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Who Is Melody Barnes?

Who exactly is this woman that baked cupcakes to help raise money for George McGovern’s failed presidential campaign, but has also been recognized as a fashionista by Washingtonian Magazine?

Melody Barnes is part of President-elect Barack Obama’s inner circle, and will soon join him at the White House as his chief domestic policy adviser.

Barnes is perhaps the first African American to assume the role, where she will coordinate efforts on some of Obama’s top priorities involving health care, education, immigration and law enforcement.


Congressional Quarterly, a Washington-based policy publication, described Barnes as idealistic. “Much of her political thinking was shaped by dinner table conversations about Vietnam and President Nixon during her childhood in Richmond, Va.,” the publication states. “Her parents’ political leanings led to a grassroots effort to support McGovern and to Barnes’ very early stint as a culinary fundraiser.”

In an interview with C-SPAN Barnes described her job at the Center for American Progress (where she served as executive vice president for policy before joining the Obama campaign) as follows: “Quite frankly it’s all about changing the world, changing the country, helping the American public realize what it means to have a progressive America, to hear the other side of the debate that we think that they’ve been missing for a long time.”


AGE: 44, born April 29, 1964

HOMETOWN: Richmond, Va.

EXPERIENCE: Chosen by President-elect Barack Obama as director, White House Domestic Policy Council, Nov. 24, 2008; co-director, agency review working group for the Obama-Biden transition team, 2008; senior domestic policy adviser, Obama-Biden campaign, 2008; Obama campaign, 2008; executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, 2004-2008; principal, The Raben Group, LLC, 2003-2005; chief counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, 1995-2003; director of legislative affairs for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; assistant counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights; attorney, Shearman & Sterling.

EDUCATION Bachelor’s degree, University of North Carolina, 1986; law degree, University of Michigan, 1989.

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