Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all for coming out tonight.
Please allow me to give a special welcome to Executive Director Marcel Oomen, whose leadership of the Fulbright Center for more than 20 years has ensured the continuing success of the program. I’d like to also thank the members of the Fulbright Executive Committee and Board for their contributions. In that vein, I am happy to welcome two new members to the Board, Mattie Bekink and Hollis Kurman.
Mattie is a Fulbright alumnus, having spent almost a year in the Arab Law Bureau in Qatar. She currently advises the Anne Frank House on its international programming. Hollis is a prolific speaker and writer, as well as the chair of Ivy Circle Netherlands, which funds a Fulbright Scholarship. As fellow Hoyas, they both will bring remarkable energy and vision to the Board.
A warm welcome as well to the current participants and alumni here this evening.
Approximately a quarter of a million people have participated in the Fulbright program since President Truman signed it into law in August 1946. As I’m sure the Fulbright alumni present here tonight will attest, the opportunity to study or teach abroad is life-changing. It not only advances one’s academic development and expands contacts, but it also changes the way we look at our own societies. Senator Fulbright once said, “we must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world.”
The Senator was aware that nations that share common interests are stronger and more prosperous together. As a young man, he introduced legislation that helped lead to U.S. participation in the United Nations. He played a significant role in education and culture as well, overseeing the exchange program that bears his name and drafting legislation that led to the establishment of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The ties between the United States and Netherlands represent our longest, unbroken, peaceful relationship with any country in the world. Our cooperation improves the security and economic well being of both our societies.
It is now my privilege to introduce Marcel, who is as passionate now as he was when he started in 1994 about promoting and improving the Fulbright Program in the Netherlands.