Communities of Color Breakfast Series

April 13, 2018 | News

Thursday, April 12 at the Capitol Visitor Center


It’s not every day that one is invited to the Communities of Color bipartisan breakfast series hosted monthly by the National Urban League and INSIGHT America. I was honored to be one of the private sector thought leaders invited to openly discuss policies impacting communities of color with senior White House administration and Congressional officials.

LaJuanna Russell and Speaker Paul Ryan

The guest speaker of this breakfast was House of Representative Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and attendees included C-Suite members and major community thought leaders from both sides of the aisle such as the Heritage Foundation, the National Supplier Development Council, Eli Lilly and Company, Uber, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Comcast NBCUniversal, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the National Minority Technology Council, the Asian-American Women in Business Coalition, and the American Federation for Children – definitely an impressive group.

As an outspoken Democrat, a member of the 2018 Emerge VA cohort, and Chair of the Small Business Majority’s Board of Directors, I always appreciate the opportunity to have open conversations about solving important policy issues. This month’s topic was particularly important to me: workforce development, upward mobility, and initiatives to help more people escape poverty and realize the American Dream. Those who know me know that I am consciously and continuously in a “pull-up” mode, as I understand that my career has been bolstered by those who kept me in mind.

The workforce gap in America has grown almost as quickly as the true middle-class has dwindled. We have a society of highly-skilled, highly paid workers and low-skilled workers, who often work multiple jobs and live just above or at the poverty line. We need to fill the middle ground. A myriad of opportunities exist in the mid-tier workforce – check the “want-ads” and you’ll see plenty of openings – and there are many people who are hardworking and willing to learn new skills. This presents a welcome opportunity to begin workforce development training and education programs to equip folks with the skills and confidence they need to go after those jobs. Education, training, and mentorship are the keys to upward mobility, and I believe that it will take a bipartisan effort to give economic empowerment to all Americans.

This effort requires dedicated focus and action. I was happy to hear Speaker Ryan address the issue – and excited that I was part of the conversation. While I agree with some of the ideas presented, the plans behind them are still too too partisan. We need more voices in the room.