When the Obama administration wanted to cut $30 million from the Fulbright budget last March, the alumni started the Save Fulbright campaign. It was a success, the Senate and House voted to restore the funding and in December, President Obama "signed the 2015 federal budget into into law that not only fully restored Fulbright funding at its previous 2014 levels but also increased it by $1.8 million to $236,485,000."
Good news? Yes!
But unfortunately we got bad news from another important exchange program: The alumni association of the Parlamentarisches Patenschaft Programm (Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange: CBYX) write:
The US Department of State has cut funding for the CBYX program by 50% for the 2015-2016 program year, and the future of the program's existence is in danger. In order to guarantee that CBYX, one of the most prominent German-American exchange programs for the past 30 years, continues to support 700 German and American participants annually, funding for the program must be restored to $4 million.
What kind of program is it? "The Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange was created in 1983. CBYX enables 350 young Americans to study in Germany annually. At the same time 285 German High School students and 75 German young professionals experience their year abroad in the United States. CBYX is a joint scholarship by the US Congress and the German Bundestag that enables a total of 700 young people to study abroad. The program is under the patronage of the President of the German Parliament."
The alumni launched the Save CBYX campaign asking all supporters to sign an online petition appealing to the State Department to reverse its decision. Fortunately, "the German Bundestag has pledged its support to help fund the entire costs of the program for the current year. However, without a reaffirmed commitment to continue funding at the $4 million level by the United States, the program will be in jeopardy beyond 2015."
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives strongly believe that the relationship between the United States and Germany remains a strategic priority and should be supported through exchanges such as CBYX. Members of the House German-American Caucus recently wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry stating:
"At a time of growing unrest in Eastern Europe and Russia, increased violence in the Middle East, and trade negotiations ongoing between the United States and Europe, our relationship with Germany remains as vital as any time since the establishment of the CBYX. We believe reductions would have an adverse effect upon bilateral relations."
The PPP Alumni started the petition yesterday and they have received nearly 4.000 signatures already.
This program has given 23.000 young Germans and Americans the opportunity to explore each other's culture since its inception. About 700 young people participate in the exchange annually. A lot of speeches are being held on German-American understanding. This is the moment to turn words into deeds. Four million dollar for a program that is crucial for setting the stage for the next transatlantic generation seems to be an appropriate and legitimate cause in the context of a federal budget of $2.4 trillion. Let's pave the road for an enduring German-American dialogue between the younger generations.
Remember: Save the cheerleader, Save the world! ;-)
Joerg Wolf is a Fulbright alumnus, Johns Hopkins 1999-2000. Follow me on Twitter @transatlantic