How the White House Will Shape Denver

That may be a nervy concept given the unfolding of this current presidential election.

But for nearly 50 years, the White House Fellowship program has taken elite, emerging professionals and placed them into a highly selective, one-year internship. White House Fellows participate in educational seminars, meet up close with senior leaders, and work in meaningful learn-by-doing roles within the White House – one Fellow even created the emergency evacuation plan that was in place for President Obama’s inaugural address. The hope of this rigorous leadership development program is to “strengthen Fellows’ abilities and desires to contribute to their communities, their professions, and their country.”1

At Denver Institute for Faith & Work, we were inspired by the White House Fellowship initially through the research and writing of Michael Lindsay in his View From the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World. Lindsay has done extensive analysis on the how elite public leaders are formed through their networks, upbringing, and motivations.

Lindsay found that influential leaders often point to the critical role of a “leadership catalyst” in their development — this is an experience “that gives protoleaders the opportunity to develop a generalist mind-set, which is essential to leadership, and to connect with superior (elite) networks.”2 Catalysts launch leaders forward in their ability to think and operate as high-level leaders and culture shapers. Of the White House Fellowship, Lindsay cited four factors that have made it so catalytic:

  • Significant work
  • Broadening education
  • A diverse network of peers
  • Public recognition

We have crafted the 5280 Fellowship to be a catalyst of this sort, for and in Denver. Fellows will broaden their engagement of theology, culture, community, leadership development, and Christian spiritual formation in relational settings with professionals from diverse industries. We think urban planners, business executives, teachers, and rocket scientists can learn with and through one another, and through exposure to Kingdom-minded senior leaders in Denver.

We’re thankful for the inspiration of Lindsay’s work in analyzing what makes leaders and leadership catalysts tick. And we’re inspired enough that we’ve invited him to address our 5280 Fellows at their January 2017 retreat. If you’re interested in hearing more from Lindsay himself, see the brief video below. 

If you know someone – or maybe that someone is you — looking for a theological and relational catalyst for their life, their craft, and their partnership with God for Denver, drop us a line. We’d love to care for their work and world alongside them as a 5280 Fellow.


  1. John Gardner, as quoted in Patricia O’Tooles White House Fellows: A Sense of Involvement, A Vision of Greatness (Washington, DC: White House Fellows Foundation, 1995).
  2. Lindsay, Michael. View From the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2014), 37.