U.S. Ambassador Marcia Bernicat’s Remarks at the American Alumni Association (AAA) Awards Dinner
Dhaka, November 24, 2017
Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to the Prime Minister on International Affairs;
Mr. Md. Shahriar Alam, M.P., State Minister for Foreign Affairs;
Mr. Syed Almas Kabir, President, American Alumni Association;
American Alumni Association Executive Committee Members;
Distinguished guests, colleagues, and friends:
Assalam-u-Alaikum, nomoshkar, and good evening!
It is my pleasure to be with all of you tonight. I always enjoy American Alumni Association events, and your Pohela Boishakh celebration is always a highlight of my spring. But tonight is a special occasion, a true opportunity to applaud and appreciate the remarkable contributions that graduates of United States colleges and universities make here in Bangladesh and around the world. It is my honor to congratulate all of the award winners we are celebrating tonight.
But first I want to thank Almas and the entire American Alumni Association team for your leadership, commitment to this community, and for partnering with the U.S. Embassy—especially the American Center and EducationUSA—to promote higher education in the United States.
For our American Center Open House in July, and last week during International Education Week, Almas and his team brought several distinguished American Alumni Association members to the American Center to speak with perspective students. If my EducationUSA team has learned one thing over the years, it’s that when people consider studying in the United States, they want to hear from alumni who can share their unique perspectives. And I’m excited to share with all of you tonight that our collaboration and hard work has paid off.
Just last week the Institute for International Education released its 2017 Open Doors Report which shares international education statistics and trends. During the last school year, the number of international students studying in the United States increased by 3.4 percent. But Bangladeshi students studying in the United States increased by 9.7 percent! There are now 7,143 Bangladeshi students at U.S. colleges and universities—a new record for Bangladesh. And I’m happy to report that this represents a more than 50 percent increase compared to five years ago. Last April, at the Pohela Boishakh festival, I mentioned that Bangladesh had still not made it to the top-25 countries sending students to the United States. Well tonight I can proudly say that Bangladesh is now in that select group of top-25 countries! We could not have accomplished this without all of you!
I also want to take this opportunity to ask each and every one of you to continue to help us promote higher education in the United States. With your help we can continue to set new records and ensure that even more qualified and dedicated Bangladeshi students have an opportunity to study in the United States—creating invaluable links and relationships between Bangladesh and the United States.
Educational exchange is one of our strongest diplomatic tools. All of you carry stories about life on a U.S. campus; a professor or mentor that shaped your career; college friends that—despite the years that have flown by—still hold a special place in your hearts. You have all lived a truly American experience as a student in the United States.
Similarly, there are countless Americans who were introduced to Bangladesh because you studied, worked, and lived with them. Each one of you has been a cultural Ambassador to the United States.
Higher education is also one of the United States’ best exports. A U.S. degree increases a graduate’s earning potential and visibility in any job market, as well as access to the most influential networks in the world. A U.S. college or university education also prepares graduates to think critically, problem solve, innovate, and lead. And all of you are evidence of this.
Tonight we celebrate alumni who have changed their communities, their country, and the world. The award winners tonight are recognized for exceptional work in the arts, culture, and sports; education; business and commerce; public service; science and technology; and service to society. We are all proud of tonight’s honorees, not just because of their individual accomplishments, but because they exemplify what it means to be a graduate of a U.S. college or university.
With the doors to U.S. colleges and universities open wider today than ever before to Bangladeshi students, it is now our job to ensure that we promote U.S. higher education throughout Bangladesh. And with your help, I am confident that we can continue to set new records.
Once again, congratulations to all of tonight’s award winners. Thank you to Almas and the American Alumni Association team. And thank you to all of the association members who continue to makes us proud.
*As Prepared for Delivery