Melody Barnes

Fast Facts

  • Director of White House Domestic Policy Council under President Barack Obama
  • Former executive vice president of the Center for American Progress
  • Chief counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

Areas Of Expertise

  • Domestic Affairs
  • Health
  • Law and Justice
  • Social Issues
  • Economic Issues
  • Leadership
  • Politics
  • The Presidency

Melody Barnes, Senior Fellow and Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics, is a co-founder and principal of MB² Solutions LLC, a domestic strategy firm. Barnes serves an independent director on the boards of Ventas, Inc. (NYSE:VTR); Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corporation (NYSE:BHA); Public Policy Advisory Board; Uber; the Marguerite Casey Foundation; and Year Up. Barnes also chairs the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund. From January 2009 until January 2012, she was assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.  

As director of the Domestic Policy Council, Barnes provided strategic advice to President Obama and worked closely with members of the cabinet coordinating the domestic policy agenda across the administration. Under her leadership, innovative new policies, practices, and partnerships were initiated to address significant national challenges, including education, health care, and the federal government’s relationship with local governments and communities. 

Until July 2008, Barnes was the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive research institute and think tank. From December 1995 until March 2003, Barnes worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee; she served as his chief counsel from 1998 until she left the committee in 2003. Barnes’ experience also includes an appointment as director of legislative affairs for the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and serving as a principal at the D.C.-based consulting firm The Raben Group. She began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City.  

Barnes received her law degree from the University of Michigan in 1989. In 1986, she received her bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with honors in history. Barnes’ media appearances include This Week with George StephanopoulosThe Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Charlie Rose, Morning Joe and NewsHour.

Melody Barnes News Feed

The 10 most important modern presidential speeches selected by scholars at the Miller Center—a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia that specializes in presidential scholarship—and professors from other universities, as well.
Melody Barnes
Playing roles within a fictional White House, University of Virginia law students are working through these issues and more in a new policy simulation course taught by School of Law Distinguished Fellow Melody Barnes, who worked for the Obama administration. (Barnes is concurrently a senior fellow and Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics at UVA’s Miller Center.)
Melody Barnes UVA Today
Melody Barnes, a Miller Center senior fellow, explores the role of the president in upholding the idea of America
Miller Center senior fellow Melody Barnes talks about reckoning with racism in America with Fareed Zakaria on CNN.
Melody Barnes CNN
Melody Barnes, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Obama, said on MSNBC President Trump has not kept any of his campaign promises.
Melody Barnes MSNBC
How will the election of Donald Trump affect Americans' pursuit of happiness? Our First Year Project asks two experienced policy practitioners to see what actions might lie ahead. Melody Barnes was director of the Domestic Policy Council early in the Obama administration, and an advisor during his 2008 presidential campaign. She was chief counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee for five years. Today, she's a senior fellow here at the Miller Center. Peter Wehner was in three Republican presidential administrations: George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. He was a speechwriter in the Reagan and George W. administrations and became head of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives in 2002. Today, he is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.