Can you imagine having a job where you have to hire or promote 4000 people? When President Joseph Biden took the oath of office, he took on the responsibility of appointing the members of some very powerful boards, councils, and committees. Unfortunately, he also inherited an economic disaster, horrific environmental issues, and monumental problems with international relations.
As one can imagine, naming board appointees may take a back burner to rectifying the various catastrophes created by the Trump administration. However, he will eventually be saddled with the task of selecting chairmen and members of these boards. Congress must approve of these appointees.
What does the government board do?
Government boards and committees are entities that let government employees, government officials, and citizens communicate with one another. They do not write new laws or policies, yet they are very influential. Government boards focus on specific issues.
“Boards and commissions are created by the federal government for a number of reasons. Notably, in some cases, Congress has sought to remove some public decision making from politics by creating bipartisan boards and commissions. In other cases, they simply wanted to limit the influence of presidents. In other cases, the board is intended to increase representation in agency decision making.” Said David Lewis, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.
The President appoints board members and President Biden has just begun to fulfill this particular aspect of his job.
So far, Biden has appointed Cecilia Elena Rouse to his Council of Economic Advisers. She served as a council member under President Barack Obama. She is well versed in labor economics and has served on the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is a member of the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) as well.
A Harvard graduate, Rouse is now the dean of the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.
Biden also established the COVID Advisory Board. The members he has appointed so far include Dr. Anthony Fauci and CEO of Cranemere Jeffrey Dunston Zients who is the board’s coordinator.
There are many governments that have been around for quite a while. People have been awarded positions on these boards for their loyalty and hard work as often as they have been given them for their merit.
According to Dr. Lewis, the Carter Administration did the best job of appointing board members based on merit, and the Trump Administration most often rewarded people for their loyalty.
The Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board
This board is part of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.
Established in 1961, the board’s creation was inspired by the Fulbright-Hays Act. The act was the brainchild of Senator William Fullbright of Arkansas and it was enacted by President Kennedy. Its goal was to increase the understanding of other cultures through educational and cultural exchange programs.
It is supposed to focus its energies on disenfranchised people all over the world. However, many of the individuals who have served on the board have been anything but subjugated.
The original board members were experts in education and a few were even minorities. Professor Helen C. White was appointed by John F. Kennedy and was a pioneer in education. She was a graduate of Smith College and the first woman elected president of the American Association of University Professors.
Charles Spurgeon Johnson was also a Kennedy appointee. He was the first black President of Fisk University and the research director of the Urban League.
President Donald Trump rewarded Director of Presidential Personnel Johnny DeStefano with a seat on this board. Mr. DeStefano has no background in education and attended Saint Louis University. He was a fervent loyalist to Mr. Trump.
Trump also gave a seat at the table to his former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The Ouachita Baptist College graduate was known for stretching the truth more than 7,600 times on behalf of the famed businessman.
President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness
This board was composed of business experts from the private sector and from academia. It was created by President Barack Obama in 2009 and was designed to help improve the economy. Known for reaching out to the lower classes, the board was tasked with closing corporate tax loopholes and reducing corporate welfare. The meetings of the board were televised.
The board consisted of many prominent business people including Monica C. Lozano director of Bank of America and Jim McNerney, chairman and CEO of The Boeing Company.
Austan Dean Goolsbee, once a fill-in Anchorman for WGN in Chicago and a University of Chicago professor, served on the PCJC as the Chief Economic Council.
A Yale graduate and Fulbright scholar, Goolsbee was able to reach out to the masses with his sense of humor. He was an actor in his Yale improv troupe and even appeared on “The Daily Show” in a skit. He was voted Washington’s funniest celebrity by D.C.’s Improv and Comedy Club and appeared on a segment of Saturday Night Live.
When asked what he thought of the Trump administration, Mr. Goolsbee said, “They set a low bar for Donald Trump and he banged his head on it.”
The board was dissolved after it failed to gain authorization from Congress to continue in 2012. Congressman felt that the televised meetings discouraged board members from being candid when they spoke.
The Preserve America Board
George W. Bush established this program to protect certain historical American communities that exhibited characteristics of our national heritage. The committee has designated 900 “Preserve America Communities” to date.
Prominent Board Members
If you want to be on The Preserve America board, it helps to be married to the president of the United States. Laura Bush was honorary chairperson and so was Michelle Obama. The board consists of four historic preservation experts and four members of the general public.
President Trump’s appointees include general public representatives Aimee Jorjani, a longtime veteran of the Department of the interior. She worked on grant programs to preserve tribal heritage for many years when she was with the DOI.
Trump also appointed Florida Real estate mogul Rick Gonzalez and the executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston Kristopher B. King to the board.
President’s Intelligence Advisory Board
This board directly advises the President of the United States and his cabinet members. It focuses primarily on the handling of intelligence and counterintelligence and was created by Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. It was originally named the President’s Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities.
Joseph Kennedy, father of John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy was appointed to this position by his son. He was a real estate mogul who also had a major role in the reorganizing and refinancing of several Hollywood studios. He never served in the United States military. However, he did serve in the government before as the first Securities and Exchange Commission chairman under President Roosevelt.
Brent Scowcroft, the famed army lieutenant and political advisor to many a president, chaired this committee. He was a military assistant under President Nixon and he served on the Tower Commission which investigated the Iran-Contra controversy. and was awarded the presidential medal of freedom by George W Bush.
Shortly after Edward Snowden disclosed information about intelligence activities in the United States government, President Obama reduced this board from 14 members to four members.
Kennedy Center Board
The United States Government owns the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Seated on the banks of the Potomac River, the center opened in 1964. It has acted as a venue for a myriad of concerts, lectures, and plays.
Elenor Rosevelt originally came up with the idea of having a national center for the arts. The wheels were set in motion in the 1950s when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Cultural Center Act which laid the groundwork for a venue.
They began planning the building in the late 1950s. When the center finally opened in 1964, it was named in honor of the recently assassinated president.
The board’s primary responsibility is to raise funds for the center and award outstanding artists.
In honor of Mrs. Rosevelt, The First Lady of the United States always has an honorary membership on the board of trustees. If you are a FLOTUS, you will be on the board for the rest of your life. The mayor of Washington DC always has a seat on the board and so does the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Librarian of Congress, and the Secretary of State.
Michelle Obama once said, “The arts and humanities define who we are as a people. That is their power — to remind us of what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common. To help us understand our history and imagine our future. To give us hope in the moments of struggle and to bring us together when nothing else will.”
First ladies are expected to have a flair for the art of decorating. They often have decorating responsibilities at the White House. When speaking of those responsibilities Melania Trump said, “I’m working … my ass off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a (expletive) about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”
The president can appoint 36 people to the Kennedy Center board. President Trump appointed several artists who were his most ardent supporters such as legendary actor Jon Voigt. He also appointed Andrea Wynn who is the wife of Wynn Resorts founder and accused sexual assailant Steve Wynn. He also nominated singer Lee Greenwood who wrote the song, “Proud To Be An American.”
President Obama appointed Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett who has been his friend for many years, but who has no quantifiable background in the arts. He also appointed National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, an international relations expert, with no known expertise in the art.
The board member position is unpaid and lasts for 6 years. Some people serve on the board because they genuinely love theater. It has also served as a stepping stone for those with political ambition.
Boards can provide an important means of communication between the government and the general populace. Unfortunately, they have been too often used to reward political loyalty. Cronyism and nepotism have also strongly factored into the selection of board members.
Time will tell if future administrations will select board appointees who care deeply about the board’s mission or those who the president feels deserve a requite for things such as campaign contributions and personal friendship.