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A History of the Fulbright Program, 1946–2021

The Fulbright Program has fostered mutual understanding between the United States and other countries since 1946 as the U.S. government's leading international academic exchange program. In celebration of the Program's 75th anniversary, the Opening Plenary of the 2021 Fulbright Association Annual Conference featured a special historical presentation: "Fulbright Program 1946–2021: Philosophy, Politics, Bureaucracy, Money," by Lonnie R. Johnson, who managed bilateral Fulbright exchanges between Austria and the U.S. (1997–2019) as Executive Director of the Austrian-American Educational Commission (Fulbright Austria). 

"I have been involved in advocacy for the program, and the history of the program is absolutely instrumental there," said Johnson. "When I started working with the Fulbright Program in the late 1990s, I wanted to have a better understanding of the program's complex architecture and the philosophy and politics behind it, and this led me to the history of the Austrian-American program and ultimately, the global program."

Johnson is currently working on a book about the history of the Fulbright Program with the working title, Remembering and Forgetting Fulbright: The Remarkable History of the Fulbright Program, 1946-2021 (University of Arkansas Press), with a grant from the Botstiber Institute for Austrian American Studies. He is author of Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends (Oxford University Press, 2011, third ed.) and other books on Viennese, Austrian and Central European history, which were informed by his work in educational exchange.

Download a PDF of the presentation, "Fulbright Program 1946–2021: Philosophy, Politics, Bureaucracy, Money," here.

Celebrating the Fulbright Program

2021 marked the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Government's flagship educational and cultural exchange program signed into law by U.S. President Harry S. Truman on August 1, 1946. Now, for 76 years, Fulbright has been a mainstay of U.S. public diplomacy, strengthening binational relationships, enhancing mutual understanding and forging lasting connections. Today, Fulbright is a global public sector—private sector partnership dedicated to supporting the best and the brightest by offering exchange opportunities for dynamic and accomplished students, scholars, artists, teachers and professionals of all backgrounds. Learn how Fulbright celebrated its legacy of global connections and alumni impact here.


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