Montpelier Focused on Africa's Success


On July 7-12, Montpelier will host 25 exceptional young Africans representing the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, President Obama’s flagship program aimed at propelling economic growth, prosperity, and democracy in Africa. The Fellows’ six-week study program in Virginia has been organized by the Presidential Precinct, an alliance between James Madison’s Montpelier, the College of William & Mary, the University of Virginia, Morven, Ashlawn-Highland, and Monticello, to create a forum for global conversation about democracy and self-government.

The Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution has collaborated with scholars and thought leaders to develop a provocative and engaging curriculum about citizenship, rights, and constitutional governance for the group’s session at Montpelier. Speakers include Heinz Klug of the University of Wisconsin, Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia, Timothy McManus of AECOM, Eric Bjornlund of Democracy International, and Michael Pace and Timothy Isaacs of the Center for Teaching the Rule of Law. Fellows will also have the opportunity to meet with Orange County leaders to exchange ideas about county administration and issues that arise when a community with a robust rural identity is confronted with pressures to urbanize.

“Our goal is to glean Madison's philosophies and lessons from our own Constitutional history and use them as a launching point to explore the unique opportunities in today’s African nation states,” said Doug Smith, vice president of the Center for the Constitution. “Governments that believe in the rule of law create the best environment for economic investment and diplomacy - we want to encourage Africa’s nation states to create more stable and inclusive governance. Representative self-government is, after all, Madison's greatest legacy.”

The African Fellows will experience a bit Central Virginia’s charm by visiting Culpeper’s Library of Congress Packard Theater for a screening of America’s cult classic “Caddyshack,” Early Mountain Vineyard, and the rodeo at Oakland Heights Farm. Montpelier has also set aside time to allow the Fellows to catch parts of the 2014 World Cup at the Silk Mill Grille in the town of Orange.

The participants include 13 women and 12 men ranging in age from 23-35. In their home communities, the Fellows have demonstrated exceptional leadership in progressive civic initiatives that address issues of governance, law, healthcare, gender equality, education, and natural resource management. Many Fellows are founders of their own organizations and have leveraged 21st century technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones to raise awareness for their causes. There are 18 African nation states represented in the group.

Caroline Godfrey