Former Obama official to discuss American democracy

Contact: Tim Ready
Headshot, Melody Barnes.

Melody Barnes

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A top official in President Barack Obama's administration will talk about public confidence in American institutions and American democracy when she speaks on the Western Michigan University campus this month.

Melody Barnes, the director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council from 2009 to 2012, will present "We, the People: The Promise of Democracy" at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, in 157 Bernhard Center.

Barnes will be introduced by WMU President Edward Montgomery, who served with her in the Obama administration as a member of the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry. Her presentation is free and open to the public, although those planning to attend are asked to register for planning purposes. Doors for the event will open at 6 p.m., and light refreshments will be served.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Barnes will begin her talk by describing the personal experiences and career pathway that led her to a top leadership position in the White House. She will go on to focus on how economic insecurity and the country's changing demographics have affected public confidence in American institutions and in American democracy, itself.

Barnes will advocate for people to become more involved in the civic life of their communities and highlight the opportunities presented by Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo, which is co-sponsoring her talk along with the city of Kalamazoo and WMU's Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations.

She is co-founder and principal of MB2 Solutions, a Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia-based public policy and domestic strategy firm, as well as a senior fellow and Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics in the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, where she also is a Distinguished Fellow in the School of Law.

Barnes earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1989; worked for eight years for U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, including as chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and served for five years as executive vice president of the Center for American Progress. In addition to her other roles, she now chairs the Aspen Institute's Forum for Community Solutions and serves on various boards, including those of the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Year Up.

For more information about her talk, visit the Walker Institute or call the institute at (269) 387-2141. Free parking will be available nearby in WMU's Parking Ramp #1. Directions and campus maps are available online.

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