In 1982 I applied for a White House Fellowship. The White House Fellows program was established by President Johnson in October 1964. The mission of the program was "to give the Fellows first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs." White House Fellows typically spend a year working as full-time, paid special assistants to senior White House Staff, the Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries and other top-ranking government officials. Each year there are over a thousand applicants for the nineteen fellowships. Approximately 100 of the applicants are selected by regional panels of prominent local citizens. Based on the interviews the finalists are selected.
I had torn my ACL. That was 1979 and I had never heard of that injury. The orthopedic surgeon explained that repairs of the ACL were iffy and it was unlikely I would have the same stability I’d had before the accident. I was in a leg cast for eight weeks and it took me a year to recover. The knee was never the same.
As I prepared my answer for that writer’s conference, I realized, with the benefit of three decades of hindsight, that the reason it was such a life-changing event for me was that it was, literally, the end of my youth. I was in my prime, each year getting faster, stronger, more skilled. And then it was over. There was a new world order. I had to be careful, take care of my body – work harder just to stay even.
Of course, even if I'd had the insight to give an articulate answer during that interview, my interest in the CIA probably would have killed my chances anyway.