In 1964 the White House Fellows program was created to offer exceptional young men and women a one-year placement in offices at the highest levels of the federal government — after which, this new generation of leaders were expected to return “to work as private citizens on their public agendas.” This fall President Barack Obama congratulated the 15 members of the class of 2011-2012. Six of the cohort are African Americans, whom you will surely hear about in the future.
They join stellar company: U.S. Army officer Ron Lee (1965-1966), who was placed in the U.S. Postal Service, was the first black White House fellow. Oceanographer W. Antoinette Ford, placed as special assistant to the secretary of the treasury (1971-1972), was the first black female fellow.
Perhaps the most famous black WHF alumnus is former Secretary of State, and four-star general, Colin Powell, who was in the class of 1972-1973. Other prominent alumni include Iraq War veteran and Rhodes scholar (and 2010 The Root 100 honoree) Wes Moore, class of 2006-2007; social entrepreneur Cheryl Dorsey, class of 1997-1998; U.S. Air Force General Edward A. Rice Jr., class of 1990-1991; and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook, class of 1993-1994.
Among the Current Crop: Warriors, Healers and Innovators
The placement of Harlem resident Reggie Chambers in the White House National Economic Council, which advises the president on policy, seems like a no-brainer. He earned an A.B. from Duke University in political science, Spanish, and markets and management and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He then worked as a corporate lawyer, a banker on energy transactions and an executive at a $20 billion international investment firm. In an interview with Duke magazine, Chambers said that all citizens are obliged “to make certain our nation will be a better place for future generations.”
Until recently, Kisha Davis practiced as a family physician — with an interest in HIV/AIDS, women’s health and diabetes — at a health center in the Maryland community where she grew up. Davis earned an M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins University and an M.D. from the University of Connecticut. She has studied how Medicaid patients in Maryland are affected by health care costs and use. She has also traveled to New Orleans, Honduras and Zimbabwe on medical missions. Her WHF placement is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.