On 17 May, more than 120 alumni and supporters from across the US gathered at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington, DC for a 65th anniversary reception which was hosted by Rt Hon Mike Moore, New Zealand Ambassador to the United States, and attended by Fulbright New Zealand’s chairperson Helen Anderson and executive director Mele Wendt.
Speakers included Adam Ereli, principal deputy assistant secretary for the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which oversees the Fulbright programme in America, Harriet Fulbright, widow of the programme’s founder Senator J. William Fulbright, and a panel of five US and New Zealand Fulbright alumni and grantees spanning the decades. Current Fulbright New Zealand graduate student Bryony Gibson-Cornish, who is completing a Master of Music degree at the Juilliard School in New York, gave a solo viola recital.
Adam Ereli speech
Thank you for hosting this celebration to mark this wonderful occasion. I’m honored to be here today to highlight the relationship and the partnership between the United States and New Zealand.
Let me take the opportunity to extend my greetings to his Excellency Ambassador Mike Moore and his wife Yvonne, and to former New Zealand Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Jim Bolger and his wife Joan. To Ambassador Moore, Prime Minister Bolger and all of those here who will be participating in the US-New Zealand Pacific Partnership Forum next week, my best wishes for a successful event. I’d also like to recognize Dr Alan Goodman of our implementing partner the Institute of International Education, and Mele Wendt, executive director of Fulbright New Zealand. Thank you all for your support and collaboration. I also want to welcome the many Fulbright alumni and current grantees that are here tonight. The Fulbright Program is a partnership, and its achievements have been eloquently demonstrated by the accomplishments of its current grantees and distinguished alumni.
The Fulbright program is also an integral part of our diplomacy. Last year, the United States and New Zealand celebrated 70 years of formal diplomatic relations, and this year marks the 175th anniversary of the appointment of the first US Consul to New Zealand in 1838. Our relationship is one that is firmly entrenched in the shared values common to both Americans and Kiwis. In the past few years, we’ve signed the Washington and Wellington Declarations, and have held multiple high-level exchange visits. This relationship has gone from strength to strength, as Prime Minister Key likes to say, and our goal is to keep the momentum.
One of our great strengths is the Fulbright Program. Founded in 1946 through the leadership of Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program was designed to “bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.” New Zealand is a core part of this enterprise. It was in 1948 – sixty-five years ago – that the United States and New Zealand jointly established the New Zealand-United States Educational Foundation, known today as Fulbright New Zealand. It is our fifth oldest Fulbright partnership in the world. Since that time, the Fulbright connection between the US and New Zealand has served as a powerful engine to bring our two countries together.
Secretary of State John Kerry is a strong advocate of the Fulbright Program, which he says enables talented citizens from around the world “to share their devotion to diplomacy and peace, their hopes, their friendships, and the belief that all of the Earth’s sons and daughters ought to have the opportunity to lift themselves up.”
Over the past sixty-five years, more than 1,600 New Zealand students and scholars have traveled to the US under the Fulbright banner, and 1,300 American students and scholars have gone to New Zealand. These Fulbright alumni have forged important ties between our two countries, and they have gone on to careers of prominence in government, academe, business, journalism, law, science, and the arts. To those alumni here tonight – your Fulbright grant has made you a member of a very special club. The Fulbright Program is one of the most prestigious exchange programs in the world, and widely regarded as the most influential.
Our prominent alumni from the last sixty-five years are literally too numerous to mention here. All these Fulbright alumni are a testimony to the breadth and depth of the world-class talent that New Zealand and the US have shared with the world. Several recent alumni have captured our imagination. We won’t easily forget Tom McFadden, who went to New Zealand as a 2011 Fulbright US Graduate Student to study science communication at the University of Otago and earned YouTube fame as a “science rapper.” Jennifer Curtin from the University of Auckland received a 2012 Fulbright New Zealand Scholar Award to research women’s pathways to political power in the Anglo-American world at Georgetown University.
We are justifiably proud of the achievements of the Fulbright program under the leadership of the Board of the Fulbright commission in New Zealand and of its Executive Director, Mele Wendt. The peoples of both our countries benefit from the unique partnership that is exemplified by the commission’s work.
Given our special historical relationship, how can we best shape our future together in the area of international education? I can think of a couple of ways: First, we must continue to focus on global and environmental issues, human rights, conflict resolution and other issues that affect us both individually and collectively as nations. Second, we must seek to provide more opportunities for those in our societies who may be less privileged, but who are equally talented and deserving of the chance to participate in educational exchanges – young Kiwi and American students of enormous ability and promise who have the potential to serve their country as its future leaders. We want to work together to foster opportunities that will identify, educate and support the next generation of leaders in both our countries.
The future for the Fulbright Program between the US and New Zealand is bright, and I am confident that we will remain committed to keeping the program vital and strong. And that effort will require the continued focused effort of both my government and the Government of New Zealand. Together, past generations from both our countries have overcome many challenges, moving forward to keep strengthening this relationship. I am confident that the coming generation, with our support, can equal and surpass that sterling record.
Congratulations and best wishes.
Alumni and grantee speeches
David North, 1954 Fulbright US Graduate Student
“Greetings, I am David North – class of 1951 at Princeton, then a Fulbright graduate student at what was then Victoria University College for the 1954-1955 term. My field was political science. Out of a rich and wonderful year, these three thoughts:
- In those days there was not much competition to be a graduate Fulbrighter in New Zealand; as I recall there were twelve slots and eight applicants, and nine of us in the cohort. The ninth was a lady who wanted to study dairy cows in Denmark, without a word of Danish, so they lumped her in with the eight who had volunteered for New Zealand. She went to Massey.
- When my three colleagues and I, all headed for Vic, arrived in Wellington, we learned some new words and pronunciations. We lived on what we thought was Major I Banks Street. That’s what the sign said, but it was pronounced ‘Marshbanks’. On our second day we learned two words and thought they were both Māori – ‘Ta’ and ‘Ta Ta’ – meaning thank you and goodbye. We were crushed, soon after, to learn that they were in Cockney.
- Over the school year I learned that it was perfectly possible for an English-speaking nation and a democracy to be prosperous, caring and rational, and that it was possible for a legislative body to act responsibly. I wish members of the US House of Representatives, or at least the majority members, had spent a year in New Zealand.”
Julie Allen, 1974 Fulbright US Graduate Student
“I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1974 and was able to study geology at the University of Auckland. I loved it so much that I managed to extend my stay and complete a masters degree in geophysics. When I returned to the US, I got a job working in the geology department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. I’ve worked there for over 30 years now, living on Cape Cod with my husband and three daughters.
Back in 1974, when I left my hometown in upstate New York to travel to New Zealand, I had never been on a commercial flight, and I had never traveled outside North America. I think the most obvious impact of the Fulbright experience for me was living inside another culture. I remember being slightly confused at first… How many of you tried to jump into the driver’s seat when you were first picked up at the airport? And did anyone else get invited to ‘tea’ and assume it meant little cakes and tea, not a full mutton dinner with pavlova for dessert? Meeting new people and learning to live in a place that did things just a little bit differently was the beginning of my global education. Thanks to the Fulbright program, ‘thinking globally’ is now a part of who I am.
The friendships I made while studying in New Zealand have lasted for nearly 40 years. The other students in the geology department were often as curious about my life in the US as I was about them. We studied together, went on weekend hikes all over the North Island, camped at sheep stations for geology field trips, partied together and helped each other with our graduate research. I have stayed in touch with many friends and we have shared visits both in the US and New Zealand. In fact, my youngest daughter stayed with my old housemates while visiting New Zealand a few years ago.
And then there is stunning New Zealand – a geologist’s dream. Extinct and active volcanoes, geothermal activity, alps, glaciers and faults. I was so fortunate to be able to explore and learn in such a diverse and unique setting. I was also lucky that the geology department included so many excellent and demanding teachers and eager, bright students.
The US-New Zealand Fulbright offered me a remarkable challenge and opportunity. It opened my eyes to the importance of trying new things. I am extremely grateful for that. Please join me in supporting this program so that other young scholars can be challenged and given the opportunity to try something new.”
Marilyn Lashley, 1994 Fulbright US Scholar Award
“In 1994 I held a Fulbright scholar award at the Alexander Turnbull Library, for the parallel study of social policy targeting the minority problem in New Zealand and the United States.
This invaluable research award altered the course of my life. In addition to making New Zealand my home away from home, I gained Māori whānau and many enduring friendships. Equally important, it refocused my scholarship to the comparative study of indigenous rights, social justice and Pacific studies, launching a series of publications that have since shaped my career.
Although these are personal benefits I received, they also are the fundamental reasons why we must support the Fulbright Program; Fulbright promotes life-long person-to-person, professional, and cultural exchange and provides positive life altering experiences.”
Barry Fischer, 2009 Fulbright US Graduate Student
“I’m Barry Fischer and I received a US graduate award in 2009 to do research at Massey University in Wellington, where I explored renewable energy options for Pacific Island Nations.
My fellowship had a profound impact on me academically, culturally, and professionally.
Academically, I ended up publishing my research, which I would not have able to do without the support of the Fulbright commission, and which will help my work live on as a resource for others.
Culturally, my time and research in the Pacific region taught me a lot about what it means to live an island nation. Being from the sprawling continental US, I’d never truly realized how unique island nations are, socially, environmentally, and economically. Thanks to my fellowship, an island perspective now strongly informs my worldview.
And finally, professionally, the regional expertise and network of colleagues that I formed in New Zealand have enabled me to get involved in a number of interesting international projects since my fellowship concluded.
My Fulbright grant made me a more knowledgeable, more understanding, and more capable global citizen; your ongoing support of the program makes sure that it will shape many more lives in the years to come.
Branwen Millar, 2012 Fulbright New Zealand Graduate Student
“My name’s Branwen Millar and I’m a proud Wellingtonian and Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Award grantee. I’ve just finished the first year towards a Masters of International Affairs at Columbia University thanks to the generous support of Fulbright.
As of today, I’ve been in the US for 280 days exactly, a period of my life which can best be summed up by the phrase ‘I never thought that would happen’:
- I never thought that in my first week at Columbia I’d hear two Nobel Peace Prize winner speak;
- I never thought the first guy to buy me a drink in NYC would be a military man celebrating the first anniversary of the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell;
- I never thought I’d get to listen to my friend Bryony play at the Lincoln Center conducted by Itzhak Perlman;
- I never thought I’d have dinner at a Nobel Prize winning economist’s house – three times;
- I never thought I’d get to attend UN negotiations, nor the Women in the World conference where I met Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep and too many other names to drop;
- I never thought I’d win tickets to The Book of Mormon through a lottery;
- I never thought I would build relationships so fast with so many people who mean so much to me.
That barely scratches the surface of my list of things I never thought would happen, and of course the list itself would not have happened without the support of Fulbright.
As a graduate student living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I have given $10 to the campaign. I hope many of you are in a position to add many more zeros to your donations and I hope my $10 can help one person have an experience they never thought would happen.”