This is the first of an occasional, and limited, run of posts comparing the present with the past to suggest – though perhaps reveal is a better word – how far into the margins “public diplomacy” is today. The subject of this post is the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, formerly known as the Board of Foreign Scholarships.
This post will not delve into the details of the Fulbright Act, or how, through the Fulbright-Hayes Act of 1961, Senator Fulbright created the perception that his namesake program was larger than it was and not just dwarfed by the exchanges under the Smith-Mundt Act, which the Fulbright program was a small add-on to, but that Fulbright program participants relied on Smith-Mundt Act funds, which could amount to a majority of the participant’s US government funding. Nor will this post discuss how Fulbright virtually erased the Smith-Mundt Act name from the world of exchanges and changed the name of the Board of Foreign Scholarships to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in 1961. For a glimpse into some of these points, see the Incompleteness of the Fulbright Paradox.
Below are two lists. The first is who was appointed to the first Board of Foreign Scholarships, the governance board overseeing the Fulbright program. This board had more responsibility, authority, and a broader mandate than the modern J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (see 22 USC 2456). Though the Fulbright Act was signed into law on August 1, 1946, the first board was not appointed until July 1947. This is that inaugural board:
- General Omar Bradley, Administrator of Veterans Affairs [Bradly was a 5-star, General of the Army. His inclusion was, in part, because the Fulbright Act was aimed at the many GIs requesting to study overseas. At the time of the February 1946 hearing for what would become the Fulbright Act, the VA was receiving about 500 requests a week from demobilizing troops to study abroad.]
- Sarah Gibson Blanding, president, Vassar College
- Laurence Duggan, director, Institute of International Education
- Charles S. Johnson, president, Fisk University [first Black president of Fisk]
- Walter Johnson, professor of history, University of Chicago
- Ernest O. Lawrence, professor of physics, University of California [Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939]
- Martin R. P. McGuire, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Catholic University
- Francis Trow Spaulding, commissioner of education of the State of New York
- John W. Studebaker, United States Commissioner of Education [this is the predecessor of today’s Secretary of Education]
- Helen C. White, professor of English, University of Wisconsin
Mr. Spaulding was the chairman and Ms White was the vice chairman of the board.
Today, the members of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board are:
- Paul Winfree, director, Heritage Foundation
- Margaret Chai Maloney, executive director, Palo Alto Education Group
- John DeStefano, advisor, Juul [title listed for the board: Former Assistant to the President and Counselor to President Trump]
- Hope Hicks [no current position listed, title listed for the board: Former Assistant to the President and Counselor to President Trump]
- Alphonso Jackson, vice-chairman, JPMorgan Chase [title listed for the board: former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2004-2008]
- Derek Lyons, general counsel, AppHarvest [former White House Staff Secretary and Counselor to President Trump]
- Heather Nauert, senior fellow, Hudson Institute [title listed for the board: Former Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and Spokesperson for the Department of State]
- Andrew Olmem, partner, Mayer Brown LLP [former Deputy Assistant to President Trump]
- William Ruger, vice president, Charles Koch Institute
- Sarah Huckabee Sanders [no current position listed, title listed for the board: Former White House Press Secretary]
- Amy Swonger, principal, Invariant [title listed for the board: Former Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs]
- John M. Viola, president, Florida Panthers Foundation
Mr. Winfree serves as the chairman and there does not appear to be a vice chairman.
Any comparison between the appointments by former President Trump and that of any other President, let alone Truman in the early years of rebuilding relationships, capacity, and countering Russian political warfare, is like comparing turnips to apples. Any such comparison is also challenged by how the responsibilities of board members have changed even as the prestige remains.
Image: Senator J. William Fulbright (left) and Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs William Benton (right) watch as President Harry S. Truman sign the Fulbright Act into law, August 1, 1946.