Penn Kemble Forum on Democracy

Penn Kemble Forum 2017The Penn Kemble Forum on Democracy promotes bipartisan conversation among young foreign policy leaders in Washington, DC. The Forum is an opportunity for them to share ideas across sectors and explore the role of democracy and human rights within the context of a broad range of policy questions. The Forum is no longer accepting applications for the 2017-18 cohort; please check this site summer 2018 for application information for the next cohort.

The Forum convenes monthly for off-the-record dinner conversations led by foreign policy experts, government officials (past and present), and democracy practitioners. Penn Kemble Fellows have met with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Dr. Francis Fukuyama, Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran), and many others. 

No ‘democracy experience’ required – applications are encouraged from the Hill, security-focused young professionals, journalists covering international affairs, and the private sector, as well as from democracy and development practitioners.

The Forum will run this year from September 2017 to June 2018, starting with a morning retreat at the NED offices on Saturday, September 16, 2017. It is organized and sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy with the assistance of a distinguished advisory committee of scholars and practitioners.

About Penn Kemble: Penn Kemble’s death in October 2005 robbed the democracy movement of one of its most committed activists and strategists. His political evolution took him from early involvement in the young socialist and civil rights movements, through engagement with the U.S. labor movement in combating Communism, especially within Central America, to more recent initiatives, including the Transatlantic Democracy Network and Civitas, an international program to promote civic education. He served as deputy and acting director of the United States Information Agency in the Clinton administration, and Secretary of State Albright appointed him U.S. Representative to the Community of Democracies. In 2002, Secretary of State Powell appointed him to lead a group to investigate slavery and human trafficking in Sudan.


Learn about our 2016-17 Penn Kemble Fellows 

Learn about our 2015-2016 Penn Kemble Fellows

Learn about our 2014-2015 Penn Kemble Fellows


Penn Kemble Democracy Forum Advisory Committee

James S. Denton, World Affairs Journal

Joseph Eldridge, American University 

Jack A. Goldstone, George Mason University 

Barak D. Hoffman, World Bank Group

Michael Kimmage, Catholic University of America 

Rachel Kleinfeld, Truman Security Project

Andy Manatos, Washington Oxi Day Foundation 

Joshua Muravchik, Foreign Policy Institute

Azar Nafisi, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Jesse Nickelson, Sapience Leadership

Vladimir Tismăneanu, University of Maryland, College Park 

Sharon L. Wolchik, Elliott School of International Affairs 


The Endowment is no longer accepting applications for 2017-18. Please check back summer 2018 for information on the 2018-19 cohort. 

Applicants should be early-to-mid-career young professionals working on foreign policy related issues within think tanks, government, media, and the private or non-profit sectors. It is recommended that applicants have at least seven years of work experience. The Forum particularly encourages applicants from the Hill, security-related fields, and the private sector.

For participation, applicants need to be based in the Washington, D.C., area. The program is unpaid and nonresidential. Successful applicants are expected to attend the monthly seminars (to be held after working hours), although additional events and meetings will be scheduled.

Before applying, please consider if your professional and personal obligations will allow you to participate fully. 


  • Fellows need to be based in Washington, DC.
  • Fellows need to be available to attend a Saturday morning retreat (at the NED offices), date tba. 
  • Fellows are expected to attend a minimum of two-thirds of the monthly round tables, which are usually held on Monday or Tuesday nights. Attendance at other events (such as happy hours and career development seminars) is optional. Fellows who complete the two-thirds requirement will be invited to alumni events and career development seminars.
  • Fellows are asked to write one short paper on a Forum topic, or a reflection of their experience, by the end of the program. Select papers will be published on the NED website. 

Application Process

Applicants are asked to complete the application form below, which includes the following required documents:

  • Current resume
  • A statement of interest (500 words maximum) describing how the applicant will contribute to and benefit from the Forum
  • Letter of recommendation from a current or former employer or academic supervisor detailing the applicant’s intellectual and analytical abilities, international commitment or experience, and personal qualities
  • Applications are NOT currently being accepted; please check this page summer 2018 for application information for the 2018-19 cohort.