2016 Summit precedes historic Census news; encouraging movement in Congress

by Monique Rizer   •  

The 2016 Opportunity Summit was an important day for nearly 900 cross-sector leaders, policymakers, and youth from across the country helping address the issue of opportunity and together shaping The Nation WE Make. Our speakers and leaders highlighted multi-sector, bipartisan solutions that all of us can learn from to restore the American Dream.

Why was this particular National Opportunity Summit so important and so timely?

Just three days after the summit the U.S. Census Bureau shared its latest report on income and poverty. The report showed an increase in median household income wages from $53,718 to $56,516 and a 1.2 percentage point decrease in the poverty rate from 2014 to 2015. The 1.2 percentage point decrease represents the largest annual percentage point drop in poverty since 1999. But there’s still work to do.

Rural communities face unique challenges, young adults are struggling to stay engaged in their communities, and place still matters too much in determining life outcomes. We need to talk frankly about poverty and opportunity, invest in programs that work, and collaborate across partisan lines to reimagine the American Dream for 21st century workers, children and young adults.

Our Summit and our Coalition’s policy plan elevate evidence-based and bipartisan ideas. The plan drew on the work of Opportunity Nation’s Coalition members and has been endorsed by more than 120 organizations with deep experience promoting opportunity.

More specifically, the plan proposed a set of ideas the next president and a new Congress can act on, including: expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit; advancing juvenile and criminal justice reform; updating career and technical education; and strengthening opportunity through service years.

Already there is movement. Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) have formed the Senate Opportunity Coalition. In the House, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), Ranking Member on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, introduced the Opening Doors for Youth Act to authorize grants for summer jobs for youth and grants to transform communities with high rates of youth disconnection into communities of opportunity. Opportunity Leader Shawnice Jackson participated in a panel discussion about the bill and Opportunity Youth.

The Summit was the beginning, not the end. Join us in this important work.

#OppSummit highlights:

  • The release of our policy agenda outlining six bold goals for the country to close the opportunity gap, by 2025; developed and signed by more than 120 of our Coalition members.
  • The awarding of the inaugural Jacob K. Javits Prize to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) for a lifetime of bipartisanship and to Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) for their emerging partnership.
  • The launch of our report, “Retail’s Opportunity: Exploring the Industry’s Impact on People and Places.”
  • Gap Inc.’s Bobbi Silten, Executive Vice President of Global Talent & Sustainability, announced their commitment to hire 10,000 Opportunity Youth by 2020.
  • Singer and activist Maya Azucena lit up the stage while 72 ServiceWorks AmeriCorps VISTAS were sworn in by Summit Co-Chair Gen. (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal for their year of service.
  • Voices from the stage:
    • “We need to make ourselves intentionally uncomfortable. Let’s agree to collaborate until it hurts.” – Blair Taylor, CEO of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance
    • “Be the change our nation needs, and our nation will never be the same.” – Sen. Tim Scott
    • “Restoring the American Dream is not impossible. It’s absolutely required.” – Jonathan Lavine, Co-Managing Partner, Bain Capital and Chair of the Opportunity Nation Campaign
    • “Job descriptions are screening out youth who might be a great fit for a job. We must reevaluate how we hire.” – Abigail Carlton, Managing Director, The Rockefeller Foundation
    • “We are the change. We are the generation that’s going to make a difference.” – Carlos Polanco, Bank of America Student Leader
    • “I said that day, no child that walks the earth around me isn’t going to go without opportunity. I’ll create an opportunity for them.” – Vivian Saunders, community activist
    • “We need to ensure that our youth are prepared to succeed in the 21st century job market.” – Ed Skyler, Executive Vice President, Global Public Affairs
Monique Rizer

Monique Rizer is the Executive Director of Opportunity Nation. Prior to this role, Monique served as Chief of Staff for Opportunity Nation's parent organization, Be The Change, Inc., a national nonprofit organization that creates issue-based campaigns designed to advance positive social change. Read Monique's Bio.

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