Today is the 45th anniversary of the Executive Order that founded the White House Fellows program.

The Fellowships’s White House website describes the program’s origins:

Declaring that “a genuinely free society cannot be a spectator society,” President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the establishment of the White House Fellows Program in the East Room of the White House in October 1964. Prompted by the suggestion of John W. Gardner, then President of the Carnegie Corporation, President Johnson’s intent was to draw individuals of exceptionally high promise to Washington for one year of personal involvement in the process of government.

The White House Fellowship was created as a non-partisan program. It has strictly maintained this tradition during both Republican and Democratic administrations and, through the cross-fertilization of ideas and experience, has enriched the practice of public policy for more than four decades.

The mission of the non-partisan White House Fellows Program, as envisioned by President Johnson, was in his words, “to give the Fellows first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” In return for the Fellowship year, President Johnson expected the Fellows to “repay that privilege” when they left by “continuing to work as private citizens on their public agendas.” He hoped that the Fellows would contribute to the nation as future leaders.


President Obama meets in the Oval Office with the 2009 Class of White House Fellows.

Several articles about the Fellows program recently appeared in the Washington Post’s “On Leadership” section.  A column by Rice University sociologist D. Michael Lindsay highlighted the results of a recent survey he conducted of program alumni.

This is a program based in Washington, but politics invariably seeps into the fellowship, even if it is designed to be nonpartisan. More self-identified Democrats are fellows during Democratic administrations, and more Republicans participate in the program when Republicans control the White House. However, the most recent administration (that of George W. Bush) had the most even balance of Democratic and Republican Fellows (35% and 37%, respectively with the rest being Independents) in the program’s history. The most partisan results occurred during the Reagan White House (with 66% Republicans and 18% Democrats) and the Clinton White House (with 71% Democrats and 11% Republicans). The study shows that more people of the president’s party apply, and this naturally shapes the partisan makeup of each class, even though political considerations are excluded from the selection process.

Overall, Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans among White House Fellows, but there are significantly more Fellows who self-identify as a “strong Democrat” (21%) compared to those who self-identify as a “strong Republican” (10%). And a majority of Fellows–whether Democrat or Republican–report being politically connected, even before beginning the program.

A column by Cindy Moelis, the new Obama-appointed Director of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, gives a thumb-nail view of the 2009 Class and their job placements.


President Nixon met in the Oval Office with the 1971 Class of White House Fellows.  Hard to believe as it may be, one member of the Class was not informed that the time of the appointment had been changed from late afternoon to early morning, and was absent from the photograph.

Several distinguished Nixon Administration Fellowship alumni are singled out  on the program’s website.


Robert D. Haas: Chairman/CEO, Levi Strauss & Co.


Michael H. Armacost. Shorenstein Distinguished

Fellow, Asian-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University; former President of The Brookings Institution; former Ambassador to Japan and the Philippines; former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs


Robert C. McFarlane. Chairman and CEO, Energy and Communications Solutions; former National Security Advisor to President Reagan; former Counselor to  Department of State; former Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to President Ford; former Military Assistant to Henry Kissinger and Brent  Scowcroft.

Deanell R. Tacha.  Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.


Luis G. Nogales.  President, Nogales Partners; former CEO, United Press International, former President, Univision.

Colin L. Powell.  Former Secretary, U.S. Department of State; former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; founding Chariman, America’s Promise; General, U.S. Army (ret.).


Doris M. Meissner. Senior Fellow, Migration Policy Institute; former Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Peter M. Dawkins. Vice Chairman, CitiGroup Private Bank; former Chairman/Ceo of Primerica Financial Services, Inc.; Heisman Trophy winner; Brigadier General, U.S. Army (ret.).

Frederick S. Benson III. President, U.S.-New Zealand Council; former Vice President, Weyerhaeuser Company.

Dr. Delano Meriwether. Leukemia researcher; athlete.