White House Fellows

The news this week, both in North Carolina and nationally, features distinguished people who are alumni of the White House Fellows program.

This great program was founded by President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. UNC President Bill Friday played a major role in the early years of the White House Fellows.

Governor-elect Bev Perdue has named Asheboro businessman Keith Crisco as North Carolina’s new Secretary of Commerce. Keith was a White House Fellow in 1970-71, and he served as an assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

And the very strong rumor is that President-elect Barack Obama is about to name Dr. Sanjay Gupta as U.S. Surgeon General. Sanjay was a White House Fellow in 1997-98, and he served as a member of the White House staff.

I am proud of these two leading citizens — and the opportunities they will shortly have to serve. And I am especially proud of the White House Fellows Program. I was a White House Fellow myself, in 1982-83, and served as a member of the White House domestic policy staff. It was a wonderful experience, and it gave me insights and opportunities that have been of great benefit across the rest of my career.

Keith Crisco has been a leader for workplace health in our state, and I believe he will carry that same passion to this new role.

Sanjay Gupta has been an eloquent communicator of health messages to the lay audience, as CNN’s medical correspondent. He is also a practicing neurosurgeon. I think he will make a great Surgeon General, since that job is communicating to the American people about important issues of health and wellness.

I very much hope he will choose to focus on what I think is the predominant health issue facing our country — the epidemic of obesity. We desperately need to reverse the trends to create a healthier America, with effective diet and exercise leading to fitness and wellness.

All the best to these two great Americans!!

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