You have probably heard of the Fulbright program, or at least some of the plays on the name...better to be a Fulbright than a halfbright or half wit. That kind of thing.
In case you haven't heard of what the actual program is, Fulbright is a program of competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists. It was founded by and named for U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946. The program helps U.S. citizens go abroad and non-U.S. citizens come to the U.S.
Part of my responsibility as a Public Affairs Officer is the chair our Fulbright committee. We interview all of the applicants for each of the programs and make our recommendations to Washington on who we think should get the award.
I did my first rounds of these interviews, this time for Estonians seeking to study in the U.S., Thursday and Friday.
We practiced doing the interviews in my training for this position, but nothing prepared me for how seriously impressive these young people are. (I can call them young...not a one was older than me). We had some thirty applicants, and I wish I could send them all to the U.S. Really.
Our committee of five did two solid days of interviews. I obviously can't comment on individual applicants, but I can tell you that many of them were able to conduct the interview in better English than I could! And the accomplishments of some of the applicants who were literally half my age were truly impressive and humbling. This are some gifted folks, and they are the next generation of leaders in this country, in government, law, science, and the arts.
In the end, we selected three candidates and two alternates. The rest we have directed to the Baltic American Freedom Foundation, where they can compete for scholarships to study in the U.S. It would make me happy if all 30 studied in the U.S.
Of course, there is no guarantee that even our three selected candidates will all receive Fulbrights, but I certainly hope so.
Because both of our countries benefit from these exchanges.