Moran, James P., Congressman

Name: Moran, James P.
Title: Congressman
Company/Organization/University: Congress

Remarks to the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange

Good Morning. Thank you, Sherry for that kind introduction and Mike for your fine leadership. I'm honored to be invited to speak to you on your annual advocacy day.

The work you do on behalf of international education and exchange programs is a great service to this country and really to this whole world. Your willingness to come to Washington and to spread the word about the benefits and necessity of such programs is not only meritorious, but crucial to their future.

International education and cultural exchange programs are one of the least appreciated and most overlooked components of U.S. public diplomacy. These programs help to export American ideals. Ideals of democracy, human rights, good governance, freedom of speech and religion, personal responsibility, accountability, and the rule of law. In the aftermath of September 11th, hopefully, we as a nation, have come to the realization that we must be ever more resolute in promoting these ideals abroad.

Many, especially on the right-wing talk shows, have had the knee-jerk reaction of calling for a moratorium on issuing student visas. This would counterproductive by severely limiting U.S. international influence.

In addition to the more important diplomatic effect, the economic impact of international students attending our colleges and universities is also significant . During the 2000-2001 academic year, international students in Virginia contributed more than $234 million to Virginia's economy, and more than $11.04 billion to the national economy.

The better approach is Representative George Miller's bill that I am pleased to co-sponsor called the International Student Responsibility Act. This will enhance our international student visa program by requiring student background checks and coordination between foreign countries, immigration officials, and the schools they are supposed to be attending to assure that they do. We should have been doing more of that anyway.

In no other area of the world is educational exchange more critical than in the Islamic world. The United States has much more than a "PR" problem in the region. The attacks of September 11th made clear that improving mutual understanding and trust between Muslims and Americans must be part of our national security strategy.

After years of neglecting the Voice of America and the U.S. Information Agency, we are losing ground in getting our message across. VOA broadcasts provide an invaluable service of promoting American values but are barely audible in many countries and reach less than 2 percent of the population in the 22 countries to which they are beamed.

Currently, Islamic students from the Middle East account for less than 5 percent of all foreign students in the United States. I understand that you have proposed an Islamic Exchange Initiative in an effort to overcome this public diplomacy deficit. If you can't get this included in the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill, I'd be interested in offering it as an amendment in the full Committee markup.

As I understand the way that it would work, it would be administered by the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and would bring current and future leaders from the Islamic world to the United States. In turn, we would send Americans to Muslim countries to teach and study.

As a member of the Budget Committee, I can tell you it's always a struggle increasing the International Affairs Budget account. I have contacted the President urging that he adequately fund international affairs programs when he submits his fiscal year 2003 budget.

Funding for foreign exchange programs has been traditionally treated as something of a minor afterthought given their importance. Measured in constant dollars, they fell by nearly one?third from 1993 to 2000, from $298 million to $211 million. This year it rose slightly, to $237 million.

It seems so penny-wise and a pound foolish that today's foreign exchanges operate on budgets equivalent to those of 1968, when the world had 40 percent fewer people and dozens fewer nations.

If we were to consider implementing an Islamic Exchange program, it can't be funded out of existing programs, but it certainly could be if we were to appropriate the authorized level of 286 million for 2003. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will to help us reach that level.

As Mamoun Fandy, a professor at the National Defense University made so clear in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section, beefing up our defense spending alone, is not the solution to America's security and public image problem. We MUST aggressively increase our funding for valuable international affairs programs, particularly international education and exchange programs, in an effort to nurture global understanding and cooperation.

As Ann Kerr said in a companion article, it's "an education for them and a bargain for us". I look forward to partnering with the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange and the Association of International Educators in meeting these objectives and substantially strengthening one of our most effective diplomatic tools.

Thank you.

Moran, James P. (Januare 22, 2002). “Remarks to the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange,” Alliance for the International Education and Cultural Exchange.