- Isiah “Ike” Leggett (WHF 1978-79) receives the 2019 Legacy of Leadership Award
The White House Fellows Foundation and Association (WHFFA) is extremely pleased to announce that we will be presenting the 2019 Legacy of Leadership Award to Mr. Isiah “Ike” Leggett (1978-79). This is the highest award presented by the WHFFA, given in recognition of proven leadership, dedicated public service, and sustained support to the White House Fellows Program.
By any measure, Ike Leggett has lived the values of the White House Fellows program. His life is one of great personal and professional achievement, leadership and service to community and country.
His life story makes his many achievements all the more remarkable. Ike was one of thirteen children, raised in the segregated south in a three-room “shotgun” house with no indoor plumbing. From these humble beginnings, Ike, encouraged by his mother who had only a third grade education, went on to college. Working his way through Southern University as a member of the campus grounds crew, Ike served as student body president, captain of the ROTC cadets, and a campus leader in the civil rights movement.
By the time Ike was chosen to be a White House Fellow in 1978, he had served as a Captain in the U.S. Army and had been awarded the Bronze Star, Vietnam Service and Vietnam Campaign Medals. He had earned his law degree from Howard University, graduating first in his class, and a Master of Laws degree from George Washington University. He was serving as a professor of law and Assistant Dean at Howard University Law School at the time he was selected for the fellowship.
After the Fellowship Ike did exactly what John Gardner hoped Fellows would do. He returned to his community and dedicated himself to service, putting to use all the qualities of good leadership he had learned as a Fellow. Ike resumed teaching at Howard and accepted a seat on the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission, a position he held for six years, including three years as chair. It was the beginning of service to the citizens of Montgomery County that would span over 30 years at the highest levels of the government.
In 1986, Ike entered politics, running successfully for a seat on the Montgomery County Council. The first African American to be elected to the Council, he was re-elected three more times, serving as chair and vice chair over the terms of his service. After a brief hiatus from elected office, Ike ran for the position of County Executive and won convincingly, again the first African American to hold this high office. He was re-elected twice by large margins and had served a total of 12 years when he retired at the end of 2018.
Ike often credits the White House Fellows program with giving him the leadership tools to be effective in that challenging environment. His approach was collaborative, bringing people together, inviting their views and coming to decisions informed by that collaboration. Ike has been widely acknowledged for his commitment to the vulnerable — to expanding affordable housing, creating programs for immigrants and persons with disabilities, increasing the minimum wage and strengthening support services for the elderly. He is also acknowledged for the priority he gave education and his initiatives to grow the county’s economy and create jobs, while also being fiscally responsible. Over the most difficult economic times, during the recession and sequestration, Ike’s leadership was key to keeping the county on a strong financial footing, maintaining its strong bond rating and financial reserves.
In recognition of his leadership and the positive results it has produced, Ike has been recognized by a wide spectrum of organization, such as AARP, Howard University, The Jewish Community Relations Council of Washington DC, George Washington University, The Alzheimer’s Association, Humane Society, and many more. In 2016, the Washingtonian Magazine named Ike “Washingtonian of the Year.” Ike’s peers across the country have also recognized his leadership, electing him President of the County Executives of America in 2015.
Ike has also been a dedicated alumnus of the WHF program, responsive to classmates in need and attending every class reunion and gathering. Over the years he has attended annual leadership conferences and participated in WHF alumni travel. In the 1990’s, Ike served on the Board of the WHF Foundation and Association. He generously volunteered his time helping with the 50th Anniversary preparations and has contributed financially to the WHFFA and to the recent Campaign.
Perhaps there is no Fellow who appreciates the WHF program more than Ike. In an interview he gave in connection with our 50th Anniversary, Ike described his WHF experience as an “extraordinary “gift” and an “opportunity to serve my nation . . . [and] take that leadership experience back to serve my community,” adding that his year as a Fellow helped him “immensely in the job that I do now as county executive.”
Ike’s record of lifelong achievement exemplifies the best of the White House Fellows and fulfills the highest aspirations John Gardner had for the program. John Gardner chaired the Commission that selected Ike in 1978 and probably would not be at all surprised that Ike has been awarded our highest honor. We will present him with the Legacy of Leadership Award during our Annual Leadership Conference in Washington D.C., on the evening of October 17, 2019.
Please feel free to send Ike your congratulations at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org: August 14, 2019
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