Honouring J. William Fulbright

Oxford again honoured Senator J. William Fulbright (Arkansas & Pembroke 1925) today, with the second annual Oxford Fulbright Distinguished Lecture in International Relations given by Ambassador Thomas Pickering on 'The decade ahead - the US role in the world'.

J. William Fulbright as a Rhodes Scholar, 1925In introducing Ambassador Pickering, Ambassador Richard Arndt, a leading authority on US cultural diplomacy, spoke of the remarkable career of William Fulbright, who represented Arkansas in the United States Senate from 1945 to 1974, and was the longest-serving Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1959-74).

The most outstanding element of Senator Fulbright's enduring legacy is the Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the US government.

Ambassador Arndt spoke of the influence of William Fulbright's experience as a Rhodes Scholar in shaping the Fulbright Program, saying that what he sought to do was 'to replicate and export the Rhodes program' in much expanded form. Ambassador Arndt also referred to Cecil Rhodes's objective, which Senator Fulbright shared, to promote peace between nations, to which they believed such scholarship programs could contribute.

In delivering his eloquent and wide-ranging address on US foreign policy, Ambassador Pickering referred to Senator Fulbright's book The Arrogance of Power (1966), and to his vigorous and candid leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Ambassador Pickering spoke of major changes underway in the world, of challenges facing the US and the world, and of the role of engaged diplomacy and international partnerships in meeting these challenges.

Professor Andrew Hurrell, Montague Burton Professor of International Relations, thanked Ambassador Pickering for 'so eloquently' expounding the case for 'engaged diplomacy', including recognising the linkages between issues, the importance of listening as well as talking in a world of ever more voices, and of preserving power in part through recognising its limits.

In later again thanking Ambassador Pickering for a 'highly stimulating' lecture in honour of 'one of Pembroke College's most distinguished alumni of the 20th century', the Master of Pembroke College, Mr Giles Henderson, referred to William Fulbright's belief that 'educational exchange can turn nations into people'. Referring to Fulbright's time as a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke, and his close and long-lasting friendship with his history tutor (later Master of the College), Ronald McCallum, Mr Henderson said that he 'lived his own international education'.

The Master of Pembroke said how pleased he was that a permanent memorial to Senator Fulbright was being created at Pembroke with an apartment named for him, for visiting academics and graduate students. It is also hoped to raise funds for a career development Fellowship named for Senator Fulbright, and in time a Fulbright professorship of International Relations. For details of these projects, please click here.

It was observed by Sir Peter Ricketts, British Ambassador to Paris and an alumnus of Pembroke College, that Senator Fulbright and Senator Richard Lugar (Indiana & Pembroke 1954), both Rhodes Scholars at Pembroke and both Chairs of the US Senate Foreign Relations, shared a commitment to the use of diplomacy to resolve international problems, which he said was 'more relevant now than for many years'.

The Fulbright lecture was hosted by Oxford's Department of Politics and International Relations, in association with the US-UK Fulbright Commission, the United States Embassy, Pembroke College, and the Lois Roth Endowment

A report on the 2011 Fulbright memorial lecture in Oxford is here. It quotes a letter from William Fulbright in December 1944, replying to congratulations from the Warden of Rhodes House, Dr C K Allen, on his election to the Senate, in which Senator-elect Fulbright wrote: 'I confess that I feel it is quite an honor to be the first Rhodes Scholar to enter the Senate. I only hope that I may be able to make some contribution towards the peace and stability which Cecil Rhodes would like to see in this world.' A copy of this letter is here.

Senator Fulbright's commitment to the peace purpose of the Rhodes Scholarships, and its influence in shaping his thinking on the Fulbright Program, has been quoted by the Warden of Rhodes House, Dr Donald Markwell, in a speech in Ottawa in September 2011 (click here) and in his Christmas letter to the Rhodes community in December 2011 (click here).