NER Washington forum; White House Fellows program
The. White House Fellows program is one of the most exciting innovations to come to Washington in recent years. Under the program a certain small selected group of outstanding young Americans work for a year at the side of Cabinet officers White House staff members and the vice president. The voice you just heard was that of Thomas Carr director of the president's commission on the White House fellows and one of our guests this week on the NE our Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This week a discussion of the White House Fellows program a unique system which involves the nation's brightest young men and women in the highest decision making levels of the federal government. This program was produced by the national educational radio network through the facilities of W am you FM American University Radio in Washington DC. I many are a public affairs director Bill Greenwood with me is Tom Carr appointed director of the White House Fellows program by President
Johnson in October 1964. Prior to that he served as an associate director of the United States Civil Service Commission. Earlier government service included a stent with the Office of the secretary of defense in 1958 during which time he worked closely with the State Department and the Bureau of the budget. Also here to discuss the White House Fellows program is Thomas O Jones currently serving as a member of the program. Mr Jones is a 33 year old executive at the IBM Corp. office in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. He is on a leave of absence from that job to participate in the White House Fellows program where he has been assigned to the office of secretary of Health Education and Welfare. John Gardner Gentlemen welcome to the NDR forum. And as an initial question Mr. Carr would you just tell us what is the White House Fellows program. Well the purpose of the White House Fellows program is to provide an opportunity for some
very gifted younger people and by that I mean people between the ages of 23 and 35 a chance to observe and participated firsthand in some of the important policy decision making and policy formulation in Washington through a nationwide selection process. The president's commission on White House fellows headed by Douglas Dillon the former secretary of the Treasury each year selects a small number of persons who they believe to be qualified to become White House fellows. The hope is that they will carry back with them to their professions and communities of deeper awareness of how the federal government actually transacts its normal business and a better understanding of the way government works in Washington. TOM JONES Do you feel you're getting that understanding here in Washington. Well I think there's no doubt that I am this kind of experience and I look upon it after being apart of it for so many months. The most stimulating experience that is
available to you today in St.. Mr. CARRO When was the program established and what were the reasons for that. It was established by President Johnson in October of 1964. His idea at the time and which remains with him is that too too few Americans have the opportunity to really participate in the in the formulation of national policies. It was his feeling then and now that too many Americans are content to sit back and watch those people out there meaning the federal government carry out the nation's business. It was his intention then and it is now that more and more Americans particularly those outstanding young rising leaders be involved in this process rather than sit back and watch it pass them by. You would say then that there were no real political motivations for the establishment of this program. There were not. Then there are not and that now is a matter of fact the chairman of the commission is now a Douglas Dillon a Republican the former chairman David Rockefeller another Republican. Many members of the commission are
Republicans and of course many of the fellows have been Republicans and independents. What does actually constitute the commission per se. Well the commission is a group of 12 outstanding people chaired by as I said Douglas Dillon. The members consist of John Gardner who is Tom Jones boss for this year the secretary of Health Education and Welfare William Friday who is the president of the University of North Carolina. Several other educators and persons representing journalism their labor movement and other professions. And these gentlemen meet on occasion to formulate policies. That's correct and their major task each year is to select from in some cases thousands of applicants the few who will be chosen as White House fellows. But Tom Jones how did you first hear about the White House Fellows program. I first heard about the program in reading an article about it in an IBM internal newspaper back in September
1965 Dr. rather Mr. Carr are these articles being put out on occasion through your office. We're trying to encourage independent organisations to pick up the message of the White House Fellows program. Unfortunately many many private firms are not giving it the play we think it deserves because we're trying to attract their best people. This is understandable and we therefore are also using the national media to help carry the message to the people who are qualified for the program. Do you think then that this is going to be a continued stumbling block of fear on the part of these companies that you're going to hire away so to speak their man. Not at all I think in the past year or so we've already begun to overcome that feeling I think we've sent back to those firms of people who are much better prepared to carry on the work of their corporations. How many members of the fello program are there in any given year how many are selected. Well I'd say it will range from 15 to 25. Ferdi we've
only had two years of experience with that during the first year we had 15 fellows selected during the present year there are 18 and we've already selected for next year beginning in one in September of 1067 a group of 16 fellows. Now we talk about fellows and of course that's just an academic term girls are allowed so to speak when good they are there is one serving with Tom and Tom's group this year and there have been three selected for next year. As a young man who's of course interested in talking about government and certainly operating in it at the moment Tom Jones do you find the the female stimulation in an intellectual way compatible with the norm so to speak. Well I would say that Jane Cahill who is our one female fellow is doing an outstanding job and is making all of us keep up to the best of our own abilities to keep up with her. So other than this is truly a total involvement in both sections.
Yes I would. And I think that James Gale was selected on her being able to produce and to be the same high quality person that any of the fellows like Mr. Carr you mention the fact many executive branches and offices of the government are involved. What are some of the departments we of course know about h e w which Mr. Jones is associated with. Well actually all of the Cabinet departments are involved and have been from the beginning. You'll remember however that during the past year we've added two new cabinet departments that didn't exist prior to last year. One is the Department of Housing and Urban Development the department to which Jane Cahill is assigned. And the other new department is the Department of Transportation. The other traditional cabinet departments including the Department of Labor defense state transfer commerce and so on also have fellows assigned to them. In addition of that there is a fellow assigned to Ambassador Arthur Goldberg at the United Nations who also is a Cabinet officer. There are several assigned to
members of the White House staff and one fellow is assigned to the vice president. Tom Jones you of course say you read an article which told about the exciting assignments that could be enjoyed by members of the program what you do then how did you apply to this program. Well I wrote a letter to the timecard here and asked for more details about the program. At that point there's a long involved. Application form which they sent to me which took quite a deal of effort to fill out and made you rethink your whole approach to applying for the program that made you question your motives. It made you think about your past way of life made you rethink everything you did when you were back in college and graduate school and then it made you set down on paper exactly why you were interested in this kind of a program.
Why you say it made you think back how. How did this occur. Was it in the wording of the questions the details they asked. Well that's right but I would say that the questions were worded in a way that they questioned exactly what you were pursuing while you were in college and then later on it. It questioned exactly how you viewed yourself at that point in your career and exactly where you thought you were going and how you saw this particular program as fitting into your life career. Of course what Tom has just described is what we call a self eliminating application form. Obviously if we were to open up this program to any and all who saw fit to apply we would be besieged with applications. We therefore have carefully designed a forum which we think eliminates a good number of people who wouldn't normally be qualified because it does force them to rethink as Tom has just so aptly stated their career goals happen their and their motivations. Also as a matter of fact leaves a
person saying to himself I wonder if I really am qualified for this program and if he ends up with a conclusion that is not it seems to me that most of them just rip them up and throw them away. And I Mr. Card for anyone of course to work in the White House in the executive branch of this government there is a necessity that they be screened rather carefully after the self elimination and examination what happens then. Well the next step is a screening which is conducted under commission auspices here in Washington and in that process we take a look very carefully at all of the submitted applications we have in any one year had as many as 3000 that have gone through this process. We try to in that task merely eliminate the ones who don't appear to fit into the program. We are not trying to judge on paper or how worthy a person is but rather to select only those applications which appear to be promising and that of persons who deserve further attention. Without these 3000 applications which you say you received one year how many are
you in the finals so to speak. Well the next step after the initial screening in Washington is to forward those who appear most outstanding to one of the 11 regional panels which we've established in major cities across the country. During the first year two hundred fifty applications were selected and were forwarded to the regional panels. The step after that consists of the regional panels taking a closer look at the applications. Having the advantage of additional personal reference forms which we've requested from Washington and for them to make their decisions based on the complete written work paperwork and whether or not they want to interview one person or another and each regional panel will select only those persons whom they feel they can interview at some length about whom they can make a good judgment. What are the actual requirements for membership I believe you have a certain set criteria. Well the only ones which we require by regulation are that a person be between the ages of 23 and 35 be an American citizen
and be a graduate of an accredited four year college. Do you feel perhaps that there are some non college graduates who might be qualified for this and if so why can they had them not participate. Well indeed there must be lots of college and non-college graduates who would be qualified but unfortunately because of the vast numbers of persons with whom we must deal we feel that we've not sacrificed any great vast reservoir of talent by requiring that a person be a college graduate. Many of the persons who didn't at the normal age get their college degree and who are successful went on and got it later on through night work and so on. So we feel that the vast number of persons whom we're from whom we're seeking seeking White House fellows are in that group that have a college degree through one means or another. Now you said near the opening of the program Mr. Carr that President Johnson established this commission to allow bright young people to participate in the decision making processes of the government. Don't you feel really that the
the small size of this group really does not fully reach that purpose. Well we're starting small but so have a good number of other programs along similar lines. And after all if we're trying to involve people at the the highest level of the federal government we obviously have got to limit ourselves to a very few persons. And the critical factor of the program which leads us to keep it rather small is the educational program about which we haven't talked. That is a is a an auxiliary to the actual work experience. We're not Tom Jones you went through this very lengthy selection and screening process and how did they give you the word what happened then. Well that's a pretty interesting question. The final round so to speak takes place at a conference center in our case in Virginia where we spent three days with the commission members many of whom were very high ranking distinguished people and
obviously it puts a certain amount of attention on your own personality to think that at the end of this process as enjoyable as it is because you're meeting with some of the leading people in our society that someone is going to tell you yes or no. And the actual time comes after a reception at the White House when you go back to the commission office to pick up an envelope and that will contain a message which says you have been selected or you have not been selected. So I can tell you that this is a very difficult tense moment for the the final is to have to pick up that little open rate. I can imagine it's quite quite a letdown for those who don't get the good news you did also. Well I think it's a it's a let down sure but I know that these people look upon it as one of the finest experiences that they've gone through just to get to the finals and to meet the people there and to go through this experience. You know I wanted to raise a point Mr. Carwell I wanted to mention that it's indeed a letdown for the kind of
person who makes the finals because in most cases these are people who have never lost anything in their lives they've wanted everything they've ever tried. Well this is obvious by the caliber of members that we have matter here in our. Researching for this program. Let me ask you Mr. Carr what sort of benefits are received by these young men who are selected to participate. What do they receive in the way of a stipend. While the stipends this year range from seventy five hundred to twelve thousand dollars based upon age. In other words we do not take into account the fellow's salary before he came to Washington but we give him a basic stipend and from as I say seventy five hundred to twelve thousand dollars. In addition he's given fifteen hundred dollars if he's married and $500 for each child. We of course pay all of his transportation expenses to the moving of his household goods in his family to and from Washington so they can of course live fairly comfortably. Is this is not a problem to these young men comfortably but not exorbitantly as Mr. Jones I'm
sure can testify. How is it in the home front up here Mr. Jones. Well I would say that living in Washington is a very enjoyable thing. I would say that the stipend is not something that allows you to live if you're an established person with a family. I think we all realize today that it costs more and more to make ends meet but I think the founders look upon this certainly not for the financial benefits. And many of them have been willing to take a cut because they look upon it as an investment. It's something that's going to do them well over the rest of their lives. Mr. Carr I've met some of the members of the fellows program many of. Well I don't know how many but some who have stayed on with the government after their one year service exactly how many do stay on how many return to their jobs as the program suggests they should. Well it's hard to generalize because we've only had one year of experience but in the first year as I
mentioned there were 15 fellows and four of them have stayed on in Washington. I am reasonably sure that in the next year or so three of those will have returned so we can say in the first year perhaps one out of 15 has now committed himself to become a career government employee and we can also say then that this is not a high class training program for government service. Not at all and it's certainly not a recruiting program by any means. Now you are serving in one of the more glamorous training jobs. Tom Jones and I'd like to ask you when you first got up here what were some of the responsibilities that were thrust upon you and how did you react to them did this seem like a massive undertaking or how did it happen what was the attitude there. Well when I first joined the Department of Health Education and Welfare and I feel extremely fortunate in being assigned to a man such as John Gardner I refuted First of all as something
that was going to take me a little bit of time to really understand. It's a large department it's got a great many talented people that make up its higher echelons. And I think your first impression is one of humility even though you may bring to a job like there's a certain amount of experience you realize right away that your experience and the way in the world of business or among communities separate from Washington is quite different from the higher levels of a major department like health education and welfare. So I guess I really spent my first month or so trying to understand the department. But then I think you discover very rapidly that you can contribute and you can certainly participate. And Secretary Gardner wants his people to contribute and participate. And what type of participation have you been involved in and what are you doing. Well I would say the secretary has asked me to work
very actively in two main areas. One he has always been concerned with the problems of. The education of the Mexican-American minority in the southwest. And he asked me to look into new approaches towards bringing educational opportunities to the children of Mexican Americans in these areas and to develop some ideas towards bringing the federal government and its many programs closer to the problem. He also because of my background in management and systems work with IBM asked me to take a look at the management side of the department and its many as bags and to work closely with his managers and his administrative people in trying to develop new approaches and new ways to help manage the Department of Health Education and Welfare. How is this type of activity indicative of all the white house fellows Mr. Carr. I think it generally is a rather typical statement of what a White House fellow might be involved with.
Of course fellows have been involved in some pretty glamorous doings in Washington and some pretty mundane things too. I think they all come with wide eyes and open minds about what they'll they'll be doing a fall last year for example was assigned to Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz reported to Mr. Wertz about eight o'clock in the fair on the first morning on Monday morning and that afternoon at 3 o'clock found himself on his way to Los Angeles to do a special study for the secretary. This I would imagine also happens to those in the White House and the Pentagon as well. Yes indeed there has been a great deal of traveling among the fellows in many cases with the secretary or the other officer to whom they report. In some cases on their own where they've been asked to do special surveys or studies or to report directly to the secretary on problems in which he's asked them to become involved you would say then that judging by this careful screening of these individuals that there are inexperience in the executive branch of government perhaps is not as great as the
contributions they do in fact made. Well this is a very difficult one to to answer and I would hate to say that they are contributing more than they're gaining I think that would be an erroneous assumption. It's quite obvious that the kind of person that we've selected so far is perfectly capable of making an outstanding contribution. I think we've got to go further and say that the Cabinet officers the members of the White House staff and others have seen fit to open up a good number of opportunities for contributions. Now this is not an easy task on the part of the secretary to welcome to his office a stranger in many cases a young Republican stranger who does not necessarily share all of the ideological views of the Johnson administration but who has a willing hand and who wants to learn about the federal government. The secretaries have seen fit to open up to these people. A good number of the most touching and touchy issues that concern the nation. They of course have not in any respect gone out and made policy shortly after being
introduced to these Cabinet departments. But I think they've contributed. They've had a voice. They've been a helping hand and they've I think been very sincere in their efforts to help the tough work that goes on in the Cabinet departments. But Tom Jones you of course are assigned to the Department of Health Education and Welfare but could you tell us what is all of what is being done to expose you to other aspects of the executive branch of government. Well I think this is a very important part of the whole program and that is that in addition to working very hard at your own job within your own particular department you meet almost regularly two or three times a week with your colleagues who of course bring their own experiences to you and bring them into a common forum. And you also have the opportunity to meet with officials of these departments at lunch and seminars at dinner meetings and you get a chance to question these people as to what they're doing and what their policies are so that you're continually thinking not only
how a particular major issue affects your own department but also how it affects the entire government. I will follow up on something because I think it's appropriate at this point a comment that Tom Carr just made. I think as you see the total government and as you see the way the administration and I'll say the Johnson administration handles these problems you quickly realize that even though you may have been a Republican or a Democrat and may have had views dissimilar from the Johnson administration that you you must a den of fire yourself with the administration obviously you're working with. A secretary such as a man like John Gardner who is a very loyal and able cabinet member and you quickly realize that you are a part of this team that you serve your government and you're serving this administration. What do you feel are some of the biggest benefits you receive from your participation on this team. Well I thought about this quite a bit and I think you start out by
saying that you want to gain an understanding of the highest level of the federal government and you do gain this understanding. I think also you get a chance to work with not only the people at the top but you get a chance to work with people at every level and believe me there are young men at the lower levels of this government who are outstanding people and are making a tremendous contribution. And it's been a great honor for me to work with these people at every level. I think also that you get a chance. To participate in meaningful public service and to contribute and I think that all of these things make up a total package which is pretty tough to beat. Let me ask you something on a psychological point if I could This is probably one of the most exciting things as a young man that I could conceive of working hand-in-hand with the top level of government and knowing that this is going to come to London one year. Don't you feel it's going to be a letdown to have to go back to private
business with the paper shuffling so to speak. Well this question comes up and it does make you think what you're going to do when you go back I will say though that I have a feeling that you will be much better able to not only work as a member of the company or the enterprise if you go back to but to become a real participating member in your community and a person who can be a great influence on your community or your municipal government or your state government. You've learned things here in Washington that you can use for the rest of your life. Things which the average person in a state or a city or a community does not know about is federal government. And I feel almost excited about the fact that I could go back and really make my community a vital place and a vital link between the federal government and the average citizen so that when you think of it in that way you know that you're never going
to lose touch. And by the same token you've made contacts with people here in the federal government that you know you're going to keep and it's very possible in my own case that I will will still be able to work with people at the Department of Health Education and Welfare in a way that I can assist them in certain areas as a consultant or as a person who is interested and I'm sure that we in the federal government will keep our eyes on Tom Jones and his colleagues and I hope that will benefit again from them coming back to Washington in future years. It may be a year from now or five or 10 or 15 years from now but I'm sure that everyone of the White House fellows will in one sense or another be back in Washington serving the nation again. And I assume this is true for the group of fellows which finished their term a year ago. That's correct. We've already got several who are serving on presidential commissions in their home communities but who do make regular trips back to Washington and we're delighted that they do. Thank you very much Tom Jones and Tom Carr our guest this week on the
- NER Washington forum
- White House Fellows program
- Producing Organization
- WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Thomas Carr, director of President's Commission on White House Fellows.
- Series Description
- Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
- Public Affairs
- Media type
Host: Greenwood, Bill
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Speaker: Carr, Thomas W.
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-24-14 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “NER Washington forum; White House Fellows program,” 1967-06-20, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 7, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-3t9d8s4f.
- MLA: “NER Washington forum; White House Fellows program.” 1967-06-20. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 7, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-3t9d8s4f>.
- APA: NER Washington forum; White House Fellows program. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-3t9d8s4f