Fulbright Gala Presentation Dinner
It is an honour to share the stage tonight with Ambassador Kennedy.
And it is an honour to share it with you.
At a White House reception for Nobel Prize winners many years ago, President Kennedy wryly remarked:
“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
This is not the White House and Thomas Jefferson never had dinner here, but what President Kennedy was talking about that night, almost 60 years ago to the day, rings just as true here tonight as it did there.
He was paying tribute to people of extraordinary ability and character.
And we are doing the same tonight.
You must be that to get this far.
But what comes next will make you even more.
More than 5,500 Australians and Americans have been on the journey you are all about to go on.
Extraordinary people, shaped and changed by this extraordinary scholarship.
And you are now part of that.
What they learnt and brought back helped transform the world around them.
And I hope that you do that too.
You are also part of something bigger than that.
Mark Twain, that great American writer, said “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness”.
This scholarship was conceived with that in mind.
It was initially funded from the sale of surplus US war material.
Scrap iron used to fund education.
An education exchange that William Fulbright hoped would bring “a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs”.
And you are part of that.
People in this room like Brandon from the University of NSW, who is exploring how we can ethically apply the advances we are seeing in artificial intelligence.
Or Radhia from the University of Kansas, who’s commitment to community service will see her examine how public health policy can better help the global community.
Just two examples among many – one Australian, one American - both providing a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs.
And in the world we live in today, that is precious.
To all the American recipients here tonight, welcome to Australia.
I hope the time you spend with us are moments you will treasure for the rest of your lives.
And to all the Australian recipients, soak up every bit of the journey ahead.
I envy you.
If I could live my life again, I would want to do what you are doing.
The chance to study overseas is a rare one.
You’ll learn more than just what you can find online or draw out of any lecture hall or classroom conversation.
You will get a better sense of the world we live in. And how we can shape it and change it for the better.
And also, hopefully a better, deeper understanding of what makes up this unbreakable bond between our two great nations.
While we will never be able to say that we dined with Thomas Jefferson.
I will be able to say that I have dined with you extraordinary people.
Thank you and good luck.