We are the Henry Clay Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose strategic mission is to change the nature of our country’s political discourse and the manner in which our nation approaches ideological divisions.


The Henry Clay Center’s long term vision is to become the center of excellence for cooperative national political dialogue and to return Kentucky to its historical position as a place where opposed cultures can work together – Iroquois-Cherokee, French-English, Northern-Southern, urban-rural. Ultimately, we envision a transformation of the national political dialogue inspired by leaders who understand the power of statesmanship and elevate its core principles.


The mission of the Henry Clay Center is to transform the tone of our country’s political discourse. We don’t seek to change partisan minds, but rather to teach individuals how to listen and find common ground in the spirit of the profound legacy of the great Kentucky statesman, Henry Clay.


Founded in 2007 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship is dedicated to the education of tomorrow’s leaders in the skills necessary for statesmanship, dialogue, negotiation and compromise. The first annual College Student Congress was held in 2008 and continued every year until 2012. In 2014 and 2015, the Center transitioned from hosting a college program to the High School Student Congress. Beginning in 2016, the Henry Clay Center began hosting both the College and High School Student Congresses annually in partnership with the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University. In 2017, the Center expanded the College Student Congress to include an additional program in Washington, D.C. with an opportunity for internships upon completion. Alumni of the Henry Clay Center now number over 700 and serve in a variety of professions, including as elected state and local officials, staffers in the US. House and Senate, and corporate and legal professionals in the private sector.


We accomplish this mission by growing a cadre of future leaders, engaging our elected officials and educating the American public. Our competitive student congresses select rising high school and college seniors from across the United States to participate in rigorous summer programs in Lexington, Kentucky and Washington, D.C. that are centered on today’s most pressing policy issues. Our bipartisan speaking engagements, alumni mobilization and policy summits challenge speakers and audiences to listen to those who hold beliefs different from their own, to identify shared goals, to collaborate on areas of mutual interest and to learn the art of cooperating while maintaining personal convictions and values.

Dr. Tom Shelton,

Executive Director

Prior to his appointment to the position of Henry Clay Center Executive Director, Dr. Tom Shelton served as the Director of External Relations and Partnerships for the National Center on Education and the Economy in Washington D.C. Previously he had served as the Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, as a Professor of Educational Leadership at Eastern Kentucky University, and in school district administration for over twenty years, including serving as superintendent in Daviess County Public Schools and in Fayette County Public Schools in Kentucky.
As a superintendent, he led his district to selection and participation in the Asia Society’s Global Cities in Education Program and was named as an eSchool News Magazine 2009 Tech-savvy Superintendent of the Year and the AASA Kentucky Superintendent of the Year in 2011.
Tom holds a Bachelors degree in Accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant. He holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration, and a Masters Degree in Educational Administration from Murray State University. Tom also holds a PhD in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development from the University of Louisville.
In addition, he holds varying post-doctoral certificates from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University of London, and the World Bank Group. Dr. Shelton is a member in the Global Education Leaders Partnership (GELP), the International Congress of School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI), the World Innovation Summit in Education (WISE) Agile Leaders of Learning in Innovation Network (ALLIN), the American Education Research Association (AERA), and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

abby didawick

Abby Didawick,

Staff Assistant

Abby Didawick is a recent graduate from the University of Kentucky, where she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts Administration, with a minor in Digital Media and Design. Through previous positions, Abby has gained experience with nonprofit organizations, including special events, fundraising, and marketing. Abby most recently served as an intern for the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions (TX). As Staff Assistant, Abby takes on a vital role in assisting the Center with administrative, social media and marketing, communication, and fundraising support.


Board of Directors List

Senator Trent Lott,

Honorary Co-Chair

Senator Tom Daschle,

Honorary Co-Chair

Robert N. Clay,


Bill Giles,


Bob Babbage

Alex Boone

Rob Givens

Jim Gray

Charlie Grizzle

Merl Hackbart

John R. Hall

Tom Harris

Douglas Kiker

Crit Luallen

Clare Magee

Sannie Overly

Ian Ralby

McGuire “Mac” Riley

Matthew Shank

Derek Vaughan

Alumni Association Co-Chairs

Mikael Tessema,

2019 College Student Congress Alumnus (Connecticut Representative)

– Harvard University

Madison Powell,

2019 College Student Congress Alumnus (Kentucky Representative)

– Kentucky State University