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Shaping the nation’s future: Heather C. McGhee

Cyril Josh Barker | 3/27/2014, 12:53 a.m.
At the tender age of just 33, Heather C. McGhee serves as the president of the public policy organization Demos.
Heather C. McGhee

At the tender age of just 33, Heather C. McGhee serves as the president of the public policy organization Demos. Under her leadership, the organization continues its mission to make sure all Americans get an equal chance economically.

Having taken on her position earlier this month, McGhee previously served as vice president of policy and outreach, where she led in the substantive development of all of Demos’ issue areas, in addition to overseeing the advocacy and communications strategies.

She replaces former longtime Demos President Miles Rapoport and says she plans to represent the nation’s progressive change movement.

A native of Chicago, McGhee graduated from Yale University with her undergraduate degree and attended University of California at Berkeley School of Law. She she said that while she was in law school, she was going to work for Demos because she wanted to change policy rather than be a practicing attorney.

“I knew before law school that I wanted to work in public policy rather than being a litigator. A law degree has been very helpful,” she said.

While McGhee has never been a lawyer, she is a member of the New York State Bar Association. She first started her work at Demos in college and saw several issues plaguing poor Americans and wanted to make changes.

Before becoming president, McGhee worked on an explosive report done by Demos on Americans facing massive credit card debt. The report, “Borrowing to Make Ends Meet,” found that while low-income and elderly Americans have been hit hardest by the debt boom, Americans of all stripes were suffering under the burden of high-interest credit card debt.

She’s currently doing work on pushing a Campaign finance reform bill in state government. The bill provides an equal playing field when it comes to corporate campaign donations versus donations by average voters. McGhee is also working on policy changes when it comes to student loan debt.

“Our democracy is at a crossroads,” she said. “The economy is like a big game, and the most powerful players are changing the rules.”

As the face for Demos, McGhee can be seen talking about the work the organization does on MSNBC, where she serves as a contributor. She’s also contributed to the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, National Public Radio, the Washington Post and The New York Times. She is the co-author of a chapter on retirement insecurity in the book “Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and its Poisonous Consequences.”

However, while she is representing Demos, McGhee understands that she is also serving as the voice for many Americans who don’t have the means to discuss their economic struggles.

“I welcome the debate, and it’s fun to debate conservatives about where we can go as a country,” she said.

While McGhee is clearly on a path for great things in her future, she said that at the moment, she’s making her leadership at Demos her top priority.

“Right now, I am thrilled to be the president of Demos,” she said. “I’m grateful that I’m helping create a bright future, setting the agenda for a generation to come.”