Rodel's History

The Rodel Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization devoted to strengthening American democracy and improving the quality of public leadership in the United States. 


The Rodel Fellowship was created in 2005 as a program at the Aspen Institute by former Congressman Mickey Edwards and entrepreneur, business leader, and philanthropist Bill Budinger. The purpose of the program from the outset was to combat the growing polarization of the left and the right in American politics.

In an interview, Edwards explained: “Bill Budinger and I worked together to create the Rodel Fellowship out of a conviction that we all have more in common as Americans than the policy disagreements that inevitably divide us into competing camps. We also understood that the key to bridging those divisions was to allow our public officials to get to know each other not as policy advocates but as fellow Americans, neighbors, and friends. The success of that plan can be seen at every Rodel seminar and at every Rodel reunion, which demonstrates the enduring importance of civil discussion, deliberation, negotiation, and compromise — the necessary ingredients of a shared democracy.”

With strong leadership from Edwards and the steady support from the Rodel Foundation, the program soon became the nation’s premier leadership development program for elected leaders, with an alumni network of about 400 current and former elected leaders. These fellows have served as United States senators, governors, mayors, party leaders, Cabinet secretaries, and members of Congress. Currently, the Vice President of the United States, five sitting U.S. governors, three U.S. Senators, three Cabinet Secretaries, and dozens of members of Congress, mayors, and state leaders are graduates of the program.

Following the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Rodel Foundation and the Aspen Institute agreed to spin off the Rodel program to create a new independent nonprofit organization, the Rodel Institute, in order to expand the Rodel program’s work.

The Rodel Institute is an independent nonprofit organization devoted to strengthening American democracy and improving the quality of public leadership in the United States. A nonpartisan center for leadership and intellectual growth, Rodel helps America’s most promising leaders reach their full potential as public servants, deepen their commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and work together to address some of our nation’s most important domestic and international challenges. The Institute’s programs convene diverse leaders from across the political, legal, and policy spectrum in an effort to find common ground, build relationships, and encourage the understanding and cooperation needed to move our nation forward.

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