One afternoon in 1975, a prominent social scientist and a future Secretary of State met for lunch. Both were frustrated that the issues the public cared the most about were being ignored in the current presidential campaign.
The two men, Dan Yankelovich and Cyrus Vance Sr., decided to form an organization that would work to shrink the gap between leaders and the public. From that fateful lunch, Public Agenda was born.
Public Agenda's briefing books were used by the 1976 presidential candidates during their debates.
Fostering Progress for 40 Years
For our first project, we created a briefing book that alerted Presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford to the developing crisis of public confidence in government and the deep concerns of ordinary citizens about the economy.
Since then, we have supported progress on dozens of issues in hundreds of settings and situations:
- In the 80s we brought solid, timely research to the Reagan Administration signaling the American public’s openness to a different relationship with the Soviet Union, and we helped educators better understand the needs of employers.
- In the 90s, we published groundbreaking studies of the public’s concerns about K-12 education, and created innovative tools that helped parents, educators, public officials and community partners across the nation work together to improve their local schools and better educate their children.
- In the 2000’s, we began an ongoing commitment to the nation’s community colleges, the prime avenue of opportunity for many low-income Americans that has included making vital contributions to the two most ambitious initiatives the nation has ever seen aimed at improving student success: Achieving the Dream and Completion by Design.
- Most recently, we’ve worked in half the nation’s states to help colleges better serve America’s students, and unveiled new insights from research into the thorny challenge of how best to engage the public on decisions about containing health care costs.
Envisioning the Future
To mark our 40th year, we recently announced the launch of two new major initiatives:
- Reinventing Opportunity is a ten-year commitment by Public Agenda to help communities and the nation address stagnating opportunity, which we consider to be one of the greatest challenges of our day. In order to meet this challenge, we will attack three critical questions:
- How to ensure high-quality educational opportunities for all
- How to create more good jobs and economic security
- How to engage citizens more meaningfully in politics and public life
- The Yankelovich Center: Advancing Civic Engagement will develop, disseminate and apply our co-founder’s seminal ideas about democracy, ideas that have profoundly influenced our own work. The Center will ensure that these ideas continue to sharpen and evolve to meet the changing challenges of the day.
Because you’re reading this page, we know you’re a fan and supporter of Public Agenda. We thank you for that, and we hope you continue to support us. Here are a few ways you can help us build a democracy that works for everyone:
Thanks again for your support!
President and staff of Public Agenda join co-founder, Daniel Yankelovich (center front), to celebrate our 40th anniversary. New York City, 2015