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White House Fellows


THE WHITE HOUSE FELLOWSHIPS began with a conversation over lunch in the summer of 1964. I suggested the idea to Eric Goldman, the historian who served as an aide to President Johnson. Eric described it to the president, and a few weeks later, the president issued an executive order creating the fellowships.

The idea was a straightforward one. Each year a presidential commission would select a handful of outstanding young men and women to come to Washington and participate in government at the highest levels. As special assistants to key officials in the Executive Branch, the fellows would learn the workings of the federal government. We believed they would also learn a great deal about leadership as they saw the nation's leaders at work and met with leaders from other parts of society. We hoped the program would strengthen the fellows' abilities and desires to contribute to their communities, their professions and the country.

As the stories in these pages show, our hopes were well founded. Nearly 500 men and women have been White House Fellows. Many have gone on to serve as chief executives of major corporations, college presidents, religious leaders, scholars, scientists, leaders in the professions, generals and admirals, diplomats, members of both houses of Congress and so on. Former fellows are also active civic leaders in communities across the United States.

Americans have always been great dreamers and willing experimenters. President Johnson seized the dream of the White House Fellowships, and every president since has warmly supported it. Like American society itself, this experiment in leadership development has no foreseeable end. But at this point, 30 years out, it is clear that the experiement and the dream are thriving.

-- John W. Gardner

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