Hannes Richter

Fulbright's Legacy

Hannes Richter

Soft Power at Its Best

James W. Fulbright and William B. Bader were separated by one generation but united by their fascination for Austria. Fulbright was inspired by the complexity of Europe and created an international student exchange program adapted to the cultural challenges of our multiethnic continent. Bader was one of the first Americans to profit from the Fulbright exchange and has ever since been researching the intricacies of Austria's post-war reconstruction. Both men understood the importance of soft power.


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Statue of James W. Fulbright

In the fall of 1928, James William Fulbright, a twenty-three year-old American from Lafayette, Arkansas, arrived in Vienna. At that time, Austria was a post-war country, reduced to a fraction of its former size by the Versailles treaties. A civil war loomed on the horizon. The astute Fulbright immediately saw its causes in the destruction and disintegration of Central Europe and frustration with the failed promises of his life-long hero, Woodrow Wilson.

Fulbright's fascination with international and supranational organizations can most surely be traced back to his days in Austria during 1928/29. It was in Vienna that he was introduced to the world of international politics and foreign correspondents, such as the Hungarian-born Marcel Vilmor Fodor who became his friend and mentor. Fodor was influenced by his own roots in a multi-ethnic empire based on an idea rather than on membership in a specific national group. Thus, according to Fodor, the political solution for Europe in the post-Habsburg era lay in the creation of a Central European union, and he welcomed any proposal to achieve such a union, whether it was a Balkan Federation or a mythical Danubia.

When Hungarian leader Admiral Horthy claimed the Austrian province of Burgenland for Hungary in October 1928, the minority question, mentioned in speeches by Austrian Chancellor Ignaz Seipel, became a major issue. The solution required dialogue between nations estranged from one another which
had to learn to communicate across cultural and political boundaries.

Out of his Vienna experience Fulbright created in 1950 one of the most important venues for international exchange. Qualities which Fulbright committees require of prospective candidates to this day are: that they not only excel academically, but that they also be good representatives of their own countries and show promise of reaching out to the people of their host country. This concept contributed significantly to the long term success of this program.

Fulbright believed that the best thing America could do was to be an example of the world through material helpfulness without moral presumption, that we should make our own society an example of human happiness, make ourselves the friend of social revolution, and go beyond simple reciprocity in an effort to reconcile hostile worlds.

Among the first Fulbrighters to visit Austria in December of 1953 was twenty-three year-old William B. Bader, a graduate of Pomona College, California. He described Vienna in the following way: ... I saw a city with the hues and moods of Orson Welles Third Man; a city with the Hofburg  adorned with 50-foot portraits of Stalin and Lenin. It was a city shattered by war, burdened by pangs of guilt and fraught with despair. I vowed to chronicle the courage and grit of the Austrian people during the long march from occupation to liberation.

With his book, Austria Between East and West 1945-1955 (1966, Stanford University Press, 245 p.), Mr. Bader has fulfilled this pledge. He explored what he referred to as the Austrian episode, the revival of political life during the ten years of Four Power occupation following World War II. Instead of a chronological history of this period, the book focuses on the successes and failures of Communism, the East-West struggle for control of the internal security forces and the trade unions, and the development of the Soviet economic enclave in Eastern Austria. The book also provides his analysis of what is often described as the lingering enigma of the Soviet withdrawal from Austria in 1955.

A German translation of this book became available in 2002: Österreich im Spannungsfeld zwischen Ost und West 1945 bis 1955 (Braumüller, Wien, 206 p.) with a foreword by the eminent American historian Gordon A. Craig.

William Bader has been one of the true representatives of the Fulbright spirit. As Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs from 1998-2001, one of his responsibilities was to integrate all of the programs that were part of the Fulbright legacy into the pursuit of America's foreign policy. At the same time, he had to protect the integrity of these programs as the principal expression of America's role in mutual education and exchange.

On the occasion of this year's 50th Anniversary of Austria's Sovereignty, Mr. Bader wrote an epilogue or Nachwort to Austria Between East and West 1945-1955. This publication, Eine Nachlese zum Jubiläums-jahr, (Braumüller, Wien, 2005) updates the 1966/2002 publications by including the most recent scientific data. In the introduction to the Nachwort, Mr. Bader refers to the unsung heroes of Austria's path to freedom and political independence:  it is the human story of the common laborer, farmer, small merchant, and student who endured the bitter cold, the malnutrition and iron fists of the occupation. And yes, it is the story of the Herr Karl in every Austrian, whose humor and cynicism baffled and ultimately deflated the Herculean Ivan.

For further information please go to http://www.state.gov/www/policy_remarks/1999/991118_pickering_bader.html or contact William B. Bader at: wbader@ifc.org