The White House Fellows Program

This weekend I am in Annapolis, Maryland, meeting with a number of bright, energetic, young leaders.

I am a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, and each year at this time we meet to get to know the national finalists in the White House Fellows program, and to make recommendations to the President on who should be the next class of White House Fellows.

This unique program, which was created by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, selects about a dozen people a year to spend a year working as paid special assistants to cabinet secretaries or senior White House officials. The fellows come from all parts of our country — business, education, medicine, the military, etc. It is a non-partisan program, and it seeks individuals who have shown real leadership promise — in their professions and in their communities — early in their careers. Most fellows are in their late 20s or early 30s.

We are meeting at the Naval Academy, an impressive and beautiful location for our sessions.

This year’s national finalists are 32 outstanding candidates — and we will face the daunting task tomorrow of deciding which dozen or so to recommend to the President. Through the course of the weekend, we are visiting with them in formal interviews, over meals and in informal gatherings.

This is a diverse group of women and men — educators, business people, lawyers, doctors, military officers. Partisan politics plays no role in the selection process — but it is clear we have candidates from across the spectrum.

I was a White House Fellow myself in 1982-83, so 25 years ago this weekend I was going through this same intense selection process myself. I am not at all sure I would be able to measure up against this year’s group of national finalists. They give me real hope and optimism about our country’s future.

Last evening over dinner I visited with a teacher from a low income area of New York City, a Navy Seal, a college professor, and a business woman, among others. Only in America!

More conversations today.

[By the way, I am still working on my pictures from my Africa trip. Stay tuned.]

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