It is an honor and a great pleasure to be here this morning, with all of you, surrounded by so many friends of the IIE, the Dept of State and the Fulbright community. Thank you all for joining us.
I specially thank Allan Goodman for hosting me on a fairly short notice… We go back a good number of years now, just over 20, since our days at Georgetown University’s SFS. Again, a big thank you for your teachings and guidance then, and your friendship ever since.
Indeed, the IIE, which I have for a very long time hoped to visit, and especially the Fulbright program, which the Institute has managed since its creation on behalf of the US Department of State, represent some of the best values of both the American society and international cooperation.
The Fulbright Program is truly extraordinary. I know that as an Honorary Alumnus, also as someone who travels heavily and meets great numbers of prominent leaders in politics, academia, business, the arts… Since the Program started in 1946, Fulbrighters have woven a unique network around the globe, connecting scientists, thinkers, and creators with the best centers of excellence and research.
The program has thus yielded clear results in terms of scientific discoveries, new developments, and pioneering publications. But beyond that, it has had an enormous impact when it comes to building bridges between societies and cultures because there is no greater antidote for conflict than mutual knowledge and understanding. It certainly has increased general access to education while inspiring strong relationships between the US and other countries around the world.
That is how the jury of the Prince of Asturias Awards saw it when, last June, they granted the 2014 International Cooperation Award to the Fulbright Program, giving testimony of its relevance across borders and recognizing it as an essential Program in bringing together our two societies and cultures.
Almost 9.000 scholarship recipients have crossed the Atlantic since 1958 when the Fulbright Commission was established in Spain. In this half century-long existence, and always with support from the Spanish government, numerous personalities from Spanish science, culture, or politics have enjoyed this experience. It is a fact that their participation in the program most often meant a major contribution to their careers and opened new doors and paths in their lives.
In Spain, 6 Prince of Asturias and 18 National Awards in the fields of scientific research, economy, history and fine arts are Fulbrighters. These join the impressive numbers of 45 Nobel Prize and 86 Pulitzer Prize Awards received by Fulbrighters worldwide.
You are therefore the current representatives of an already long and rich history. I am certain that with your work and commitment you will do everything possible to honor and preserve it for those that will follow.
As we celebrate the strong history of educational exchange between the US and Spain, I applaud the IIE and its Generation Study Abroad Initiative. And my country is proud to be the number three destination for American students who choose to study abroad.
One of the greatest gifts in life I received from my parents was certainly the gift of an international educational experience. That’s how I had the fortune of meeting Professor Goodman and the vibrant academic community of this great nation.
This experience meant a great deal to me; changed me for the better, opened my mind to other ways, thoughts and cultures gathered in one campus, and certainly enriched my perspective and appreciation of the world. It helped me understand more vividly that if we put humanity before difference, we begin to see the world as one. Then it only becomes much easier to help make the world a better place.
So it is only natural for me to encourage any effort to increase the numbers of students studying abroad and to share your great aspiration to make every student have an international experience. Particularly, I would be very happy to see more American students coming to Spain and therefore more of our universities attracting them.
But in talking about education opportunities and about a better future, I would like us to keep very present in our minds and hearts the severe economic crisis that has hit Europe and Spain in recent years. It has hindered and obstructed the normal personal and professional development of many people, especially our youth, with and without higher education degrees.
We all understand the disappointment and frustration that these difficult circumstances have caused. Today, while we celebrate the great history of the Fulbright Program, together with the IIE´s work, and both their contributions to human progress, I would like to take this opportunity to send all these young people and their families a message of hope and confidence in our common future.
Through sacrifice and effort, Spain is working to come out of the crisis stronger and more self confident. Our economy is now more diverse and competitive as well as more productive and open to the world. We have demonstrated that we are a Nation that responds decisively ─but also with solidarity─ to the most complex challenges.
A sample of this ─not a minor one─ is the pivotal change in our economic relations and exchanges with the US. While the US remains one of the most important investors in our country, in the last decade Spain stands out as a top foreign investor in the US today.
Your presence in the U.S., together with thousands of visiting professors and young professionals of Spanish firms, is also helping to bring our two countries closer than ever in the long history that for centuries has united Spaniards and Americans.
During 300 years, Spain, its language, its culture, its Administration and laws were present in this land helping shape what is today the United States of America. To the extent that it is almost impossible to understand the contemporary reality of this country ─and grasp or balance its rich diversity─ without taking into account our historic contribution. The fact that about 50 million people claim the Hispanic culture and the Spanish language as their own is a good example that owes partly to that shared heritage and claims to be a part of this great nation’s core identity.
Spain and the United States share the same values of democracy, liberty and fundamental freedoms. We aspire to the similar goals and we face the common challenges of this century with an equal determination to safeguard the best future for coming generations. The Fulbright Program embodies these convictions, and it helps build a more democratic, secure and prosperous world that benefits us all.
The 21st century is the century of knowledge, of culture…of education. We ought to rise and meet the new challenges to our coexistence; we must all play a part.
As we work to further our bi-lateral exchange programs between Spain and the US, together we are working to develop the next generation of global leaders; laying the foundation for a future brightened with global citizens, who know each other, know the world and fight for peace. All of you here provide a clear demonstration of this truth.
Let us help each other in this endeavor.
As you well understand, knowledge and education are key to compete and succeed in a changing environment. With your training and your ability, with your determination and your entrepreneurial spirit, you represent a great future for our two nations.
Keep up the good work, I wish you good luck, and remember: we need you!
Thank you all very much.