While the pandemic crushed the dreams of millions, shuttering businesses and schools and leaving millions jobless, the wealthy reaped a bonanza and watched their net worth more than double. They became richer while the poor got poorer.
Already at historic heights before the pandemic, wealth inequality by many measures now is worse than during the Gilded Age and divides the country into the haves and the have-nots. And that endangers us all by cutting social mobility, increasing crime and empowering authoritarians.
In the second program of the year, Common Ground will examine the consequences of this cleavage, the values that drive economic policy and the connections between our political and economic crises.
Melanie DeMore is a Grammy-nominated “vocal activist” who uses music to uplift people and bring them together. A composer, singer, conductor, and mentor, DeMore creates and rejoices in African American folk music, including a tradition called “stick pounding” created by enslaved people in South Carolina’s Sea Islands. To DeMore, the purpose of life is “for the seeking and sharing of light, joy, and deep love for what moves you.” DeMore was a founding member of the Grammy-nominated Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, and she is also involved with Black Lives Matter and GALA, the gay and lesbian choral society.
state senator sarah mcbride
Sarah McBride is a politician and LGBTQ+ rights activist who made history in 2020 when she became the country’s first openly transgender state senator. A lifelong changemaker, McBride volunteered on her first campaign when she was 14, led Delaware’s chapter of Young Democrats at 17, and became the first openly transgender person to work at the White House, interning there after graduating from college. She went on to successfully lobby Delaware’s legislature to pass a law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and then to work as the Communications Secretary for Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ civil rights organization.
state senator mallory mcmorrow
Mallory McMorrow is the Senate Majority Whip of Michigan who went viral in 2022 for her blazing speech condemning a fellow lawmaker for using hateful language to stir up fear about her and the Democratic party. Since getting elected in 2018, McMorrow has achieved a slate of policy wins such as repealing Michigan’s tampon tax, assisting businesses hit by the pandemic, and establishing a program for victims of domestic violence.
Kyle Spencer is the author of Raising Them Right, a book detailing her four-year investigation into how the Republican party recruits young people and how it, subsequently, turns them into stewards of the cause who attract their peers. A contributor to The New York Times whose work has appeared both in Politico and The Atlantic, Spencer has also written influential pieces on inequality in public schools.
Shannon Watts is a gun-safety activist and founder of Moms Demand Action, a nationwide movement with nearly 10 million supporters fighting for public safety measures to prevent gun violence. The mother of five and a former communications executive, she now serves on the board of Emerge America, one of the top organizations in the country for recruiting and training women to run for office, and Advance Peace, a community-based association that invests in the growth of urban neighborhoods to stop cyclical and retaliatory gun violence.