Rep. Hill Delivers Speech at University of Arkansas's Fulbright College: “America and Her Place in a Post-Berlin Wall World”

WASHINGTON D.C. — On Monday, November 25th, Congressman French Hill (AR-02) visited the University of Arkansas, touring the Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering and the Center for Advanced Spatial Technology (CAST), while also spending time with students from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences culminating in a speech entitled, “America and her place in a post-Berlin Wall world”.

The Congressman's full remarks as prepared are copied below:       

Above: Congressman French Hill addresses faculty, students, and administrators at the Univeristy of Arkansas's J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. 

It is a pleasure to visit the Fulbright College at the University of Arkansas. It is always a welcoming presence to be on campus during the fall with bright colors and the smell of falling leaves. And, of course, hearing about the recently texted promises of good grades to be more fully discussed while at home for Thanksgiving this weekend!

This morning I will discuss America and her place in a post-Berlin Wall world with global conflict in full bloom and the return of Great Power Competition ever present. The Fulbright College as venue for this talk serves well as its namesake established a fundamental tool of American foreign policy – – educational exchange. Senator Fulbright walked the sidewalks as an undergraduate, teacher, and university president. In honor of the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, in the spring of 2016, I had the pleasure of sponsoring the planting of a fine young American Elm on the US Capitol grounds. The Architect of the Capitol wisely selected a site on the historic grounds in view of the former senior senator’s window in the Russell Senate Office Building.

Seven decades after the ashes in Dresden and Hiroshima cooled, the loss of 55 million people fresh in policymakers’ nightmares, the United States and her World War II allies stood up the post-war system that we continue to utilize today. The United States alone rested atop the post-war smoldering pile of broken lives, countries, economies, and villages. At the end of the war, America accounted for more than 50 percent of global industrial production. 

In July 1944, just a month after the D-Day invasion and yet a long painful year before the surrender of Japan, 730 delegates from 44 allied nations convened at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Drawing on the lessons of World War I, the Great Depression, and the current conflict, financial leaders would hammer out a global economic reconstruction plan that included trade, the creation of the World Bank (the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IRBD)), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It was an optimistic, even hopeful time.

Just over a year later, George Kennan, then the US chargé d'affaires’s in Moscow, wrote his definitive “Long Telegram” to the State Department. This telegram known as the “Sources of Soviet Conduct” outlined the yet unknown irksome years ahead of the East-West conflict. The next month, in March 1946, Winston Churchill visited Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri as a guest of President Truman and delivered his now famous Iron Curtain speech. It was in this context that then Senator Fulbright proposed that proceeds from the sale of surplus war property fund educational exchanges to promote international goodwill. President Truman signed Fulbright’s vision into law on August 1, 1946.

“Soviet whisperer” George Kennan argued that the West’s containment strategy would succeed and would so “not just because of the strength and steadfastness of the United States and its allies but even more because of the weaknesses and contradictions in the Soviet system itself.”[1]

Kennan’s strategy hinged on allied strong economic and defense investment, which led to an unprecedented coalition to defeat Soviet expansionism, lifted living standards, and dramatically reduced poverty by opening the globe to the benefits of trade and development. Perhaps, most importantly, the long Cold War informed the people of the world more about America as an idea, as the world's best hope – and, as indeed a global “shining city on a hill.”

America as an Idea

Our country and our citizens over the generations have worked mightily to live up to the values and unalienable rights granted us by God above enshrined in our founding documents, fully stated in our U.S. Constitution and its hard-fought and powerfully adopted amendments. Along the way we stumbled, but often redeemed ourselves as in the successful passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts after 100 years of Jim Crow.

Our post-war example included: free expression at home and strong, vocal support of free expression abroad particularly in the form of advocacy for religious tolerance and freedom; the rule of law; human rights; education for women and minorities. These are fundamental tenets of our foreign policy. They are not missed. They are not lost in the contemporary sea sludge of social media malcontents, propagandists, and “brave” digital warriors on the web. Freedom invites “unwanted comparisons”. As Churchill said, “Russia fears our friendship more than our enmity.”[2]

In this regard, I’m grateful that President Trump has prioritized this critical tenet by hosting during each of his first two years in office the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Hosted by the State Department, government leaders, religious leaders and civil society groups from over 80 countries share best practices on identifying challenges to religious freedom; develope responses to persecution; and shape new commitments to protect religious freedom for all. In my work in Congress, I continue to give voice to this very American ideal of religious tolerance. My House resolution, H. Res. 49 with more than 70 bipartisan cosponsors, aims to ensure that the government of Egypt protects the rights of its Coptic Christian population. Established by St. Mark as Bishop of Alexandria in 48 A.D., Copts are about 20 percent of the Egyptian population and are the largest Christian population in the Middle East.

Likewise, I've met with religious leaders from all across the Levant from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jerusalem with an eye towards better shaping American and allied support of Christians and other persecuted religious minorities. Together we can fight against both “martyrdom of blood” as well as what Pope Francis terms “white martyrdom” whereby, even in democracies, Christians are persecuted with limitations on their religious freedom.

This past February, Pope Francis together with the Grand Imam from Egypt’s important Al-Azhar Mosque, issued a message on Human Fraternity inviting “all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters.”[3]

This public coming together of Catholicism and Islam is a powerful statement to all governments around the world, but particularly those in the Middle East, to support religious freedom and religious tolerance.

I found this document signing with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar particularly important given the martyrdom of the 21 Copts brutally beheaded on a Libyan beach in 2015, and the suicide attack in 2016 that killed more than two dozen in the Coptic St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Cairo.

America as an Incubator

Likewise, these decades of Pax Americana have been anchored by America as an incubator of innovation, technological advance, academic freedom and research.  Over those decades thousands have come to our country to study, many each year with the help of the Fulbright Program, to advance their field of study, to make a scientific discovery, or to build an enterprise. We have just as happily sent thousands of our own citizens abroad to gain understanding, language skills, and new ideas in advancing their own futures.

In 2015, while visiting Kabul, Afghanistan, I was fortunate to take tea with a cohort of enthusiastic women leaders. Despite the misery of divided politics and the daily terror delivered by the Taliban, few countries have seen more heartening progress for women and children. Today nine million Afghan children are in school, including 3.5 million girls – – 3.5 million more than allowed by the mullahs in 2001. Two of the women left such an impression on me:

Onaba Payab, 2014 valedictorian of the American University of Afghanistan – – the first female – – and a Fulbright scholar, is now at The Asia Foundation sharing her passion for improving access to educational and economic opportunities; and, Naheed Esar, a native of Jalalabad and a Fulbright Scholar and Arkansas Razorback with a Master’s degree in cultural anthropology. Today, Naheed is at home in Kabul and, this summer, was appointed as Afghanistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Resources Management. And, just last week, I met with Pakistani Senator Mushahid Sayed, Chair of their Foreign Affairs Committee, himself a Fulbright scholar, thanking me for Senator Fulbright and for his vision.

This idea of America as an incubator of education and shared innovation is not new.  The idea of “a Fulbright” traces its roots back to a much earlier time. Indeed, at the time of the Boxer Rebellion. In the late 1890’s, Chinese militias known in English as the Boxers initiated a violent persecution against foreigners and Christian missionaries. In punishment for these atrocities, the Chinese Imperial Court, and 84 nations agreed to reparations. In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt and the Congress diverted America's share of these reparations into the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program. Approximately $17 million was used to educate Chinese students at U.S. universities. President Roosevelt thought that the use of the scholarship fund would in “most satisfactory and subtle of ways” help the United States gain respect and assume its leadership position in the world. This was the first such American engagement as global innovator and educator.

America as a Good Partner

Over the seven decades, with America as an idea and incubator, the nations of the globe raised living standards, expanded education, reduced poverty, and encouraged religious tolerance. These ideals were complemented by an extremely well-focused and realistic diplomatic and military strategy to counter the serious Soviet threat well considered by Churchill, Kennan, and Truman. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in 1949. Lasting peace in Europe was preserved all these years not through scholarships, but through a strong, well-trained tactical and strategic partnership developed in conjunction with our military alliances in Europe via NATO and in Asia with our postwar key ally and partner, Japan.

In 1983, former President Nixon wrote in Real Peace: “The U.S. has played the starring role in the Western alliance for so long that our allies sometime act as if it is a one-man show. Too often when crises have erupted  – – in Iran, in Afghanistan, in Central America – – our allies have sat back and waited for the U.S. to step forward and respond.”[4] Now, sadly, we can add to Nixon's litany, among others, the threats of North Korea's nuclear ambitions and 9/11’s horrors leading to a war on terrorism. 

But, one simply must argue that the Asian and European alliances have been the remarkable successful military partners to the Bretton Woods economic institutions. And thus, given thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the restoration of peace and prosperity to the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, the Allies should take a “victory lap”. A piece of the Berlin Wall sits in my Washington office. It's not a memento or gift for my work in Central and Eastern Europe for President Bush. Instead, it’s a touching gift from a delightful Danish student who stayed with our family as a part of a Rotary International program. My piece of the Wall came chipped from her own wall keepsake brought home by her father, a Danish military officer assigned to NATO.

President Nixon agreed that lasting peace is brought about by realistic, clear keen military readiness that “takes the profit out” of any miscalculation. Nixon argued “all nations know we want peace. But we have to convince them is that they cannot win a war.”[5] Indeed, we did just that and lasting peace has reigned in Asia and Europe. But, today, states like Iran, Putin's Russia, a rising China, and North Korea pursuing aggressive, expansionist strategies all need reminding. 

To serve as helpful reminder,  President Trump authorized lethal aid to Ukraine, reassured Baltic nations by rotating Operation Atlantic Resolve forces to Poland, bombed with Allied assistance the chemical weapons capabilities in Syrian dictator and Iranian/Russian co-conspirator Assad, and, in Asia, led an international coalition to sanction North Korea for its nuclear tests, celebrated the USS Carl Vinson paying a port call in Hanoi to demonstrate American commitment to open seas and signed into law the critical Asia Initiative Assurance Act of 2018. Upon arrival in Congress in January 2015, I was dismayed at the lack of preparedness in our military strategy and the readiness of our forces. I witnessed firsthand at Camp Robinson and Little Rock Air Force Base the lack of training funds from years of budget cuts and ill-timed Continuing Resolutions. I saw the fatigue of our men and women serving down range for so many years. That’s why President Trump’s leadership in working with Congress to rebuild and refocus our strategy and enhance our military readiness was so heartening over the last three years. Two weeks ago, I was piped aboard our newest Virginia Class Attack Submarine, the USS Delaware. She will launch next spring. Her officers and sailors offer a reminder of the critical defensive posture for our homeland and maintenance of our commitment to global trade.  

President Trump clearly shares the “one man show” concern. Particularly refocusing NATO is critical. This is why President Trump’s focus on the strength and long-term diverse financial support of NATO is right on point. NATO countries agreed at their 2014 meeting to spend not less than 2 percent of GDP on defense, of which at least 20 percent should be invested in major equipment. At that time only three countries met this objective. That’s not right.

The President said: “[w]e cannot continue to pay for the military protection of Europe while the NATO states are not paying their fair share and living off the “fat of the land.” We have been very generous to Europe and it is now time for us to look out for ourselves.”[6] This quote is not by President Trump. It actually came from President Kennedy’s complaint in a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on January 22, 1963.[7]  Kennedy’s complaint in the NSC meeting was at the height of the Cold War. We are now 30 years following the unification of Germany and the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Yet, the need for greater financial support in Europe remains a key sticking point. Surely, our friends can up their resolve.

President Trump additionally is right to call for European nations, particularly Germany, to also strengthen their energy independence from Russia and work for greater connections to the world’s new energy leader, the United States. Indeed, energy security is national security.

Access to reliable energy was part of the Bretton Woods-NATO economic and security strategic goals. For Europe and Japan to prosper and purchase American goods and for American industrial might to expand over those seven decades required reliable energy. Now, the world has access to nuclear power and is working hard to develop carbon free power and storage. But, for several decades to come – – before the sun is fully and cleanly harnessed – – natural gas and oil will provide economic power.

Old adversaries like the Soviets might have considered acting as a python and squeezing off control of the Persian Gulf thus choking off Europe or Asia’s critical access. But since World War II, the U.S. Navy and our allies carefully coordinated open sea lanes and access to Middle Eastern energy sources. Volatile Russian oil, Iranian oil, Venezuelan oil, and oil from Iraq and the Saudi Arabian Peninsula all have a new stable, reliable player on the scene: the United States. Texas entrepreneur and oil engineer George Mitchell and his masterful example of fracking and directional drilling revolutions led to America becoming the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. This extraordinary resource development of the last 15 years has culminated with the United States in 2015 lifting the crude oil export ban, a relic of the 1970s.  This new energy source combined with the extensive resources in Mexico and Canada and our allies in the United Kingdom and Norway in North Sea, significantly reduce the chance of Russia or China or Iran successfully executing a flanking strategy in achieving energy dominance in the Middle East in order to severely damage Atlantic or Asian allies.

Today, in Asia and Europe, the world faces a return to a pre-Bretton Woods, even pre-World War I, Great Power Competition. At inflection points such as these, America once again is pulled between the two magnetic poles of its two centuries of exceptionalism: the pull of “riding to the rescue” to right a wrong versus the admonition beginning with Washington to lead by example and not as then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams admonished in 1821, “go [not] abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”[8] Putin’s Russian Authoritarian State is fighting for relevance and General Secretary Xi’s is moving the Middle Kingdom from the “ultimate Asian Tiger” economic success to a great, independent military and diplomatic power.  Our partners in our Pacific and Atlantic economic and security alliances must recognize that it is in each nation’s own interest to fully participate in our allied interests. This is absolutely essential for President Trump and for other nations as well. Tweets acknowledging frustration with allied funding in Europe or Korea, sanction strength against North Korea, Venezuela, or Iran or the humanitarian disaster in Syria notwithstanding, America needs our economic and national security allies and our allies need America, her ideas, her leadership, her Navy, her reliable energy, and her passion for innovation and entrepreneurship.

So, yes, indeed, let’s take that victory lap about our successful alliances and their economic, cultural and national security institutions, but let’s recognize the need for change and refocus.  For the Atlantic Alliance, Europe must step up financially and soon. Together the alliance must stand shoulder-to-shoulder for the free countries of Europe; NATO must extend its security sphere to beyond the Fulda Gap, the Elbe, to include cyber and space. Like Reagan's visionary investment in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), we should share technology that increases national security and defense, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Mr. Putin and others who want to be aggressive invaders or autocrats should recognize that there is “no profit” in war and our allies are cutting edge in our defense and readiness on land, air, sea -- and now in space and cyber.  

For our friends in Asia we share heritage that America is a great neighbor and partner in the Pacific. We argued for the open-door policy in China; President Theodore Roosevelt earned the Nobel Peace Prize for settling the Russo Japanese War; we have had over 700,000 American GI’s killed or wounded in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.[9] Today, we offer trade and technology partnerships and we believe in mutual benefit for a strong commitment to opening the Indo-Pacific all the way to the Aleutian Islands. We stand ready to work with Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia mutually to reduce the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and utilize that maximum pressure on North Korea to let go its nuclear weapon ambitions. Naturally, we are mindful of admonition in arms-control negotiations, which recognizes that, “Neither can be secure unless both feel secure”[10] America’s long-time strategic alliances with Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, along with elsewhere in Southeast Asia are essential to peace in the entire Pacific basin.

Economically, since Bretton Woods, the United States has served as the nexus for all countries to lift themselves toward a higher standard of living has been a success. From our 50 percent share of world industrial output at the end of World War II to today's 18 percent[11] demonstrates magnificently the breadth of living standards whereby billions have been lifted out of poverty; economic advances are being shared with the world over. Yet we recognize that there is more work to be done. Despite this nearly great century, we still have theft, corruption and economic basket cases across the globe principally due to greedy, autocratic leaders that have turned their backs on their people. From Venezuela to Syria to Iran one sees the failures of socialism, communism and plain old autocratic theft. We rededicate ourselves to leadership. We no longer have to foot the entire bill, but world leaders still look to the “one man show” to set the example, rally the cause and help encourage others to support with talent and treasure. Senator Fulbright would stand amazed by today's global living standards. He would be proud of the long success of postwar institutions, particularly of his own contribution in education exchange. But he would remain concerned about the “human race and its possible suicide”.[12] Surely, Fulbright and Nixon would find agreement in the former president’s view that “[p]eace is not an end to conflict but rather a means of living with conflict and once established it requires constant attention or it will not survive.”[13]

Looking Forward

As you reflect on America and her place in the 21st-century world, I urge each of you to consider:

--Support our strong moral convictions born out of our Judeo-Christian Heritage and that serve an essential national purpose and as President Reagan said when addressing the United Nations General Assembly, “Respect for human rights is not social work; it is not merely an act of compassion. It is the first obligation of government and the source of its legitimacy.”[14]

--Support our innovation and military preparedness, including our naval superiority and strategic leadership in the new critical areas of cyber and space.

--Mold our existing institutions and design new responses that strengthen our post-Berlin Wall world and encourage - no, achieve - stronger financial and manpower resources from our allies across the Pacific and the Atlantic.

--Devote yourselves to the best of American traditions of civic engagement, cultural and educational exchange, honor Sen. Fulbright's legacy of expanding “the boundaries of human wisdom, empathy and perception”[15] through education.

--Realistically demand the countries that wish to be accepted in the family of nations then, in fact, play by the rules and understand the consequences of failing to live by those rules.

A young President Kennedy in 1961 told a new generation of Americans, “We sometimes chafe at the burden of our obligations, the complexity of our decisions, the agony of our choices. But, there is no comfort or security for us in evasion, no solution in abdication, no relief in responsibility.”[16]

As you assume your generational role in leadership in this country and across the globe know that you stand on a firm foundation and that there is no burden too great or decision too complex that you are not fully capable of navigating to a success.

[1] “The Sources of Chinese Conduct”, Odd Arne Westad in Foreign Affairs, September/October 2019

[2] Churchill dinner with Pres. Truman aboard the SS Williamsburg, January 3, 1952 – – notes taken by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Bradley.

[3] His Holiness Pope Francis and, The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb.  “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” Abu Dhabi February 4, 2019; available at: [last visited November 21, 2019]

[4] Real Peace, page 57

[5] Real Peace, page 26

[6]  Cited in The Economist. March 14, 2019.

[7] Remarks of President Kennedy to the National Security Council Meeting. Washington. January 22, 1963. Office of the Historian. Department of State. ”Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume XIII, Western Europe and Canada.

[8] July 4, 1821. Oration delivered in Washington, D.C. by then Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams





Total Casualties

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[10] Real Peace, page 36

[11] Brookings 2018

[12] “Senator Fulbright.” The New Yorker, May 10, 1958. Pg 31

[13] Real Peace, page 4

[14] President Ronald Reagan, Addressing the United Nations General Assembly. September 1986.

[15] Senator Fulbright during the 1976 30th Anniversary event

[16] President John. F. Kennedy. State of the Union Address. January 11, 1962.

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