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Press release/statement

Heather McGhee Announces Plans to Transition from her Role as President of Demos

New York, NY – Today, Heather McGhee announced that after 15 years with Demos, with four as President, she will transition from her role as President in the summer of 2018. Under Heather McGhee’s leadership, Demos has grown significantly in size and impact. In the last four years, the racial diversity of the staff has more than doubled, and Demos is now a majority-person of color think tank. Moreover, the organization’s budget has grown from $8 to $14 million, further positioning Demos as an effective champion for forward-thinking policy ideas focused on advancing racial equity, economic justice and democracy for all.

“Today, people look to Demos – whether they’re everyday activists, movement leaders or legislators – for bold, race-forward ideas and action to address inequality. I am so proud of the organization we have built together, and our work together to give all people an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy,” said Heather McGhee.

This summer, Heather McGhee will become a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, promoting a positive vision of a multiracial democracy at a moment when racial polarization and inequality are threatening the fabric of America. This will include increased media work and the publication of a major book on the costs of racism not just to people of color, but to the entire society.  “Although I am transitioning from my role as President, my mission and Demos’ mission remain the same. I am committed to continuing the fight for the progressive ideas and values we hold dear.”

In March, the Demos Board of Trustees will launch a nationwide search for Demos’ next President, and is committed to finding a successor who will continue the flagship progressive organization’s record of achievement advancing racial equity, economic justice and a fully inclusive democracy.

“Under Heather’s leadership, Demos has become a powerful and influential organization, successfully mainstreaming bold, progressive policy ideas,” said Amelia Warren Tyagi, Chair of the Demos Board of Trustees. “We thank Heather for her steadfast commitment to our shared mission and believe her perspective and voice will play an important role in the progressive movement as she moves into her position as a Distinguished Senior Fellow.”

“Heather’s brilliant vision and strategic leadership at Demos will be missed. Because of Heather and her powerful team, Demos is now one of the most important places where movement leaders and policymakers go for ideas powerful enough to fight racial and economic inequality” said Rashad Robinson, Member of the Demos Board of Trustees, co-chair of the Search Committee and the Executive Director of Color Of Change. “The Board is excited to recruit Demos’ next visionary leader, who will continue the organization’s commitment to racial equity, effective movement building and ideas that can transform our economy, our democracy and our future as a country.”

“Heather McGhee has built on the strong legacy of Stephen Heintz and Miles Rapoport to make Demos the premier organization working at the intersection of economic and political equality and race.  It’s a win-win for progressive discourse in a time when the loudest megaphones belong to the most divisive forces that Heather’s powerful voice, pen and vision will be amplified as a Distinguished Senior Fellow, while a new President takes Demos from strength to strength,” said Gara LaMarche, President of the Democracy Alliance.

“SEIU members and millions of underpaid workers across our economy fighting for a better life have benefited from Heather McGhee’s incredible leadership on raising wages and tackling issues of race,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. “As we continue to work alongside Demos for an economy and democracy that work for all of us, we need Heather’s voice now more than ever. I am incredibly grateful that she will continue to help guide our movement for working people with her insight and counsel as a Senior Fellow at Demos.”

This transition comes at a time of strength and growth for Demos. Demos has an experienced executive team that is committed to continuing to champion the progressive policy solutions Demos is known for – led by Liz Doyle, Senior Vice President of Programs and Strategy; Tamara Draut, Vice President of Policy and Research; Tori O’Neal-McElrath, Vice President of External Affairs, and Rodney McKenzie, Vice President of Campaigns and Partnerships.

Under Heather McGhee’s leadership, Demos’ team of researchers, litigators and advocates have played a lead role in the following victories that have rebalanced power from the few to the many on core issues. Recent accomplishments include:  

  • Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been able to register to vote because of lawsuits that Demos has settled or won in states including Alabama, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
  • Five states and the District of Columbia have enacted pro-democracy reforms that Demos has championed, including public campaign financing and same-day and automatic voter registration.
  • Demos has been a leader in advancing policy solutions to address the college debt crisis facing America’s students, including developing the signature policy idea of “debt-free college”, which has moved into presidential campaign platforms and the center of the policy debate.
  • Demos’ research, advocacy and policy ideas were responsible for the passage of the Credit CARD Act in 2009, which empowered Americans to take control of their finances by increasing the transparency of credit card statements and dramatically reducing unfair and excessive fees and penalties.
  • Demos played a critical role in the fight for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010, which has effectively protected consumers and held Wall Street accountable.