Local attorney Bedouin Joseph didn’t need to spend much time in Washington, DC before he discovered the power of federal government purse strings when yielded by the Office of Management and Budget. The OMB, as it’s called, is the White House office responsible for devising the president’s annual budget proposal to Congress and it’s also where Bedouin is now working in a yearlong position as a White House Fellow.
“Working here you can see the whole government in action,” Joseph says of the OMB. “I hope I can bring back new skills that will help me work to improve our community.”
Founded in 1964 – and now regarded as America’s most prestigious program for leadership and public service – these White House fellowships offer participants first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the federal government. Fellows spend a year working as full-time, paid special assistants to senior White House staff, the vice president, cabinet secretaries and other top-ranking government officials. Fellows also participate in an education program that includes trips to study the impact of U.S. policy decisions both domestically and internationally.
For instance, in November, Joseph and this year’s class of 11 other fellows traveled to New Orleans to meet local officials and explore strategies for the recovery. One of the projects Joseph is now working on at the OMB is a consolidated on-line access point for all federal disaster assistance.
“Instead of calling FEMA, calling the Small Business Administration, people will be able to go to one site and apply all at once,” he says.
Joseph became interested in the White House fellow program after reading the biography of former Army general and secretary of state Colin Powell, who had been a White House fellow in the 1970s and credited it as a life-changing experience. Through an extremely selective application process, Joseph was picked as one of 12 fellows for 2006-’07, and in September started work at the OMB in an office at the White House.
“I really thought it was fitting that I ended up at the OMB, since that’s where Powell worked (as a fellow),” Joseph says.
A native of New Jersey, Joseph moved to New Orleans in 2000 to work with Adams and Reese – the region’s largest law firm – where he specialized in complex litigation and class action work representing large companies. As part of the Fellow program, Joseph had to resign his position at the firm but he plans to return next September at the program’s conclusion. — I.M.