Danielle believes that we need leadership to take action and establish a foundation of flourishing for everyone in Massachusetts. She knows that Massachusetts is stronger when we don’t abandon anyone and she has the vision and the commitment to make these aspirations a reality.
“if you’re free, you need to free somebody else; if you have some power, you need to empower somebody else.”
Danielle’s mother and father met and married in California in the 1960s when the choice to marry whom they loved was still illegal in several states.
A librarian and professor, they raised their children to believe in their own voices and to be ready to lift them up on behalf of others.
Their education would be their only inheritance, her parents said, but would keep them free. Danielle graduated from Claremont High School and set out after that inheritance. She received degrees from Princeton University and the University of Cambridge and, in 1996, in fulfillment of her grandmother’s dream, reached Massachusetts, enrolling for a PhD in Government at Harvard.
Her maternal great-grandparents fought for women’s right to vote in Michigan. Her paternal grandfather helped found the first NAACP chapter in his northern Florida community, when doing so was to take your life in your hands.
Her grandmother, a self-taught community nurse in the segregated South, packed her children full of love and pride and dreamed of sending one of her flock to college in Massachusetts, first state in the union to end enslavement.
Danielle put her education to work in policy—justice, health, education, political economy, democracy.
Danielle is a mom, educator, social entrepreneur, policy expert, and ethicist with an appointment as a University Professor at Harvard. She has started and led a range of organizations, from local civic education providers to a global philanthropy. She is a source of innovative ideas, taps into partnerships to tackle big problems, and puts ideas into action. Danielle has worked tirelessly for decades in the policy domains of justice, health, education, political economy, and democracy. Her leadership is characterized by listening, synthesizing, collaborating, and innovating. That’s what she thinks it will take to move Massachusetts forward to tackle the big problems.
Danielle seeks to bring to as many people as possible the joy of empowerment, the true reward of participating in a community of free and equal self-governing citizens.
When the COVID crisis hit, Danielle could tell that Massachusetts’ remarkable universities and biotechnology businesses were a treasure trove of knowledge about how to respond to the COVID crisis but that the knowledge wasn’t getting out to the public to accelerate the country’s response.
She quickly assembled a Rapid Response Network of forty researchers and eight institutions to lay out a policy roadmap, The Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience, and led the development of influential data metrics and tools. She co-wrote the bi-partisan Suppress Covid Act, introduced in both houses of Congress in August, with Senators Tina Smith and Bill Cassidy.
Many of the proposals in that Roadmap and in the related work developed by the Rapid Response Network have been incorporated in the Biden-Harris Administration Coronavirus Response Plan, and Danielle and her team have offered technical assistance to local leaders at city and county levels throughout the country.
Danielle is the kind of person who runs to a fire, not away from it, and she knows how to get things done.
Danielle has worked tirelessly through her writing, policy work, and political advocacy to advance the causes of freedom and equality, and to lay economic and health foundations on which all can flourish. She is especially proud of her civic education initiative which is supporting teaching and learning in fourteen Massachusetts school districts.
Her book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, won the Francis Parkman Prize. Her book, Cuz: an American Tragedy, tells the story of her beloved younger cousin Michael, whom her family lost to gangs, incarceration, and who died in 2009. Danielle knows that her accomplishments don’t matter much unless they can be put in service of lifting the rock that has been placed on the back of too many young people of all races and backgrounds—hiding opportunity, limiting access to health care, diminishing the possibilities of education, exposing them to violence, instilling fear for the planet’s future.
Our constitutional democracy promises liberty and justice for all; it promises to be the road to empowerment.
For Danielle, it has been just that, and her greatest aspiration is that for Our Commonwealth, Our Future, we build that road for all.