Opportunity and social mobility have defined America. It is a core value of our nation that where you start in life should not determine how high you climb. But that ideal is at risk of disappearing.
Today, the zip codes where people are born too often determine their destiny, and young people in other highly industrialized countries now have a better chance of moving up the economic ladder than children in America.
Ensuring that more Americans have greater access to the ladder of opportunity is a critical issue for our nation. In today's political discourse, candidates and office holders at every level of government and in both major parties champion the value of "opportunity." The challenge we're seeing today though is that our candidates are rarely pressed to explain how their policies or votes will actually create opportunity for all Americans.
From today through the elections, we are inviting all Americans to ask the questions that have the most impact on their. These questions need to be answered not only by Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, but also by those running for Congress, state, and local offices as well.
Here are our top five questions that we encourage everyone to build upon:
- How will you repair the ladder of opportunity? What will be your 3 highest priorities for repairing ladders of opportunity for everyone if elected?
- How will you reauthorize and reform education legislation? Education is a critical pathway to economic security, how can we improve education and make sure it leads to good careers?
- How will you reconnect young adults to school and work? Nearly 7 million young people age 16-24 are currently not connected to school or work. How can we reconnect these young people to ensure all of our players are on the field contributing to our economy?
- How will you make post-secondary education stronger, more accessible, and more affordable? What steps will you take to make higher education more affordable, elevate good career and technical education programs, and make sure everyone who wants to can access a credential, degree or other training beyond high school?
- How will you approach programs that create opportunity given the federal deficit? As we face the pending "fiscal cliff" with significant cuts looming, what programs and priorities will you protect in the budget to ensure all Americans have access to opportunity?
Bipartisan solutions are still possible. We proved this at our Opportunity Nation Summit in Washington, D.C. last month when we brought diverse leaders from across the country and across the political spectrum together to talk about rebuilding the ladder of opportunity for the rising generation of young adults. We also proved it in formulating our national Shared Plan of action, an eight-point plan combining public and private sector efforts to create new pathways for young adults to succeed in high school, post-secondary education, and careers.
Our nation has renewed opportunity throughout our history. We can do it again. And we have to begin by asking the right questions. Let's use our voices - and mouses - during this election to ask our candidates questions in person and online (using #Vote4Opportunity) how they would restore opportunity to America.
This post is part of a series produced by Opportunity Nation for The Huffington Post in conjunction with their Week of Action, a seven-day collaborative exercise demonstrating that every American can play a role in the shared effort to restore opportunity and social mobility in our country. More information is available at Opportunity Nation.