On April 9, the University of Tampere will confer upon former
U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright an Honorary Doctorate of
Letters. In awarding this degree, on the Senator's 87th
birthday, the University will honor one of the past half
century's most influential figures in both higher education and
diplomacy. It is an honor that the Senator himself will well
appreciate, for there is a special relationship between the
international educational exchange programs which bear his name,
and both Finland and the University of Tampere.
J. William Fulbright was already a distinguished educator, with
personal experience in international studies, before beginning his
political career. At the age of 20 he was awarded a prestigious Rhodes
Scholarship for advanced study at Oxford University in England. For a
young man from a small town in Missouri who had not yet been even to the
major cities of his own country, it was a powerful and formative
experience. Fulbright remained at Oxford for four years, earning two
degrees, touring much of Europe, and returning to the United States
convinced of the value of living and studying abroad.
Back in America, his career developed rapidly. He moved from
professor at age 26 to President of the University of Arkansas at
the age of 34, becoming in 1939 the youngest-ever head of a state
university. Turning to politics, he was elected to the U.S.
House of Representatives in 1942. Two years later he was elected
junior Senator from the State of Arkansas. He was to remain in
the U.S. Senate for 30 years, the last 15 years of which he
served as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In 1945, in only his second year in the Senate, Fulbright
introduced the legislation for which his name is now known
throughout the world. It was two weeks after the atomic bomb had
been dropped on Hiroshima. The war in Europe had already ended,
and the Pacific War was soon to end. At issue before the Senate
was millions of dollars of surplus military equipment abroad,
which now had either to be stored or be shipped back to the U.S.,
seemingly in either case at great expense to U.S. taxpayers.
Fulbright proposed a third alternative. Convinced that education was
the key to understanding; that international understanding might follow if
we could learn to know each other as fellow human beings -- as people
rather than nations; and that the future of humanity laid not only in
education and understanding but also in the prevention of nuclear
holocaust; he proposed together with Congressman Wayne Hays an amendment
to the War Surplus Act that surplus materials would simply be given to
foreign governments who needed them in return for U.S. students being able
to study at universities in their countries.
The proposal was based on Fulbright's lifelong belief in the dynamics
of education, empathy, and human understanding. Or as he put it, "If
large numbers of people can learn to know and understand people from
nations other than their own, they might develop a capacity for empathy, a
distaste for killing other men, and an inclination for peace."
The Fulbright-Hays amendment was a classic political bargain in which
everybody got something: the U.S. got rid of its costly surplus and
gained expanded educational opportunity for American students and
scholars. The foreign governments involved got usable military equipment
at no direct cost, and also benefitted from both the presence of American
students at their universities and, through additional Fulbright
legislation which followed, the opportunity to send their own scholars to
the United States.
Thus began a succession of reciprocal exchange initiatives funded under
the Fulbright name which, in the words of one of Senator Fulbright's
former Oxford instructors, has been "responsible for the largest and most
significant movement of scholars across the earth since the fall of
Constantinople in 1453."
Fulbright and Finland
Finland formally joined the Fulbright program in 1952, and while
Finland is but one of 120 countries participating in Fulbright
exchanges, it has a record of exceptional accomplishment. Nearly
3000 Finnish scholars, including a remarkable percentage of
Finland's professors, politicians, and leading cultural figures,
have gone to the U.S. via Fulbright programs, and some 1000
American scholars have researched, studied or taught in Finland.
But for William Fulbright, perhaps even more significant than the
quality or quantity of Finnish exchanges has been the example
Finland has provided in its support and expansion of his basic
exchange concept. First, repayments of Finland's 1923 post-war
debt to the United States were converted in 1949 into the ASLA
(Amerikan Suomen Lainan Apurahat) fund to enable Finnish-American
exchanges even before Finland formally joined the program.
Then in 1975, at Finland's initiative, the remaining $3,000,000
of the debt was used to establish the new Finland-America
Educational Trust Fund. Interest from this Fund now pays more
than 60% of the costs of the Finnish Fulbright program, and has
enabled Finland to maintain both more stable exchange levels and
a higher per capita exchange proportion than most of the 120
other participating countries.
As Fulbright observed in 1987, at the 35th anniversary of the program
in Finland, "the Finnish example has given the program great prestige" and
has provided a remarkable parallel to his own original concept. Finland's
establishment of the Trust Fund with its debt repayments was "a symbolic
act of converting the debris of war into a constructive effort to bring
about future peace."
Fulbright and Tampere
Senator Fulbright is also well aware of the contributions of
Tampere University in supporting the Fulbright exchange efforts
both in Finland and beyond. During the 12 years between 1978 and
1990 that it was represented on the Finnish Fulbright Board,
Tampere developed models for exchange orientations and
publications that became used both by other universities in
Finland and other Fulbright Commissions throughout Europe.
Tampere was the first Finnish member of NAFSA: Association of
International Educators, an organization established in 1948 with
Fulbright's assistance to develop infrastructural support in higher
education worldwide to help facilitate the movement and activity of
growing numbers of exchange scholars. 14 Finnish universities are now
among NAFSA's 7000 members worldwide.
Tampere University also hosted the 30th Anniversary Conference of
the Fulbright Program in Finland (1983) and the 35th Finnish
anniversary and 40th Anniversary in Finland of the Fulbright
Program worldwide (1987), the opening ceremonies of which were
also held in Tampere on April 09, on Fulbright's 82nd birthday.
In 1984 Tampere created the first interdisciplinary American Studies
Program in a Finnish university, providing a framework by which
intercultural awareness also could be advanced on the scientific level,
and enabling a higher level of international expertise and understanding
consistent with Fulbright's ideals.
And Tampere has also played a key role in the ISEP (International
Student Exchange Program), which began in 1979 under Fulbright
authorization. ISEP expands the original Fulbright emphasis on research,
teaching and graduate-level studies to also include undergraduate
exchanges. Tampere was the first Nordic university to join ISEP in 1982,
and became in 1986-87 the third-most-active ISEP institution with 23
students exchanged. There are now eight ISEP universities in Finland.
In 1991 Tampere began coordinating through the ISEP Board the latest
Fulbright initiative, the new 1000/1000 program which expands
undergraduate exchange opportunities between the U.S. and Russia and the
Baltic States through the expertise and resources of ISEP in Finland.
Thus, in accepting his Doctorate on April 9, J. William Fulbright will
recognize that Finland has not only benefitted from its exchange
opportunities, but that Finland -- and Tampere in particular -- has also
visibly and effectively contributed to the success of the programs which
bear his name. As he noted in his 1987 conference letter, "I applaud the
activity with which Tampere University has supported the objectives of the
exchange program and the international understanding which it fosters."
The accomplishments of Finland and Tampere are among the best examples
in support of Senator Fulbright's underlying philosophy, that educational
exchange can promote both the expansion of knowledge between peoples and
nations, and simultaneously the development of international peace and
It is perhaps symbolic that April the 9th is not only the birthday of
Senator Fulbright, but also the birthday of Mikael Agricola, father of the
written Finnish language. Just as Agricola, more than five hundred years
ago, helped open national windows for the Finnish people, so more recently
has the legislation introduced by William Fulbright helped open
international windows for Finnish culture and higher education.
The Senator will appreciate this coincidence as we honor him, and
he in turn honors us, at Tampere University on April the 9th.