each year, 8,000 Fulbrighters worldwide benefit from what they often define as “life-changing" educational exchange programs that increase their ability to work internationally and collaboratively to find solutions to global challenges and to become future leaders in their chosen sectors.
The honor bestowed upon the Fulbright Program by the Prince of Asturias Foundation is one that the larger Fulbright community will cherish. I am incredibly proud to have been a part of this celebration.
About the Author: Evan M. Ryan serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. Follow @ECA_AS on Twitter.