As one of the largest and most prestigious international exchange programs in the world today, the Fulbright Program's main objective is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other nations through the sharing of ideas, knowledge, skills and individual experiences. Over the past sixty years, the Fulbright Program has provided over 325,000 participants from 155 countries around the world the opportunity to share ideas, promote joint understanding of cultures, and learn about political and economic institutions. Sweden and the U.S. have been participating in the successful exchange of scholars and students since 1952 when an executive agreement was signed by American Ambassador Walton Butterworth and by Dag Hammarskjöld for the Swedish Government.
Students are chosen based on their academic merit and leadership potential. The Fulbright program expects their grantees to demonstrate outstanding academic performance and actively contribute to the promotion of the mutual understanding as unofficial "ambassadors" of their country. The Sweden Fulbright Commission issues grants to outstanding Swedish and American students and scholars who embody the mission of the Fulbright Program. The Commission also conducts unbiased and professional Education Advising Services on studying in the United States.
The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. Fulbright, who during his first year in the Senate, had the ingenious idea of turning the vast amounts of surplus military materials in Europe into academic exchanges for European and American students and scholars.
In December 1974, Senator Fulbright left the Senate after thirty years of service. He had been chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for fifteen years, and was a central figure in U.S. foreign policy. He felt his most important contribution in his long political career had been the establishment of the exchange program. Senator Fulbright passed away on February 9, 1995. At his memorial service, President Clinton stated: