Cum Viso Magnanimitatis - The White House Fellows See With Generosity
"Seeing With Magnanimity."
The motto of The White House Fellows might well be phrased, "Of Generous Spirit," or "Acting with Great Empathy," or "A Great, and Gentle Person."
This is what I saw during my time in Chicago this week meeting with some of the most accomplished and intelligent people I've ever seen in one room, interviewing the Chicago Regional Candidates for the 2015-2016 White House Fellow program.
Not only were the candidates wise and accomplished, but also my fellow regional panelists. Professionals, attorneys, officers in the military and in corporations, and some White House Fellows from earlier in their careers, they are among the best and the brightest. I am humbled and inspired to have been included in such august company.
The candidates of course must remain anonymous -- but you will hear of those of whom we most approved. "Most approved" was one of the toughest decisions in my life. I had to put a certain small number on my ballot, and from that vote a certain smaller number of candidates will move to the next level. Indeed, become National Finalists to enter a final selection.
The White House celebrates the 50th year of the White House Fellows program.
In 1964, when President Johnson inaugurated the White House Fellows, the women and men were young and early in their careers. The program was meant to introduce the best and the brightest to public service, though not to keep them in the public sector. Just as today, the White House Fellows then went on to higher callings across the spectrum of human achievement, from military careers, to judicial appointments, founding companies on the tips of our tongues today, and raising families of their own.
By contrast, the candidates of today are already highly accomplished individuals across the spectrum not just of where they work, but for how long they have worked. They are leading military officers already. They are leading business founders and executives already. They are mothers. They are fathers. They have lives. And the next class of White House Fellows will see those careers and families disrupted for a year.
Yes, a career hiatus occurs. When you're appointed a White House Fellow, you stop what you're doing, and you move to Washington, DC.
But no one is likely to turn down a Presidential appointment as a White House Fellow. Their families are 1o0% behind them, will likely go to Washington with them, and it will not be a hardship. In many cases a White House Fellow will work at a lower pay grade than they currently enjoy, but it's GS 15, which I understand is the highest government pay grade for those not elected to their positions.
The diversity of this group is amazing. Not just women and men, but people of every heritage. This diversity underscores the fact, as this nation matures, that people from every heritage are equally capable, and it's increasingly important that we celebrate this diversity. The world's problems stem largely from xenophobia -- you're not my people, so I don't like you. That's so not The White House Fellows. It's so critical in this nation of immigrants that we celebrate high achievement across the spectrum of heritage, not only to make this country stronger, but to show the world that great achievement is possible no matter your heritage, and that great responsibility rests on those with great gifts. The US will long give the global gift of this message.
Not that the US is the only country blessed with diversity. Every country in the world enjoys diversity -- just some celebrate it, while others seem to tolerate it at best -- or worse.
While a primary requirement of a White House Fellow is that they be a US Citizen, it is not required they be born in the USA. We have no visibility in this selection process of a person's birth nation -- and it's not appropriate to consider that.
But afterwards, being foreign born myself, and having built a strong team in my company of native born and foreign born women and men who fling themselves across this nation to help foreign born achieve legal status in the US, I have to wonder.
Always, in past White House Fellow classes, the "hometown" listed is the city where the person resides. But I wondered, and think I've found several foreign born. This is very heartening to me. This shows me that in the White House Fellow quest to find the best and the brightest, it's statistically likely that at least one National Finalist each year will have been born outside this country.
A recent Pew study found that the percent foreign born in the US will rise from about 14% today to 18% by 2060. Those people will enter the US in a variety of ways. We hope, and must continuously improve to ensure, that most will enter legally. But global strife will continue to foster migration of troubled people, and many will find our shores without assistance or permission.
My American Dream has evolved over the years, from helping every foreign born I could, while fostering my family to have the best lives they can. It now includes having opportunities to shape the future of the United States through participation in such outstanding programs as The White House Fellows.