LOS ANGELES—The David Bohnett Foundation has awarded a grant of $800,000 to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute to endow the organizations’ jointly-conceived executive development program for LGBT government leaders. The David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellows program at the Harvard Kennedy School, the only mid-career training curriculum of its kind in the nation, has produced some of the country's top LGBT political talents, including Houston Mayor Annise Parker, New York State Sen. Tom Duane (D-Manhattan) and San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros.
“We're excited about the growth and direction of the Bohnett Leadership Fellows program, and this generous grant ensures that out leaders will have access to the very best tools to help develop their careers,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO at the Victory Institute. “With the Foundation’s assistance, we can serve more mid-career LGBT leaders, build the program's diversity and deepen relationships with fellows through richer programming, mentorships and advanced training.”
Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation, helped launched the Fellowship program with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute in 2002. Fleming became a fellow himself three years later and, in 2007, the foundation contributed its first grant of $500,000. The money covers a portion of the participation costs for LGBT participants who are accepted to the Harvard Kennedy School.
The intensive, three-week session, part of the school's Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program, offers a balance of traditional and hands-on learning experiences to help public officials meet the changing needs of their communities. President Obama's recent support for marriage equality has catapulted LGBT issues to the forefront, underscoring the program's influence on the future of American politics.
“So much is stake for the next wave of LGBT leaders, and the Leadership Fellows program reflects this pivotal period,” Bohnett said. “It empowers LGBT leaders who are making a difference in the world—it hones their skills and furthers their leadership potential.”
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Bohnett Leadership Fellows program, and also saw the program enroll its 100th fellow this summer. Any openly LGBT senior-level executive in state and local government, including agency representatives, non-profit leaders and elected officeholders, can apply to become a fellow. The diversity of participants is reflected in this year's Leadership Fellows class, which includes Seattle City Council President Sally Clark and Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin. Currently, just over 500 of the roughly 511,000 Americans in elective office are openly LGBT.
“The Bohnett Fellowship is a fundamental part of the Harvard program,”Director David King said. “It is difficult to imagine our sessions without their presence in the room and in the lives of our other participants. Too many state and local policymakers are unaware of their interactions with the LGBT community. Many seem to expect LGBT leaders to have their lives and policies driven by their sexual identities. The Bohnett Fellows have been exemplars of public service, and that's a lesson for the other students.”
Bohnett backed the fellowship program because he feels that leadership training is one of the best ways of advancing the civil rights goals he cares about most, particularly marriage and family equality. He says that, after interacting with David Bohnett fellows, the other 60 plus students in the Kennedy School's Senior Executives program learn a lot about the struggle the LGBT community has faced in its pursuit of equality.