Don’t Cut Funding for Fulbright

I am spending part of this Memorial Day writing to my federal reps: Washington State Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantrell; Representative Denny Heck.

I am asking them to protect the budget for the Fulbright program, intimating also in my letter that the budgets of many other worthy programs should be maintained (or even increased) going forward.

I was fortunate to go on Fulbright in 2013, to Petrozavodsk, Russia.  I taught at Petrozavodsk State University, and learned more than I could have ever taught.

In short, donald trump’s crass and damaging whims should be resisted at every turn.  He wants only to redistribute more tax money to the wealthy; increase funding for the military, already the biggest in the world; and to self-aggrandize, and further enrich, his own person (and family) and “legacy”.

So, this Memorial Day I am spending my time trying to reduce the amount of memorials we need to have (or, choose to have, as in the Iraq War, for example) in the future.

What will you write your reps about?  Let me know, if you have a few extra moments.

Russian grade schoolers asking the American

Russian grade schoolers asking the American. This kid had the best question ever: “Do you like to jump?” I’ve never been asked that in the U.S.

Here is the text in my letter (I sent it to both addresses, local and D.C., of my three reps):

May 29, 2016

RE: Maintaining (and perhaps increasing) Fulbright Program Funding

Dear Representative Denny Heck,

As a 2013 Fulbright Scholar (Petrozavodsk State University, Russia) and current campus Fulbright Faculty Liaison, I am writing to you quickly and briefly yet about an urgent manner: we must maintain, and even seek to increase, funding for all Fulbright and Fulbright-related programs.

I am worried for our country. As you no doubt keenly understand, we have a willfully ignorant, sexist, racist, egomaniacal, and self-aggrandizing president in office now. And this president has made it painfully clear that he intends to strip funding from many good programs—including, I suspect, the Fulbright, which is near and dear to my heart—in order to finance his two great projects: the military, which is already the best and largest in the world, and redistributing the people’s tax money upwards to the wealthy.

Certainly, all programs should be open to scrutiny, with funding adjusted as necessary. But this president considers nuance and using his intellect to explore complicated issues to be beneath him. And he is obviously uninterested in the good such programs can do. Rather, he wants only to slash and burn.

As such, I urge you to resist this president’s dangerous predilections on all fronts, and this effort begins with the budget you and your colleagues are currently debating.

I have many stories and reasons as to why the historic, 70-year old Fulbright program remains relevant in a post-9/11 era, and am happy to discuss these further should you find this helpful.

In the meantime, I thank you for your urgent attention to this important matter.


Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D.


Letters are still better than e-communication, they tell us.