Wednesday, 31 August 2011

An encounter with a US Senator

Before moving to the Cotswolds we used to come for long weekends. We are both interested in the Arts and Crafts movement, and Cheltenham with its National collection is an obvious place to visit. Chipping Camden is where C.R. Ashbee set up his Guild and School of Handicraft after moving from London in 1902.  The Barnsley Brothers - architects and designers, lived and worked in the area, and William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts movement had his Cotswold Tudor home, Kelmscott Manor, here.
We always stayed in a wonderful old stone mansion, parts of which dated from the 15th C.  It was there that we met and became friendly with an American couple, although they were considerably older than us. He was a maths Professor at New York University and she was an artist. We kept in touch with them, exchanging Christmas cards and letters for several years, and would meet them at the Cotswold mansion from time to time when they came over. We made an arrangement to meet them in 1990 to spend a few days together, but at the last moment they phoned to say would we mind if they brought another couple with them who were on their honeymoon.
We were surprised at our first meeting to learn that the honeymoon couple were 85 year old Senator Fulbright and his new wife, Harriet, who was the Executive Director of the Fulbright Association.  
He was a very lively companion and kept up with all of the activities we did visiting places of interest in the area.  He was also a great joker, particularly over his socks.  He told us that he had a habit of going out with odd socks on in different colours. Because of this, his grandchildren had given him a mixture of black and white socks, so that he would always be wearing the same colour. 
When they returned home, we had a letter from the wife of the other couple, thanking us for giving him such a fun time. She said she had never seen Bill so animated.  He was normally very shy and hard for people to talk to.  I do not know whether or not it was our company or his honeymoon!!!
This photo I took must be a collectors item.  Senator William Fulbright holding up his trouser legs to show off his socks.
Professor Monroe Donsker & Mary Donsker with Harriet Fulright & Senator William Fulbright
courtesy Hephaestos via Wikipedia
Senator Fulbright was a Southern Democrat and a staunch multilateralist who supported the creating of the United Nations. He opposed McCarthyism and later became known for his opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. His efforts to establish an international exchange program eventually resulted in the creation of a fellowship program which bears his name. 
Bill Clinton said "I admired him.  I liked him. On the occasions when we disagreed, I loved arguing with him. I never loved getting in an argument with anybody as much in my entire life as I loved fighting with Bill Fulbright.  I'm quite sure I always lost, and yet he managed to make me think I might have won."

4 comments:

  1. Hello Rosemary:
    What a fascinating piece of history you have here in this photograph. The Fulbright Scholarship programme has, in our view, done so much for young people, especially in encouraging good international relations.

    Gosh, on honeymoon at 85...now that is really something. Clearly, every bit the individual as his sock wearing testifies!

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  2. Dear Jane and Lance - we consider ourselves very privileged to have met him. The money for the Fulbright programme in the beginning was raised from the scrapping of WWII redundant weapons. This was Fulbright's initiative.

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  3. I fondly remember Senator Fulbright's courage in opposition to the Vietnam War. Of course he will always be remembered for the Fulbright Scholarships, but I also remember that he used to regularly give an award for government wastefulness (I think Fulbright was the one who discovered that the Pentagon was paying $500 for a hammer.). Anyway, Walter Cronkite would always give air time to Senator Fulbright's embarrassing award, and I'm sure the senator saved American taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. If only his caliber were in Wahington, D. C. today!

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    1. Dear Mark - thank you for your comment. That is another example of Senator Fulbright's principled approach. If only there were more of his calibre, not just in Washington DC, but all over the world.

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