The Newest Leaders
Forty-five years ago this week, President Lyndon B. Johnson formed the White House Fellows program because he saw the potential of America's next generation. Today, President and Mrs. Obama are carrying on this tradition by ensuring the non-partisan White House Fellows program remains one of the nation's most prestigious fellowships for leadership and public service.
White House Fellowships have three main components: strong work placements, a robust education program and opportunities to serve the Washington, D.C. community. As a White House Fellow, individuals work on special projects alongside Cabinet Secretaries, White House staff and other senior officials. For example, Marc Sternberg, founder and former principal of the Bronx Lab School, is taking on new challenges this year at the U.S. Department of Education where he is supporting the "Race to the Top" competition.
Annie Maxwell, former COO of Direct Relief International, has the unique opportunity to work in Vice President Joe Biden's office on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Ken Robbins is a Major in the U.S. Army who most recently served in Iraq, and now shares his expertise on veteran's initiatives at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
In addition to the work placement, the education program increases the fellows' exposure to renowned leaders from the private and public sectors through speaker seminars, travel and special events. The current class of White House Fellows has gained valuable insight from leaders such as U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt.
White House Fellows have a strong legacy of service to their communities and participate in service projects throughout their year in Washington, D.C. This year, the White House Fellows program has partnered with three non-profit organizations dedicated to community service. Throughout the year, Fellows will make a difference in the Washington community by mentoring children, delivering meals to individuals struggling with life-challenging illnesses, and helping students reach their full potential in preparation for college.
The Obama Administration continues to invest in this leadership program because it works. Research from Rice University's D. Michael Lindsay finds that 96 percent of White House Fellows describe their fellowship experience as being an important component of their development as a leader.
President Obama is building on this historic legacy by appointing a strong commission, welcoming a new diverse class of fellows, and supporting the program's commitment to community service. The President's recently appointed Commission has national and community leaders including Army Generals, a renowned architect, university leaders and others that represent the best in their fields.
This Commission selected the 2009-2010 class of Fellows through a non-partisan and highly competitive process. Each Fellow's story is distinct and their journeys are compelling; one third are first generation Americans whose families arrived from Ethiopia, China, Jamaica, India and Egypt. And each Fellow holds unique potential to reach a new level of leadership, whether as a General, a CEO, or a Senator.
In addition to serving the Washington D.C. community, White House Fellows are committed to improving their communities nationwide. Dr. Lindsay's report revealed that 92 percent of Fellows are actively engaged in volunteer work and "volunteerism tends to be a lifelong activity of Fellows that is only heightened by the Fellowship experience." So this year, the White House Fellows program is launching the "Legacy of Service" initiative to make a difference in local communities and to highlight the Fellows' volunteer work. On October 3, alumni and friends will build a playground for elementary students in Washington, D.C., clean up a neighborhood park in New York City, and paint schools in Denver.
The White House Fellows program has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of Fellows, and because of their leadership and commitment to service, the results are far reaching. Today's rising leaders should consider applying to the White House Fellowship or partnering with us next year on "Legacy of Service" day. In the years ahead, the White House Fellows program will continue to equip a new generation of leaders with the skills to make a difference in their professions, communities, and our country.
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