Equal Access to Opportunity Is Needed to Keep the American Dream Alive


Equal access to opportunity for Americans is one concern that the Dear 45 campaign addresses for the next president.

Dear 45,

One of the most critical issues you will tackle as the 45th president of the United States is providing equal access to opportunity for Americans. 

Opportunity Nation and our 300 coalition members believe that helping all Americans achieve their full potential by providing the conditions they need to be successful is the most powerful way to increase economic mobility, close the opportunity gap, and create a more resilient, vibrant and competitive country.

Today, the American Dream is at risk and seemingly out of reach for far too many Americans. For millions an opportunity gap begins at birth, and instead of narrowing over time the divide widens. Stagnating wages, double-digit youth unemployment, a skills gap and rising income inequality threaten the core tenet of our country: No matter your background, if you work hard and persevere, you should have a fair shot at improving your lot in life. We recognize that people’s talents, dreams and goals vary. And, in a free society, some inequality may be unavoidable. But your zip code should not condemn you to an increasingly inescapable economic fate. Inequality without a very good chance for upward mobility is inefficient and unjust -- and it ignores the very real needs of our businesses for skilled employees in well-paying jobs.

As higher education leaders and supporters of Opportunity Nation, we are on the front lines of connecting students of all ages to needed skills while working to build partnerships with regional and global employers to fill meaningful career pipelines. Our work falls at a critical national intersection as community colleges serve as a vital opportunity catalyst, so we are particularly eager to support your leadership and work with you on these urgent issues.

Inequality without a very good chance for upward mobility is inefficient and unjust -- and it ignores the very real needs of our businesses for skilled employees in well-paying jobs.

Guided by bipartisan, cross-sector solutions that work across the country – from cities and suburbs to rural settings and tribal lands – we have created a plan: Restoring the American Dream: A Presidential Plan to Expand Opportunity. This strategy identifies 12 actions you, in your role as president, can take to increase opportunity for all Americans. While not every solution must or should be implemented through legislation or by government alone, your leadership is essential.

A key component of our plan is the engagement of all sectors of the business community, both large and small.

With U.S. employers struggling to find skilled workers and millions of young Americans unable to get jobs, the chasm between workforce supply and employer demand is unacceptably high and absolutely unnecessary. America is on track to fall short by an estimated 5 million skilled workers within the next six years. Employers want to play a significant role in addressing this crisis. Our colleges have the programs, and Americans want to work.

Incentivizing and supporting collaboration among employers, educators and community organizations can leverage expertise and resources that can help students and youth who have left school find a pathway that includes access to internships and apprenticeships and leads to a meaningful career.

In the spirit of all of us working together, Opportunity Nation’s call to action, We Got This, includes a number of employer driven solutions to recruit, train, hire, graduate and mentor young adults.

Many rungs on the nation’s historic ladder of opportunity are in critical need of repair, and we must work together to ensure the rungs on this ladder are strong enough to hold all young adults willing and wanting to climb them. We congratulate you on your election, thank you for your leadership on this important issue, and look forward to continuing to work with you.


Robert J. Denson
President, Des Moines Area Community College, Chair, Opportunity Nation Leadership Council

Dr. Anne M. Kress
President, Monroe Community College, Opportunity Nation Leadership Council

Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón
President, Miami Dade College, Opportunity Nation Leadership Council

This originally appeared on The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Above the Fold.

About Opportunity Nation:

Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national coalition of more than 300 businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and community leaders working to expand economic opportunity. Opportunity Nation seeks to close the opportunity gap by amplifying the work of its coalition members, advocating policy and private sector actions and releasing the annual Opportunity Index.