09.29.2011

A National Conversation about Opportunity and Mobility in America

On November 3 and 4, business leaders, educators, social entrepreneurs, community activists, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, young and old, will converge on the Apollo Theater and Columbia University to kick start a national conversation about opportunity and mobility in America. A year ago we began building Opportunity Nation, a campaign promoting opportunity, social mobility, and access to the American Dream. We began by listening to people around the country who experienced barriers to opportunity themselves, to learn about the challenges they faced in their communities. The challenge, as one Year Up student told us at a fascinating focus group in NYC, "The zip code you're born in shouldn't determine your destiny, but too often it does." Research bears this out - the US today has far less mobility than many of our European counterparts, yet we think of mobility as a part the uniquely American DNA.

We can do better. Our summit, co-convened by TIME Magazine, United Way Worldwide, AARP, AARP Foundation, and Ford Foundation, and supported by a coalition of more than 160 businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and faith communities - "opportunity generators" - is focused on highlighting tangible ways to create more opportunity in America. What's unusual about this opening conversation is its bipartisan nature - we'll have panels featuring scholars from Heritage, Center for American Progress, and the Brookings Institution, who have been working on policy ideas to increase opportunity; elected officials from both sides of the aisle; and a broad cross-section of citizens who may come at these issues from different perspectives, but who recognize that unless we collaborate on developing a shared plan, we won't make progress.

Opportunity is a core American value, and re-starting the engine of opportunity will require working across sectors, collaboratively. There is no silver bullet. But we are united in our belief that there are a set of ideas we can all agree on that will increase opportunity for more people, and in doing so, we will all be better off. Please join us.

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