Dozens of Fulbright Foundation scholars, both Greek and American, made their way down leafy Irodotou Attikou Street on Monday, enjoying the shade from the trees in the National Garden, as they headed toward the Presidential Mansion for a special celebration hosted by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
The event marked the 70th anniversary since the agreement establishing the Fulbright program for educational exchanges between Greece and the United States was signed in Athens. Since then, 5,500 Greek, American and Greek-American scientists, academics, artists and students have benefited from the initiative launched by Senator J. William Fulbright in 1945.
“Education is a slow-moving but powerful force. It may not be fast enough or strong enough to save us from catastrophe, but it is the strongest force available for that purpose and in its proper place, therefore, is not at the periphery, but at the center of international relations,” he had said.
On Monday, speaking to the audience, which included US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, New Democracy shadow foreign minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos and former ambassadors, Pavlopoulos lauded the Fulbright Program as an “institution of a truly global scale, with a pivotal contribution worldwide to the advancement of science and culture.”
Pavlopoulos stressed that the program began in Greece at a time when the country was torn by civil strife and that it was an initiative which helped the country a lot.
The American ambassador, in turn, said that the fact Fulbright Greece is the oldest program on the European continent and the second oldest worldwide is “proof of the importance both countries attach to education.”
“It is also telling of the bilateral approach adopted by both countries in order to promote and defend our nations’ interests,” Pyatt said. “In these seven decades, the Fulbright Program has helped our countries understand one another better while at the same time enriching our understanding of the world around us.”
The head of the local chapter of Fulbright Greece, Artemis Zenetou, looked back to the institution’s 30th anniversary in 1978, when Senator Fulbright came to Athens and met with President Constantinos Tsatsos at the Presidential Mansion. “It was his first and only visit,” she said.
“It is an incredible honor for the Fulbright family to be welcomed to the Presidential Mansion,” Zenetou said, addressing Pavlopoulos.
“The educational programs offered by the Fulbright Foundation have grown in number and diversity over the years, and are constantly being adapted to suit the needs of the country. Most important, though, is the fact that they have a multiplier effect, because the benefits are not restricted just to the people who receive the scholarships, but have an impact on their broader professional and scientific environment,” Zenetou said.
“I would also like to stress the importance of the Fulbright Program in promoting Greece and Greek culture in America. The scholarships help Greek culture, cinema and the arts more generally, as well as sciences, travel to America.”