Fulbright afterthoughts

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Departure is review. We sort through and pack our belongings. We flip through photographs, re-read e-mails and wonder what to write on postcards we meant to send since arrival.

I have done all of the above before leaving the United States. Now it is time to reflect on the impressive people I have met during my five months in the heart of academic America:

  • a brilliant economist and multiple winner of national championships in contract bridge,
  • one of the most prolific and influential legal scholars in the United States,
  • a long-time member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts,
  • an Israeli-American psychologist, who received the Ig Nobel Prize for proving that high-priced placebos work better than low-priced placebos (sic!),
  • a leading newspaper editor and proponent of civic journalism in Europe,

and many other inspiring individuals, with whom I would not have interacted  without residence in the United States.

But when I look back, one person stands out among these towering figures. His name is Daniel Wagner. Daniel hails from Cambridge, the city I lived in during my Fulbright grant. He is a lieutenant in the local police force. I met Daniel during lectures at university, where he pursues an advanced degree in public administration. He was admitted to his master’s program on probationary terms, because he had the zest and dedication to learn but no college diploma. Daniel is one of the most hard-working and collegial members of his class. He can be found at university at 7 am, teaching himself Bayes’ theorem, or at midnight, shuttling classmates home after long study sessions. Daniel represents to me innumerable encounters with optimistic, industrious, perseverant Americans, on and off-campus. These encounters were not less transformative than the scholarly pursuits of my Fulbright grant.

Maciej Drozd was Fulbright Schuman Visiting Scholar at Harvard University from August to December 2015. He shared lessons learned from regulatory reform in Poland and researched new policy applications of behavioral economics.