Harriet Fulbright

By:Lucy Bryan Issue: Biennial of the Americas 2010 Section:The Americas Roundtables

Awareness and Involvement Are Key to Philanthropic Collaborations


We may not all be Fulbright scholars, but we all have something to learn from Harriet Fulbright. Mrs. Fulbright, known for the Fulbright Scholar Program and her role as president of J. William and Harriet Fulbright Center, is a woman with experience.

From her bright blue business suit to her compassionate smile, it is clear that Harriet Fulbright knows what she is doing. Luckily for others, this also translates into a great deal of wisdom, empathy, and awareness. Throughout the roundtable discussion, Fulbright demonstrated all of these qualities through her thoughtful engagement with the issues and her fellow dignitaries.

Mrs. Fulbright, who has long been interested in Latin America, was immediately attracted to the Biennial. She said, “I thought it was really wonderful that a state in the middle of this country was enlightened enough to create this event.” Her interest in Latin America traces back to when, after her mother passed, Mrs. Fulbright’s father married an Argentine. Then, at age fifteen, Harriet spent an entire summer in Colombia. Mrs. Fulbright continued to build upon such travel and has lived abroad teaching English in Germany, Korea, and Russia. These experiences demonstrate her lifelong devotion to the field of education as well as her international interests.

Her global perspective continues into the present. Right before participating in Denver’s celebration of the Western Hemisphere, she attended an event in Brussels where participants discussed leadership issues with a specific focus on women. Although Mrs. Fulbright humbly states, “I haven’t been at the forefront of the women’s movement,” she is certainly an admirable female figure. Recollecting the discrimination she and others faced in years past, she is conscious of her role as a woman and says, “I have certainly worked very hard to make sure that women do get their rightful place.”

Her advice, particularly to young people, is to get involved and bond. Her global perspective reveals itself again as she advocates using the plentitude of information and communication technology at everyone's disposal. “Awareness is not enough,” Mrs. Fulbright advises. “We must not only be aware, but willing to involve ourselves in the issues that concern us.” This is, according to Fulbright, the solution.

Born in New York City, Mrs. Fulbright graduated from Radcliffe College and earned her MFA from George Washington University, after which she continued to spend much of her life in the field of education.