Moore, Minyon 19(?)(?)–
Minyon Moore 19(?)(?)–
“Growing up on the South Side [of Chicago], you don’t think in terms of working at the White House,” Minyon Moore told Contemporary Black Biography (CBB). “You might visit it on an 8th grade field trip, but not work there.” But that is exactly where Moore ended up. In 1998 she became President Bill Clinton’s director of political affairs and one of the most powerful people—man or woman, black or white—in Washington, D.C. So how did it happen? “I was following my heart and my commitment to issues, to helping people,” she told CBB.
Moore was born in Chicago and raised on the city’s South Side, a mostly African-American working class neighborhood. The South Side was famous for both its lively arts scene which gave rise to a distinctive blend of blues, as well as its political activism which fueled issues ranging from workers rights to racial equality. Moore and a brother and sister were raised in this environment in the turbulent sixties and seventies by her postal worker father and a mother who held down various hourly jobs. “She was a worker and always had a job,” Moore told CBB. Whether it was bearing witness to her parent’s humble lives or seeing the hard times and high hopes around her in the streets of the South Side, something in Moore clicked at a young age. “I always had a passion to help people. African Americans in particular, especially around issues that affected their lives,” she told CBB. “I realized one day that politics was a way to really do that.” This realization did not happen until Moore had graduated from Chicago Vocational High School and enrolled as a sociology major at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
While a student, Moore met the Reverend Willie Barrow, then director of Operation/PUSH, a group headed up by Reverend Jesse Jackson and dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged people. PUSH stood for People United to Save (later Serve) Humanity. “I went to interview [Barrow] while I was in college,” Moore told CBB. “I was doing a paper on when blacks become mainstream, do they lose their identity. I was really impressed with her and with the organization so I began to volunteer.” At the time Moore was attending school full-time and working in the advertising department of the Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Company. However she soon became more involved with her volunteer work—including a stint working on Jackson’s 1984 presidential bid—and in 1985, as she told CBB, “I decided to join the ranks of non-profits and joined Operation/PUSH as an assistant to Reverend Barrow.”
At Operation/PUSH Moore was involved in many of the group’s missions, from voter registration to affirmative action to job training. After two years, Jackson tapped Moore to work on his 1988 presidential campaign. As his national deputy field director, Moore was an integral part of the campaign. She was the convention coordinator and served as a special assistant to Jackson’s convention manager, Ronald H. Brown, who later became U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Though Jackson did not make it to the final election, his campaign electrified the race. He won 15 primaries, securing nearly 100 percent of the black vote as well as one-eighth of the white Democratic vote. His campaign
At a Glance…
Born in Chicago, IL. Education: University of illinois at Chicago, studied sociology.
Career: Operation/PUSH, assistant to the director, 1985-87; Jesse Jackson Presidential Campaign, national deputy field director, 1938; Dukakis-Bentsen General Election Campaign, national deputy field director, 1988; National Rainbow Coalition, senior advisor and national deputy political director, 1988-93; Democratic National Committee, Voter Project, director, 1992, deputy chief of staff, director of public liaison, 1993-95, national political director, 1995-97; The White House, deputy political director, 1997-98, director of public liaison, 1998-99, political director and assistant to the president, 1999-2000; Democratic National Committee, COO, 2000-01; Dewey Square Group, principal, 2001-.
Selected memberships: Americans Coming Together, board of directors; Coalition for a Healthy and Active America, founding member; The Future PAC, founding member, president of external affairs, chair of the allocations committee; Lincoln Center, Capital Campaign, member; Rainbow/PUSH, board member.
Selected awards: Mothers in Action, Lifetime Award; Rainbow Push, Women on the Rise Award; Washingtonian Online, named one of 100 Most Powerful Women, 2001.
Addresses: Office— Dewey Square Group, 1001 G Street, NW, Suite 300E, Washington, DC 20001.
was considered one of the key events that helped African Americans break color barriers in politics. It was exactly the type of social change that Moore had hoped to make back when she was a child. After Jackson left the race, Moore joined Democratic presidential nominee Governor Michael Dukakis’s campaign. As his national deputy field director Moore was responsible for campaign field operations and also coordinated Get-Out-The-Vote activities nationwide.
Having moved to Washington, DC, to work on Jackson’s campaign, Moore remained in the nation’s capital following the election and took a position with another Jackson organization, The Rainbow Coalition. Dedicated to organizing minorities, the poor, the unemployed, and other underserved groups with the goal of achieving social, racial and economic justice, the Coalition allowed Moore further opportunity to help people. From 1988 to 1993 she was the organization’s national deputy political director. At the same time, Moore served as the Coalition’s senior political advisor to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and headed up the DNC’s Voter Project, a party-led effort to get more people registered to vote.
In 1993, Moore joined the DNC full-time and for two years worked extensively in voter initiative projects, including positions as director of public liaison and director of constituency and outreach. She was soon promoted to deputy chief of staff and finally in 1995 to political director of the DNC, becoming the first African American to hold this post. “This was all within three years,” Moore told CBB. “I got promoted so quickly because I worked too hard. I was really committed to the work.” As political director she was once again at the center of a presidential election cycle in 1996. According to a biography of Moore posted on the Dewey Square Group Web site, “In conjunction with the Democratic Congressional and Senatorial Campaign Committees, and the Democratic Governor’s Association, she developed the framework and infrastructure for the DNC’s 1996 Coordinated Campaign base vote activities in all fifty states.” It was a massive undertaking, but one that fed both Moore’s desire to make a difference and her penchant for hard work.
Though her position with the DNC placed her in very high political circles—she worked directly with congressman, senators, mayors, and governors, as well as leaders of powerful community groups—Moore developed a reputation for maintaining a low profile. A political observer at The Desert Sun noted, “[Moore’s] an astute political operative who avoids reporters, choosing instead to work outside the limelight that so many Washington movers and shakers try to share with their bosses.” She also became known for an honesty often missing in the volatile world of politics. “Integrity [is] the most important thing you can bring to the table,” Moore told CBB. “And honesty. Especially in the field that I am in, which is considered very rough, tough, and tumble. You have to set yourself apart. When people look at politicians they have a frown on their face, and you want to say, to show them that there are some really good politicians out there, people who really want to help.”
Moore’s inclination towards low-key sincerity did keep her out of the political spotlight, however, her hard work and solid track record soon drew the attention of President Bill Clinton. Shortly after being elected to his second term as president, Clinton asked Moore to join his administration in February of 1997. “I was the deputy director of politics and assistant to the president/director of public liaison,” Moore told CBB. In that role she was the president’s intermediary to non-governmental organizations, non-profits, and community groups. She was also an active member of the task force that helped develop the President’s Initiative on Race. “I spent a year getting the department running, and then moved to assist the president/director of political affairs,” she told CBB. In 1999 Moore became the first African American to become the president’s director of political affairs. The appointment catapulted Moore into the public eye. “It was a transition,” Moore told CBB of the move. “I am by nature a very private, behind-the-scenes kind of person.” To survive, Moore kept focused on the job at hand. “I didn’t allow the job to take over me. I did what I had to do, but kept in mind that it was my job,” she told CBB.
Moore’s job at the White House included serving as political advisor to the president, the vice president, the first lady, and senior White House staff, with the bulk of her responsibility being to plan and direct the political activities of the president. She did everything from advising the president on his State of the Union addresses to helping him develop political responses to the priorities of various constituencies. These could include anything from Social Security to tax reform to health care. “In my capacity, I wear several different hats,” Moore told The Washington Times. Reflecting on her time in the Clinton administration, Moore told CBB it was the proudest moment of her career, “’having the opportunity to serve the American people at the White House. You know, you look back and realize how blessed you are to have had one of 25 slots as a senior official to the president of the United States.”
After Clinton’s term ended, Moore rejoined the Democratic National Committee as Chief Operating Officer (COO) in 2000. Her responsibilities included day-today DNC operations. She also managed the party’s $60 million operating budget. Though she only held the post for a little over a year, with characteristic hard-work and commitment, Moore proved herself yet again a valuable asset to the DNC. The DNC chairman said in press release posted on the DNC Web site, “[Moore’s] management ability has helped me put in place the most professional and diverse team in DNC history. Her tireless work on DNC programs such as the Women’s Vote Center, the Black Caucus, the Voting Rights Institute, as well as her critical support on grassroots outreach, fund raising, training, and countless other areas within the Democratic party have been paramount to the success of this institution.”
Moore finally left the non-profit world in 2001 when she joined the prestigious Dewey Square Group (DSG), a public affairs consultancy specializing in grassroots initiatives, strategic communications, and state and local representation. “I was ready for a change,” she told CBB. Moore became a principal member of DSG’s senior staff. She also took over the firm’s state and local affairs practice. Her new position also let her maintain ties with the DNC. She became DSG’s senior advisor to the party. “I look forward to maintaining a close relationship with the DNC in my new position at Dewey Square as we collectively work together to elect Democrats across the country and continue to under-score the importance of grassroots outreach at this crucial time in American politics,” she said in a press release on the DNC Web site.
Moore told CBB that upon leaving the DNC, “I also wanted to slow down the pace a bit, but that hasn’t really panned out.” With the 2004 presidential campaign as a top priority, Moore has worked round the clock since joining DSG. She has also been involved in several political initiatives outside of the office including becoming one of the founders of Americans Coming Together (ACT), one of five national organizations dedicated to installing a Democrat in the White House in 2004. She also became a founding board member of Women Building for the Future or The Future PAC, a political action committee dedicated to putting African-American women in political office. Moore told Essence, “this movement is trying to embrace everything that’s important to African-American women in the political process.” Outside of politics, Moore joined Wynton Marsalis who was heading up a major fundraising initiative for New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “I want to commit some serious time to this campaign because I know that [Wynton’s] passion for life and music, means he will be dedicated to introducing young people to finer arts and jazz,” Moore told CBB.
Though she never did receive her degree in sociology due to a paperwork snafu over a statistics course (yet she told CBB in 2003 that she had finally reached a resolution with the University of Illinois), Moore has lectured at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. Though she grew up on the South Side of Chicago to a working class family, she has helped guide the political affairs of several of this nation’s most esteemed leaders. Her activism on behalf of minorities, women, the poor, and other disadvantaged populations has been tireless. For her hard work she has received several awards, but she told CBB, “I don’t focus on them. I do my job and the awards are wonderful, but it is not my focus.” Her focus is the same as it was when she was a child—helping people. That she has a career that lets her do this the only award she needs.
Essence, February 2003.
Washington Times, January 13, 1999.
“DNC Chairman McAuliffe Announces New Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff; Current COO Minyon Moore to Join Dewey Square Group,” Democratic National Committee, www.democrats.org/news/200207150002.html (April 25, 2004).
“Four Black Leaders Will Have Big Impact on the New Millennium,” The Desert Sun, www.thedesertsun.com/news/stories/opinion/945641063.shtml (April 25, 2004).
“Minyon Moore,” Dewey Square Group, www.deweysquare.com/StaffAlphaFrame.htm (April 25, 2004).
“Powerhouse Strategist Joins Premier Democratic Public Affairs Firm,” Dewey Square Group, www.deweysquare.com/NewsArchive/Minyon7-15-02.htm (April 25, 2004).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Minyon Moore on May 7, 2004.
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