The US ambassador to the UK met with students and scholars at Durham University yesterday during his first trip to the region.
Matthew Barzun visited the university to mark Durham’s collaboration with universities and organisations in the US.
The ambassador was welcomed at Durham Castle by US students and staff and those who have teaching or research links in the US.
Mr Barzun’s visit came after the annual conference of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, an organisation set up to foster mutual cultural understanding through educational exchange, was held at the University earlier this month.
The ambassador harked back to the visit of inspirational civil rights leader Martin Luther King, who was awarded an honorary degree from Newcastle University 47 years ago.
He said: “The region is the site of a speech by Martin Luther King that I find inspiring. He delivered it after receiving an honorary degree from Newcastle University in November of 1967.
“This was four years after the March on Washington and five months before he was killed.
“It’s one of my favorites because of a particular passage that offers eternal wisdom to anyone trying to effect change and is also just a pure distillate of his rhetorical genius.
“His focus is on racism but his broader subject is the global struggle against racism, poverty, and war. His words, of course, apply to our times too as we contend with persistent poverty.”
Sharne Procter, director of the international office at Durham University, said: “We are really honoured to welcome the ambassador to the university as we are very proud to have such wide-ranging links with the US.
“As an international university with staff and students from across the globe and over 500 students and staff from the US, we look forward to further strengthening our links with American organisations and universities.”
Durham University is an international university and 150 countries are represented in its staff and student body. Current links with universities in the US include Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Washington, Seattle University and Duke University with active student and staff exchanges.
The University also welcomes a number of academic fellows and students through funding partners such as the Fulbright Commission and the North American Foundation for the University of Durham (NAFUD).
President Obama nominated Mr Barzun to be the United States ambassador to the United Kingdom in 2013.
The Senate confirmed him by unanimous consent on August 1, 2013. He presented his credentials to Queen Elizabeth II on November 27, 2013.