Spotlight Exclusives

Live from Opportunity Nation

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OOTS is excited to be present at today۪s Opportunity Nation Summit at Columbia University in New York City.  The Summit, a bipartisan gathering of business, civic, philanthropic, and community leaders, is a day filled with panels and activities devoted to the topic of opportunity.<?xml:namespace prefix = u5 />

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While the afternoon will include breakout sessions on different elements of opportunity and the unveiling of a new Opportunity Index,” the morning involved a series of high-profile speakers discussing the causes of and solutions to the challenge of waning opportunity in America.


For almost everyone, the problem of opportunity was real, acute, and urgent.  Said Ford Foundation President Luis Ubi̱as at the beginning of the day, “Too many of our fellow citizens believe America is no longer an opportunity nation.”  Added AARP Foundation President Jo Ann Jenkins, “In the crisis of American opportunity, no generation has been spared.”


Participants did not share identical views of exactly what constitutes the widely perceived erosion of opportunity in America.  Some talked about mobility, others about innovation and education, and several described emerging challenges to the emotion of opportunity.  TIME magazine Editor-at-Large and CNN host Fareed Zakaria spoke to this when he described how, as a child in India, “What fascinated me about America was the optimism.”


There was a similar diversity of views about the solution.  Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) talked about how Americans have become “increasingly disdainful of political battles in Washington that are only threatening to make problems worse,” and discussed the “need to hold our elected officials in Washington to a much higher standard.”  Affirming this sentiment, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson later commented that “Both parties have something to contribute” to an opportunity agenda. 


Others talked about the need to look for and seed potential solutions.  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg extolled the successes of New York City۪s Center for Economic Opportunity, which he described as “an R and D shop for anti-poverty solutions.”  Arianna Hufftingon, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, speaking alongside Gerson, later added that “We in the media have done a really poor job of putting a spotlight on what is working in this country.”


The morning concluded with a policy-focused discussion moderated by Spotlight partner John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises, LLC.  The panelists were a diverse group of policy experts, including Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, and Patty Stonesifer, chair of the White House Council on Community Solutions.  Topics ranged from education to the tax code to jobs.


Although views, outlooks, and beliefs widely varied, all of the day۪s participants seemed focused on a bleak reality described by Pastor Rick Warren: “The American dream has dimmed for many, many people.”


Stay tuned to OOTS and Spotlight for more updates on the Opportunity Nation Summit.

Posted by Sam


Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or


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