Exchange Between Nations

From 1959 to 1974 J. William Fulbright served as Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As a public servant in a turbulent age, Senator Fulbright committed himself to the belief that wars between nations are preventable. He stressed the importance of education as foundational to fostering a sense of global understanding.

In doing so, The Fulbright Program was established in 1946. It is now the largest international educational exchange program with “...the simple purpose [being] …to erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets nations against one another.”

As a citizen and former President of the Republic of Finland, I take pride in the fact that following World War II, Finland was the only country to pay back its debt to the United States. The U.S. Government recognized this commitment by establishing an educational foundation to link the two countries together.

Fulbright Finland remains a caretaker of this historic act. To this end, 2017 is a special year. It marks not only Finland’s centenary as an independent republic but also the 65th anniversary of the Fulbright Agreement between Finland and the United States.

To honor Finland’s centenary, the United States Congress presented a gift in the form of 500,000 USD to the Fulbright Finland Foundation in Helsinki. Such generosity not only reflects the spirit of the American people, but recognizes the historic role the Fulbright Program has played in advancing cross-cultural understanding.

Nearly 20 years ago, I received the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, as a recognition of “ongoing involvement in preventing crises, resolving conflicts, and promoting peace to improve life for people in some of the world’s most troubled regions”. At the same time, I founded the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) with the aim to prevent and resolve violent political conflicts. 17 years on, CMI continues to advance peacemaking around the world through mediation and dialogue.

From brokering the independence of Namibia, to facilitating the Aceh Peace Agreement, the mandates that I have been given have ultimately required backing from the United States. In fact, such support has been a prerequisite for my pursuing these assignments to their rightful completion. The position of the United States remains pivotal in harnessing multilateral consensus on the world’s most pressing issues.

Mediation and dialogue are recognized as the most effective forms of preventing and resolving violent conflicts. It is critical that platforms for exchange between nations are sustained and treasured.

Martti Ahtisaari
President of Finland 1994-2000
2008 Nobel Peace Prize 
2000 Fulbright Prize for International Understanding

Published in Fulbright Finland News 2/2017