Good afternoon. It is wonderful to see you all here today at this truly historic event, and thank you, Tommy, for the warm introduction.
I cannot think of a better way to start 2015 than to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program. 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations. As we look back at how close our countries have grown, how the ties between our people have strengthened, and how quickly Vietnam has developed economically, there is no better place to tell that story than here with all of you from FETP.
FETP and the Fulbright program were established several months before the normalization of relations, thanks to visionary leaders from both countries, including Secretary of State, John Kerry, and my friend Thomas Vallely from Harvard. I believe it sends a powerful message about American values, and what our hopes were for this relationship 20 years ago, that some of the first initiatives we launched in Vietnam were in the field of education.
Over 20 years, our relationship has expanded to include a wide range of activities, from a rapidly growing trade relationship to enhanced security cooperation. But I believe it was our work in the field of education that allowed the U.S. and Vietnam to chart a course 20 years ago for a new relationship. U.S.-Vietnam relations now stand as proof for all nations that mutual respect and shared values can transform past differences into future cooperation.
The work done 20 years ago between our two nations to find common ground in the field of education was visionary and inspirational, and you all, the alumni of FETP, are proving every day that this investment has paid off in the work you do every day to build a stronger Vietnam.
As our relationship has grown over the years, we have expanded our educational linkages even further. Vietnam is now the 8th largest source of foreign students in America thanks to the work of EducationUSA, with over 16,500 youth enrolled this year at U.S. universities. The Fulbright program has grown and thrived, and we are very proud that leaders across Vietnam, including at the highest levels of government, are among the over 600 Vietnamese alumni of the program. Fulbright has also brought over 400 U.S. scholars to Vietnam, showing that Americans are eager to help Vietnam fulfill its potential. And Vietnam is also a leader in one of our newest programs focused on education and youth development, the President’s Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative, in which Vietnam has more members than any other country in the region.
When Presidents Obama and Sang signed the Comprehensive Partnership in 2013, they put educational diplomacy at the very center. This reflects our shared goals for what we can achieve in the next 20. We believe an important part of realizing this vision will be the establishment of Fulbright University of Vietnam, and so does the United States Congress. I am very pleased to tell you today that the Congress recently passed legislation that will allow the Secretary of State to make a multi-million dollar award to the Trust for University Innovation in Vietnam to support the establishment of FUV. The size of this award will make it very clear that we know Fulbright University Vietnam is a great investment in Vietnam’s future.
Let me also take this opportunity to speak directly with you, the alumni of FETP, about why the US government has made this commitment, and what it means for the relations between our two countries in the future. Our goal is clear: we want to help Vietnam become a strong prosperous and independent country that respects the rule of law and human rights. It is in the interest of the United States to reach this result, and we know that in the long term, the ultimate success of our efforts to help Vietnam build a better future for its people depends, of course, on people.
I say, ‘in the long term’ because that is the view the United States takes of our relations with Vietnam. It was with that long-term perspective that our leaders built FETP 20 years ago. And it is with this view that I want to make sure you all know that we are committed not just to FETP and Fulbright University Vietnam as institutions, but also to you as individuals. Our commitment to you did not end when you finished your studies at FETP; it continues today through the opportunities we make available to alumni of U.S. government exchange and educational programs around the world. You have the knowledge and power to propel Vietnam forward, and you have shown over the last 20 years that the vision for what the U.S.-Vietnam relationship could be was a goal worth pursuing.
Thank you to FETP for this wonderful celebration, and for all that you have achieved over the last 20 years. I am excited to be here with you all today to talk about where we can go in the next 20.