Friday, April 6, 2007

A Brief History of the Fulbright Legislation and Biography of Senator J. William Fulbright

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to introduce a bill for reference to the Committee on Military Affairs, authorizing the use of credits established abroad for the promotion of international good will through the exchange
of students in fields of education, culture, and science

J. William Fulbright, freshman Senator from Arkansas
One afternoon in late September, 1945 during a routine session of the U.S. Senate

A Bill to amend the Surplus Property Act of 1944 to designate the Department of State as the disposal agency for surplus property outside the United States, its Territories and possessions, and for other purposes

The Fulbright Act of 1946

In 1945, as a direct response to the tragedy of World War II, freshman Senator J. William Fulbright from Arkansas introduced legislation sponsoring exchange programs for students and faculty between the United States and foreign countries that was eventually signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on August 1, 1946. Fulbright (1976) stated that “it is…fair to say that the Exchange Program is an instrument of foreign policy, not just for the Untied States, for all participating nations – as well as a memorable educational experience for the individual participants” (p. 2). The educational exchange and foreign language components from additional legislation such as The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (also known as The Smith-Mundt Act), amendments to The Mutual Security Act in 1952, and The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958 were consolidated into The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (better known as The Fulbright-Hays Act). The Fulbright-Hays Act remains law today and represents the world’s flagship international educational exchange policy and program. The Fulbright Act set in motion a great history of international exchange between the United States and the rest of the world. The year 2006 marked the 60th anniversary of the Fulbright Program.

The following is a summary of J. William Fulbright’s biography from the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs of the U.S. State Department: J. William Fulbright received his B.A. degree in 1925 from the University of Arkansas followed by an M.A. degree from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. During the early 1930’s Fulbright studied law at George Washington University followed by a brief stint working for the Justice Department and lecturing at George Washington University’s School of Law. In 1936 he began lecturing in law at the University of Arkansas and from 1939 to 1941 he served as president of this same institution, at that time he was the youngest serving university president. Fulbright was elected to the United States Congress in 1942 and served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He then served in the United States Senate from 1945 to his retirement in 1974. During his tenure in the Senate he was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1949 to 1974, serving as committee chairman from 1959 to 1974. Senator J. William Fulbright was one of the most influential politicians of his time.


Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs. (date unknown). Biography of J. William Fulbright. Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs, United States Department of State. URL retrieved November 11, 2006 from the World Wide Web:

The Fulbright Act (Public Law 584; 79th Congress).

Fulbright, J.W. (1976). The most significant and important activity I have been privileged to engage in during my years in the senate. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 424, 1-5.

Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, 22 U.S.C. § 2458a (Fulbright-Hays Act).

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