Leadership for Divided Times: The White House Fellows Program

In my last post, I wrote about the urgent need for leadership in our country. The seeds of unrest and division are everywhere, and now more than ever we need strong leaders at the table. But where can we find them? And how do we cultivate them?

The White House Fellows Program is a good place to start. This prestigious, non-partisan leadership program gives young Americans direct experience working at the highest levels of the U.S.A. government. Not only do Fellows learn how our government functions, they also interact with renowned leaders from the private and public sectors and study policy in action both at home and abroad.

I had the honor of serving as a White House Fellow from 1996 to 1997. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I worked at the White House with President Clinton (who appointed me), and in the Department of Health and Human Services with Secretary Donna Shalala. The program shaped my leadership journey that took me to Howard University and Stanford University, then on to George Mason University and eventually to the International Council of Nurses and the World Health Organization. Now, I lead programs that champion the rights of those who are vulnerable and in need in more than 150 nations.

President Johnson started the White House Fellows Program in 1964 and it has enjoyed the strong bipartisan support of 10 presidents ever since. Fellowships are awarded on a strictly non-partisan basis.

As the website states:

“The purpose of the White House Fellows program is to provide gifted and highly motivated young Americans with some first-hand experience in the process of governing the nation and a sense of personal involvement in the leadership of society.

It is essential to the healthy functioning of our system that we have in the non-governmental sector a generous supply of leaders who have an understanding — gained first hand — of the challenges that our national government faces.”

I encourage anyone with an interest to apply to this great program. You can do so, here.

Last year, I was elected vice-president of the White House Fellows Foundation and Association (WHFFA), and I’ll take over as president in 2020. The WHFFA is the alumni group for all former White House Fellows. We provide financial support and serve as mentors to current Fellows. One of our stellar events is the Annual Leadership Conference, which will be held in Washington, DC in October. As WHFFA vice president, I am chair of this year’s conference. Our theme: Character, Responsibility and Community: Creating Our Common Future. 

You can learn more about the WHFFA’s mission and work, here.

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