By Jeff Hall
Many years ago, when I was 34, I spent a year doing something called a White House Fellowship. I got to work at the White House for a year – and loved every minute of it.
The White House Fellows program identifies “future leader types” and gives them a year-long, very intense exposure to the inner workings of the federal government.
The hope is that those who get selected will learn a lot about government and leadership — and then “pay it forward” later in life.
White House Fellows include lawyers, doctors, journalists, businesspeople, military officers, ballet dancers – a reflection of our country at large. The program was started by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
Last month, members of the White House Fellows alumni group met in Atlanta, at the Carter Center. We listened to Stu Eizenstat (Jimmy Carter’s chief domestic policy adviser) and retired U.S. Senator Sam Nunn.
Tom Johnson, former publisher of the Los Angeles Times and later, president of CNN, was there (he lives in Atlanta now; he’s originally from Macon, GA). Tom was a White House Fellow back in 1965-66. I worked for Tom at The Times; he was an amazingly inspirational boss.
Sanjay Gupta (pictured here in Atlanta alongside White House Fellow alumni Margarita Colmenares and Jeff Hall) is chief medical correspondent at CNN. He was a White House Fellow, too.
One of the truly great things about the White House Fellows program is that it is completely nonpartisan. While applying to become a White House Fellow – and while serving – nobody asks about your personal politics. It is common for Democrats to work in Republican administrations, and vice versa.
The idea of nonpartisanship has always felt “right” to me. We all need to get along if we are going to solve the problems facing our nation. When I first started the Brentwood News back in 1991, I announced that our little paper was never going to endorse candidates – and we never have.
We give all those running for office equal ink in the paper when it’s election season.
That makes the Brentwood News unusual. Most community newspaper publishers love having politicians come in and beg for the paper’s endorsement.
From local papers to our national outlets, I think it’s sad what has happened to our media ecosystem over time. Far too many outlets willingly became weaponized in today’s hyper-partisan climate. This explains, to me anyway, why trust in media these days is so low.
So if you like the fact the Brentwood News is politically neutral, you have the White House Fellows to thank for that. Same with my website project, TheLatest.com. When it comes to politics, we happily show all sides and encourage a civil conversation.
There are a lot of bright young people who grow up in Brentwood. If you know someone who might enjoy spending a year working at the uppermost levels of the federal government, clip this article and pass it along so they can learn about the White House Fellows program.
The average age of a White House Fellow while serving their year in Washington is 34. People often learn about the program at an earlier age and tuck that knowledge away for future reference. I first heard about the program while a sophomore in college.
If you know of anyone who would like to discuss the White House Fellows program with me personally, I’d be delighted to do that. I can’t say enough good things about the experience.