Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership


The Aspen Institute Rodel Public Leadership Fellowship

The Rodel Public Leadership Fellowship seeks to enhance our democracy by identifying and bringing together the nation’s most promising political leaders from across the political spectrum to explore, through study and conversation, the underlying values and principles of American democracy and the responsibilities of public leadership. The program seeks to support and inspire high ethical standards and thoughtful and civil bipartisan dialogue in order to help America’s elected officials achieve their full potential as leaders and public servants.

Many Rodel Fellows have gone on to serve at the highest levels of responsibility in our democracy as Vice President, Presidential cabinet members, governors, and United States Senators and Representatives.

About the Program

Each year, after an intensive search, the Aspen Institute names a select group of America’s emerging political stars to its prestigious Rodel Fellowship. Fellows are selected based on their reputations for intellect, thoughtfulness, and a commitment to civil dialogue. The 24-month fellowship program consists of three weekend-long seminars, generally held in Aspen, Colorado.  In the seminars, Rodel Fellows read and discuss important theoretical and historical texts that help them explore the formation and application of their personal values,  strengthen their commitment to principles of American democracy, and cultivate a deep sense of respect for persons from very different communities, with very different values and life experiences.

The Rodel Fellowship program believes that by working to develop thoughtful, committed public leaders, it will help to produce a more bipartisan approach to America’s most important domestic issues such as national security, economic policy, health care, public education, and the environment. All of these issues transcend the partisan political divide and are central to fostering a better society for future generations. While the participants in this program are all elected, and therefore political leaders, the Rodel Fellowship is not a political program, but an educational and leadership training program based on the belief that by exposing participants to a variety of philosophies, viewpoints, and strategies, we will improve the quality of problem-solving and decision-making in our states and local communities.

William D. Budinger, an Aspen Institute Trustee and Founder of the Rodel Foundations, is the program’s chief source of inspiration: “The United States,” he says, “is founded on two bedrock ideas — freedom and democracy. It’s important to make sure our political leaders understand the degree to which America’s unique character rests on those two principles. It is in keeping with this vision that our goal is nothing less than to begin a reshaping of the American political dynamic.”  Former Congressman Mickey Edwards, the program’s founding executive director, has explained: “It is time to work for change— to do what we can to refocus American politics on achievement rather than division.”

John Kroger, a Rodel Fellow from the class of 2010, is the program’s Director. John has had a distinguished career in government and higher education, including service as a United States Marine, Attorney General of Oregon, President of Reed College, Chief Learning Officer of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, Hauser Leader in Residence at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School.

Participation and Funding Participation

The Aspen Institute Rodel Public Leadership Program is a nongovernmental, nonpartisan education and leadership development program for American leaders holding elected office at the state or local level. The Rodel Fellowship program provides an opportunity for our country’s rising leaders to analyze and discuss theoretical texts and contemporary commentaries on topics such as democracy and leadership. Political neutrality is essential to the educational mission of the program, which is not identified or associated with any political or party viewpoint. The program does not receive funding from any corporations or political organizations. The program does not endorse legislation or policy proposals, and no lobbyists, staff members, or outside observers are permitted to attend fellowship programs. Fellows must be nominated to be considered for participation.