A “social justice visionary” who says she has the fight for equality coursing through her veins is the new president of The Opportunity Agenda. Ellen Buchman now sits at the helm of the Washington, D.C.-based civic engagement communication lab.
“I can’t think of another moment, at least in my lifetime, that it’s so clear what’s at stake if we don’t dig deep and ensure that we’re doing all we can to push for equal opportunity and equity for people,” Buchman said. “Forging partnerships for social justice is in my DNA, and this is a seminal moment for social justice, for The Opportunity Agenda, and for our country,” she said separately in the official announcement.
Buchman joined The Opportunity Agenda as its first vice president for strategy and program impact in March 2018. Before that she worked with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights for 15 years, most recently as executive vice president.
The chair of the committee who appointed Buchman, Madifing Kaba, said in the announcement, “As we navigate one of the most divisive political climates in modern history, the issues related to equal dignity, human rights, opportunity for all and social justice in general are even more important today than ever. I believe that Ellen has the vision, the experience and the courage required to lead The Opportunity Agenda into the next phase of its work and history.”
“What I have been fortunate and privileged to be able to do in my career is build opportunities to forge collaborative work,” Buchman said. “People who are striving to advance different areas of equality are best served if they form strategic partnerships with one another.”
She will lead The Opportunity Agenda’s existing initiatives in criminal justice reform, immigrant rights and expanding economic opportunity.
Buchman said she wants to be a voice for those who can’t fight for themselves or are too young to do so. She wants to ensure that “kids are given a true path to prosperity and not a pipeline to prison. And make sure that young people of all backgrounds are given a chance to have dignity in life and given opportunities to advance to their full potential.”
Buchman’s appointment follows the recent departure of The Opportunity Agenda’s co-founder and long-time president Alan Jenkins, who said he is “elated” that she will now be leading the organization.
“Ellen’s social justice vision, her commitment to equity and inclusion, and the trust that she enjoys across diverse movements and sectors, are precisely the qualities that our organization needs at this critical moment in time. Under Ellen’s leadership, The Opportunity Agenda will see even greater success,” Jenkins said in the announcement.
The United States has historically been known to sustain the ideals of prosperity and security only for certain people, Buchman said. Intent on changing that, she wants to ensure that marginalized communities are treated fairly.
“It’s incredibly clear that we must do all that we can do … to make certain that we cannot and should not run the risk of leaving individuals behind, whether we’re talking about young people or we’re talking about others. Everyone has a stake in this and we’ve got to stick together,” she said.