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A Report from the White House Fellows
  Spring 2003 VOLUME 27 Number 2
From the Director
Fellows Head West
2003-2004 White House Fellows Program National Finalists
Education Calendar
2003 Regional Panelists
Meet the Fellows Staff
Fellows Corner
White House Fellows in the News
Where Are They Now?
Mark Your Calendars!


As I look back to the Spring of 2001 when I joined the White House Fellows program, I never imagined the challenges that our nation would face in the coming months – September 11th, anthrax, the Columbia Shuttle disaster, deployment of U.S. troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, and now SARS. Navigating through these increasingly complex challenges requires an unprecedented level of leadership and service. As such, it is all the more important to maintain and enhance the strength of the White House Fellows Program to identify and develop future leaders. With the help of the alumni, we have continued to attract strong candidates to the program who we believe will become our future leaders.

For the 2002-2003 class, these are unusual and exciting times to be a White House Fellow. The current class’s experience is being impacted by a full range of world issues. In particular, the war in Iraq has added unique challenges and a powerful dimension to the year that most Fellows do not experience.

Regional Panels Completed and National Finalists Selected

As you know, the 2002-2003 recruiting campaign was a success with thanks, in great part, to the efforts of the alumni. The number of applicants increased by 13%, which is the highest number of applications since the 1997-1998 recruiting season. In addition, the quantity of female applicants rose 28%. Most importantly, the quality of the applicants was strong, as evidenced by the increase in high scores during the alumni application reading process.

Kelly Kenneally, Associate Director, ran an excellent, well-organized regional selection process. Many Regional Panelists and Regional Finalists commented on the professionalism and organization of the selection process. Operation Iraqi Freedom had a small impact on our Regional Selection process. During the selection process, we learned that three military Regional Finalists were deployed and unable to compete. One of these finalists was able to return in time for the last panel and was selected as a National Finalist. We automatically will include the other two military applicants in next year’s group of Regional Finalists, if they choose to re-apply.

On April 30, we announced the 30 National Finalists for the 2003-2004 White House Fellows Competition. I am pleased with the high caliber of the National Finalists and the panelists who selected them in each region. We had alumni on each panel who contributed greatly to the process. The National Finalists represent a diverse cross-section of professions including academia, the arts, architecture, business, city government, consulting, education, finance, health care, law, non-profit, and technology. Additionally, four branches of the military are represented among the National Finalists. We have 14 women and 16 men and 21 civilians and 9 military. The Presidents Commission on White House Fellowships will interview the National Finalists from June 12-15, 2003, in Annapolis, Maryland. We expect to announce the 2003-2004 class shortly thereafter. I have no doubt that we will have another great class of Fellows.

War Hot Topic During Education Program Events

In the Fellows’ work placements and through the education program, the current class has gained a first-hand look at policy and decision-making during a time of war.

The class has been able to delve into many key issues regarding the war through the speaker’s series. The speakers have been diverse and have included: the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, Admiral Tom Collins, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, Bruce Berkowitz, a senior consultant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and a senior staff member at RAND, and Daniel Yergin, Chairman for the Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Although the President remains quite busy with world and domestic issues, the class now is scheduled to meet for a second time with President George W. Bush on May 14th.

The Fellows also have gained many insights into the war from their military policy study trips as well. Just prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Fellows traveled to Nellis Air Force Base. There, the class had a close-up look at Air Force operations, a hands-on look at various aircraft, discussions with pilots, and briefings by senior Air Force officials.

On the domestic front, the Texas policy trip was substantive, and the timing was poignant. In addition to meetings with state government, corporate and education officials, the trip included a day at NASA. While there, the Fellows experienced the closeness of the NASA family. The Fellows met with astronauts, spent time in mission control tracking Columbia’s path, and discussed the lessons learned from the Challenger disaster with Ron Dittemore, Space Shuttle Program Manager and other NASA officials. Just days later, the class was shocked and saddened along with the rest of the nation by the loss of Columbia. This was a trip they will never forget.

I am pleased that Marguerite Murer, our new Education Director, has added a component to the Fellows Education program that will add to the in-depth learning experience of the Fellowship year. After reviewing the Fellows’ applications to assess what they hoped to gain from the White House Fellows experience, Marguerite developed a new program where small focused policy discussions will take place. The discussions will include no more than four Fellows with one or two high-level policy makers. We will set up a series of focused policy discussions as the Fellows identify the areas in which they are interested.

Work Placements Going Well

The 2002-2003 class of Fellows has continued to enjoy a demanding and enriching year. As previously mentioned, world events have given the class an unusual opportunity to observe and participate in policymaking at the highest level during a time of war.

Below are a few examples of the Fellow’s experiences in their placements:

An example of the unique experiences this year’s class of Fellows is having is Richard Greco’s placement at the Department of Defense. Not only has Richard traveled to Afghanistan and Kuwait, he recently departed for Baghdad, Iraq where he will serve in the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. Richard will be an Economic Advisor, and will work on developing the foundation of the new economic policy for Iraq.

At the Department of Energy, Rajeev Venkayya, M.D. has traveled with the Secretary on several occasions. He recently returned from Europe where he visited Brussels, London, Vienna, Moscow, and Budapest for the Secretary. While there, he spoke at the ministerial level on a variety of energy-related issues. According to Venkayya, “It was a fascinating time, given the ongoing deliberations at the UN Security Council regarding the disarmament of Iraq. The highlight of the trip was our visit to Vienna, where Secretary Abraham and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammed El Baradei presided over an international meeting on Radioactive Dispersal Devices, also known as dirty bombs.”

In the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Bill Thornton has been involved with policy regarding the intent of the United States to enter free trade agreements. He also has been involved with drafting documents to relay policies to Congress on behalf of the President and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. Thornton also traveled to Africa in January to attend the African Growth and Opportunity Act forum with Ambassador Zoellick. Thornton commented, “The opportunity to interact with representatives of nearly every Sub-Saharan African nation was an unmatched and irreplaceable experience. The upbeat tone of the forum was remarkable and will leave a lasting impression on me. The experience contributed greatly to some of the things that I have learned through the Fellowship about how the interagency process works, how the public can influence policy, as well as how the U.S. develops negotiating positions and presents them to foreign governments.”

At the Department of Health and Human Services, Cesar Aristeiguieta, M.D. has assisted Secretary Tommy Thompson with an initiative to end blood shortages throughout the nation. The goals of the campaign include thanking regular blood donors, celebrating the gift of life those blood donors so generously make, and encouraging every qualified individual to give blood twice a year or more.

At the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, Balan Ayyar has been involved with intergovernmental affairs as he builds alliances with the 50 governors through the United States to gain support for the faith-based and community initiative’s agenda. Ayyar commented, “Creation of offices at the state level is a critical part of the long-term development of this initiative. It's a real privilege to be representing the White House on these matters.”

Affiliations Continue
As you know, we have set up affiliations with various groups to enhance the Fellowship experience and to promote the program. Recent experiences include:

• Continuing our affiliation with the Center for the Study of the Presidency, the White House Fellows attended the Publius Awards Dinner 2003 on Thursday, April 3rd, where Secretary Tom Ridge was honored. Secretary Ridge provided remarks, which highlighted the mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), DHS achievements and priority initiatives. In addition, several Fellows attended the Center for the Study of the Presidency Leadership Summit on Friday, April 4th and had the opportunity to meet the First Lady. At this same forum, Clay Johnson, Deputy Director of OMB for Management, provided insight into the leadership philosophy of the Administration.

• Through our affiliation with the American Academy of Achievement, the Fellows participated in the 2003 International Achievement Summit in Washington, D.C. from May 1st through May 4th. Through lectures, roundtable discussions and special presentations, the Fellows had the opportunity to interact with distinguished leaders such as Leonard A. Lauder, the Honorable Rudolph Guliani, Thomas L. Friedman, His Excellency Shimon Peres and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Fellows also were included in a luncheon with the King of Spain, Placido Domingo, Senators and Congressman, and Cabinet Secretaries. The Fellows learned a great deal from these sessions, which provided the opportunity for Q&A similar to our speakers series.

As I think you will agree, the program is running well. At the same time, we continue to look for ways to enhance the program. The alumni have been very helpful to us in this regard and I thank you for all of your help and support.

Best wishes,


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