In 1953, to celebrate President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first birthday in the White House, a group of businessmen
founded an international leader exchange program to honor his devotion to world peace.
A Single Nation Program for Poland in 1991 and a Single Nation Program for then-Czechoslovakia the next year, along with the addition of Bulgaria and Romania to the list of active countries, quickly established EF’s strong presence in the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. In 1994, after South Africa elected its first truly democratic government, EF ran a South Africa Single Nation Program for nine Fellows drawn from that country’s major ethnic groups and geographical areas. Later in the decade, the personal efforts of President George H. W. Bush, then EF chairman, enabled two programs for China, reflecting that country’s size and growing influence. As the century ended, EF was planning programs for Russia and India.
One innovation brought sharper focus to the USA Program. In 1999, a distinguished committee in North Carolina’s Research Triangle region launched EF’s first Regional Initiative, whereby Fellows from the region would travel abroad and later, after their fellowships, host international Fellows visiting the area.
Each year's program now included at least two seminars where fellows met and shared experiences. EF continued to measure the impact of its first decade on eisenhower fellows around the world.
Much of the tumult of the late 1960s unfolded before the Fellows' eyes as they traveled throughout the U.S.
In 2012, the USA Program brought back national recruitment efforts. In September 2014, EF hosted its first Innovation Program.