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Fulbright Prize for International Understanding

The 2018 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding was awarded to Dr. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, in a ceremony taking place at the AXICA Congress and Convention Centre on January 28, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. With this award, the Fulbright Association honors Chancellor Merkel for her remarkable, compassionate leadership and her strong commitment to mutual understanding, international cooperation, and peace.

Executive Director of the German-American Fulbright Commission, Oliver Schmidt said the following:


“My dear colleagues,

This past week, the Fulbright Prize for International Understanding was awarded to the Federal Chancellor of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel. As you all know, the Fulbright Germany team supported the FA in its endeavor throughout the past nine months of preparations as well as during the event in Berlin. Therefore, it was a special pleasure to share this occasion with some of you who could make it.

For those of you you could not be there, let it be said that we experienced an evening during which Sen. Fulbright’s vision of “Turning Nations into People” was literally “heart-felt”. Since both audience and laureate (and both ceremony and atmosphere) reflected an appreciation of the Fulbright program at large, I want to share some impressions with you, my fellow EDs. The evening, to be sure, stands as an encouragement to all of us responsible for the work and the development of the binational commissions.

At the Prize, we welcomed more than 300 guests, and made sure to invite the entire spectrum of Fulbright´s community: current US grantees; alumni from all generations, disciplines, walks of life; Fulbright´s volunteer supporters like university advisors; as well as friends from media, culture, and politics including US Ambassador Richard Grenell. In a grand gesture, the Fulbright Association had come with an international delegation of more than 50 US alumni. On behalf of the binational programs, Fulbright Germany got one alumnus to speak on stage, while a Fulbright Jazz Ensemble provided first-rate jazz throughout the evening.

In her acceptance speech, Chancellor Merkel addressed the need to foster international understanding and to seek compromise in order to solve man-made problems of our time. For those of you in no position to run through one hour of speeches on youtube, let me translate one of several instances during which the Chancellor highlighted how vital the global Fulbright program was in the world of today:

“Wie Senator Fulbright bin auch ich fest davon überzeugt, dass es die Begegnungen der Bürgerinnen und Bürger sind, die die Staaten der Welt zu einer echten Staatengemeinschaft machen. So erweist sich das Fulbright-Programm nicht nur für Generationen von Stipendiaten, sondern auch für unsere zwischenstaatlichen Beziehungen als ein Segen.“

`Just like Senator Fulbright, I am profoundly convinced that through the personal encounter between citizens, the nations of the world turn into a true community of nations. This is why the Fulbright Program is a blessing, not only for generations of grantees but also for our binational relations.´

After everything was said and done, the Chancellor decided to stay for the reception and engage with grantees and alumni (pic above). Angela Merkel rarely stays for the informal part; as her office tells us, it was the atmosphere – yes, the Fulbright spirit is alive! – that kept her in the room longer than planned.

Please find a small collection of voices from the audience in both German and English here, captured by videographer and Fulbright alumna, Daria Kuschev.

So long, all my best from Germany, and looking forward to seeing you all soon,



Oliver Schmidt, Ph.D.
Executive Director
German-American Fulbright Commission
Lützowufer 26 | 10787 Berlin | Germany
fon: +49 (30) 28 44 43-12 



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