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When you listen to Melody Barnes you are hearing the same voice which has provided strategic advice to President Obama as Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and to someone who has coordinated the domestic policy agenda for the current administration, working closely with members of the Cabinet. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was one of the initiatives to which she was central, and she helped the Education Secretary create new partnerships with the private sector, bringing new funds and expertise to school districts across the nation. As one of the President's chief negotiators for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act she helped to secure one of the most notable reforms of higher education in the last four decades.

Arguably the most significant issue and achievement of the Obama Administration has been healthcare reform, and it was under Ms. Barnes' leadership that the DPC began working with the Department of Health and Human Services at the Department of Treasury to bring in these reforms. Ms. Barnes also worked on critical new food safety executive actions, helped shape and implement the first comprehensive national strategy to deal with HIV/AIDS and worked closely with the First Lady in her campaign to end child obesity.

Before taking up a position in the White House, Ms. Barnes was on the leadership team for the Obama–Biden Transition Project as co-director of the Agency Review Working group. She was also Senior Domestic Policy Adviser for the Obama for America campaign. Helping the campaign nationwide, she appeared regularly on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Charlie Rose, Morning Joe, CNN newsroom, Good Morning America, Fox News and many others.

An attorney by profession, Ms. Barnes' other notable posts have included chief counsel for Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Director of Legislative Affairs for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Executive Vice President for Policy at the Centre for American Progress. She is currently Senior Director of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, providing strategic advice in the creation of multi-sector partnerships across public, private and civil society. She is CEO of her own company, Melody Barnes Solutions LLC, which focuses on domestic strategy. She serves as Chair of the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and on the board of directors of the Marguerite Casey Foundation. In the academic world, she is Vice Provost for Global Student Leadership Initiatives and Senior Fellow at the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.

Full Profile

Melody Barnes served as Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) from January 2009 until January 2012. In that capacity, she provided strategic advice to President Obama and worked closely with members of the Cabinet coordinating the domestic policy agenda across the Administration.


Under Ms. Barnes’ leadership, innovative new policies, practices and partnerships were initiated to address significant national challenges. Barnes was instrumental in crafting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, including the ground breaking education reform initiative, Race to the Top. She worked closely with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to create new partnerships with the private sector that deploy math and science resources and expertise to school districts around the country. Barnes also helped secure the most significant reform of higher education in forty years while serving as one of President Obama’s chief negotiators of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.


During Ms. Barnes’ tenure, the DPC began working with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Treasury to implement the health care reform legislation, coordinated government-wide implementation of critical new food safety executive actions, and crafted and began implementing the first comprehensive national strategy to address the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic. Barnes worked closely with First Lady Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move! campaign, chairing the President’s cross-government working group tasked with developing policies to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation.


Ms. Barnes coordinated key Administration initiatives to reform the federal government’s relationship with local governments and communities. In partnership with the private and non-profit sectors, the country’s first Social Innovation Fund currently supports the work of community-based organizations prepared to scale solutions to health care, economic and youth development challenges. Similarly, the Strong Cities, Strong Communities program deploys the human capital and resources of over a dozen federal agencies and the philanthropic sector to implement locally-conceived economic development plans in chronically ailing cities around the country.


Prior to her work in the White House, Barnes served on the leadership team for the Obama-Biden Transition Project where she co-directed the Agency Review Working Group. In addition, Ms. Barnes served as Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to the Obama for America campaign. During the campaign, she helped coordinate policy development and served as a surrogate across the country, as well as on television and radio. Ms. Barnes’ media appearances include The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Charlie Rose, Morning Joe, Andrea Mitchell Reports, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, CNN Newsroom, The Today Show, Good Morning America, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Fox News, The Diane Rehm Show, All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michele Martin.


Until July 2008, Ms. Barnes was the Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive research institute and think tank. From December 1995 until March 2003, Ms. Barnes worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee; she served as his chief counsel from 1998 until she left the Committee in 2003. Barnes’ experience also includes an appointment as Director of Legislative Affairs for the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Barnes began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City.


Today, Barnes is a Senior Director of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm. Ms. Barnes provides strategic advice and helps ASG’s clients forge multi-sector partnerships – uniting public, private and civil society sectors to deliver solutions. She is also CEO of Melody Barnes Solutions LLC, a domestic strategy firm, and Vice Provost for Global Student Leadership Initiatives and Senior Fellow at the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. Ms. Barnes also serves as Chair of the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and on the Board of Directors of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.


Born and reared in Richmond, Virginia, Ms. Barnes received her law degree from the University of Michigan and her bachelor′s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with honors in history. Ms. Barnes currently resides in Washington, DC with her husband, Marland Buckner.


Melody Barnes Speaker Videos Back to top

Melody Barnes speaks at the Blue Ribbon Schools Recognition event


Melody Barnes is not just one of America's top public administrators, she is deeply passionate about the areas in which she works and their development and reform. As she says here, “Few civil rights are as central to the cause of human freedom as that of equal educational opportunity."

Her work at the highest levels of government has taught Ms. Barnes that realism is essential in policy but that realism must not become cynicism, that it must not deter administrations from aiming for the highest standards: “We know that these are ambitious goals and they can only be realized by embarking on a course of reform for our education system from cradle to college. We need to raise educational expectations for everyone."

Outlining the holistic step change that must take place to improve US education, she explains, “Two imperatives animate our goals. The first is a moral one; for millions of American families… education has always been the great equalizer, the engine for the American dream. The second imperative is an economic imperative. Education, as you know, is critical if we're going to guarantee security for, and the well-being of, our individuals."

Keynote Speech at Rutgers University


Melody Barnes Speaks on the Administration's Accomplishments



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


Melody Barnes has worked at the heart of the administration and can provide insights into current affairs with a knowledge that few can match. She can speak on many subjects, but her particular areas of interest include the Affordable Care Act, education reform, the debt crisis, US domestic policy in a global economy and immigration reform based on economic and security needs.

Melody Barnes addresses many of today’s most critical issues and current events. Topic areas include:

  • Affordable Care Act: The Future of Health Care for Providers and Patients
  • Reforming America’s Education System
  • The Debt Crisis: The Tough Choices Ahead for America
  • U.S. Domestic Policy in a Global Economy
  • Today′s Political Issues - Causes and Solutions
  • Immigration: Reform Focused on 21st Century Economic and Security Needs




* Please note that while this speaker’s specific speaking fee falls within the range posted above (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.

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Melody Barnes addresses many of today’s most critical issues and current events. Topic areas include:

  • Affordable Care Act: The Future of Health Care for Providers and Patients
  • Reforming America’s Education System
  • The Debt Crisis: The Tough Choices Ahead for America
  • U.S. Domestic Policy in a Global Economy
  • Today′s Political Issues - Causes and Solutions
  • Immigration: Reform Focused on 21st Century Economic and Security Needs


Melody Barnes speaks at the Blue Ribbon Schools Recognition event


Melody Barnes is not just one of America's top public administrators, she is deeply passionate about the areas in which she works and their development and reform. As she says here, “Few civil rights are as central to the cause of human freedom as that of equal educational opportunity."

Her work at the highest levels of government has taught Ms. Barnes that realism is essential in policy but that realism must not become cynicism, that it must not deter administrations from aiming for the highest standards: “We know that these are ambitious goals and they can only be realized by embarking on a course of reform for our education system from cradle to college. We need to raise educational expectations for everyone."

Outlining the holistic step change that must take place to improve US education, she explains, “Two imperatives animate our goals. The first is a moral one; for millions of American families… education has always been the great equalizer, the engine for the American dream. The second imperative is an economic imperative. Education, as you know, is critical if we're going to guarantee security for, and the well-being of, our individuals."

Keynote Speech at Rutgers University


Melody Barnes Speaks on the Administration's Accomplishments