There's still a long road ahead of me, since only about 10% of regional finalists will make it all the way. Nevertheless, when I saw the list of names of 107 other people selected, I felt honored to be included among them.
Of course, honors and accolates are nice, but it's what you do with them that's important. Too often, I think, we academics build an Ivory Barrier between ourselves and government and the private sector. A lot of academics (perhaps particularly in the humanities) find work in the private sector contemptible, and work in the government sector ridiculous. This strikes me as a little silly. Government is not our ATM machine, and commercial business is not our enemy. If we could just overcome our mutual suspicion, I suspect we'd find we share a lot of common goals.
It seems like a cliched Oscar speech to say, "It's an honor just to be nominated," but if I make it no further than the regional finals, I'll feel honored despite my disappointment. My hope, though, is to make it all the way to becoming a White House Fellow, and after that year is up, benefit medieval studies as a whole with what I've learned. Serving my country, furthering medieval studies ... what an opportunity!
OK, I'm starting to sound like a Capra movie, so I'll just post the press release below.
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2007 – The White House today announced that 107 outstanding men and women from across the country have been selected as Regional Finalists for the White House Fellows Program – the Nation’s most prestigious program for leadership and public service. This year’s Regional Finalists
are come from 29 states, as well as the District of Colombia. They represent a broad cross-section of professions, including technology, education, health care, state government, law enforcement, engineering, business, consulting, law and the non-profit sector. Additionally, four branches of the military are represented among the Regional Finalists. A complete list of the Regional Finalists is attached below.
During March and April 2007, Regional Finalists participate in a rigorous interview process. Based on the results of the interviews, approximately thirty candidates will be named National Finalists. The President’s Commission on White House Fellowships will interview the National Finalists in June 2007 and then recommend candidates to President George W. Bush for a one-year appointment as White House Fellows.
The White House Fellows Program was founded in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This non-partisan program offers exceptional young men and women first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the Federal government. Fellows also participate in an education program consisting of roundtable discussions with renowned leaders from the private and public sectors. Following the Fellowship year, Fellows are expected to repay the privilege by contributing to the Nation as better leaders and public servants.
Selection as a White House Fellow is highly competitive and based on a record of remarkable professional achievement early in one’s career, evidence of leadership potential, a proven commitment to public service, and the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute successfully at the highest levels of the Federal government. Throughout its history, the program has fostered leaders in many fields including Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, United Nations Foundation President and Former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, U.S. Senator Samuel Brownback, and Congressman Joe Barton.
Additional information about the Program is located at ww.whitehouse.gov/fellows.