WASHINGTON — Rei Onishi of Citrus Heights, Sacramento County, was appointed to the 2015-2016 class of White House Fellows on Monday.
The fellows come from diverse backgrounds, and varied professions, and have demonstrated a strong commitment to public service and leadership.
Onishi is a deputy attorney general in the California Department of Justice. He was responsible for defending the constitutionality of California’s laws, and helped craft and implement the legal strategy to defend the state’s 2012 public pension reforms. He also played a leading role in developing and implementing the department’s agenda to fight transnational organized crime, and served as an adviser to the Department’s Bureau of Children’s Justice.
Before joining the department, Onishi clerked on the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, worked on justice sector reform in West Africa, taught in Japan through the JET Program, co-authored travel books, and was a California Senate Fellow. As president of the Buck Scholars Association, he co-founded the Buck Fellows Program, a mentoring and scholarship program for low-income high school students whose parents never graduated from college. He also served on the boards of Wu Yee Children’s Services and the American Constitution Society Bay Area Lawyer Chapter.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa/magna cum laude from Harvard and received his M.P.P. from the Kennedy School of Government and J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor on the Harvard Law Review and a Chayes International Public Service Fellow.
The White House Fellows program was created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson to give promising American leaders “first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” This unique opportunity to work within the nation’s government is designed to encourage active citizenship and a lifelong commitment to service.
The fellows take part in an education program designed to broaden their knowledge of leadership, policy formulation, and current affairs. Community service is another essential element of the program, and fellows participate in service projects throughout their year in Washington, D.C.