NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today announced that they would deepen their commitment to defending and advancing core democratic values in the United States, starting with the appointment of new leadership of their U.S. Programs.
Tom Perriello will become the new executive director of the Foundations’ U.S. Programs, effective November 12, 2018. A former member of the U.S. Congress, diplomat, educator, and activist, Perriello has spent more than 20 years advocating for human rights, civil rights, economic equality, and democratic practice in the United States and around the world.
As director, Perriello will oversee the Foundations’ grant making and advocacy in the United States, which focuses on promoting full participation in American civic, political, and economic life and ensuring that the core institutions of civil society are effective and accountable to the public.
Open Society is also announcing the appointment of Cecilia Muñoz as the board chair for U.S. Programs, a position in which she began serving in an interim capacity earlier this year. Muñoz, former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Obama, is vice president for Public Interest Technology and Local Initiatives at New America. She has spent nearly three decades as a major force for civil rights and economic justice through leadership roles at the National Council of La Raza and as former chair of the Center for Community Change, earning a MacArthur Fellowship for her work on immigration and civil rights in 2000.
Together, Muñoz and Perriello will advance the Foundations’ work at a time when the pillars of open society—including the rule of law, pluralism, civil rights, and civic participation—are being shaken by forces old and new.
“I am thrilled to announce this new leadership for U.S. Programs at such a critical juncture in the United States,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations. “Our institutions are under attack, the rule of law is being challenged as seldom before in our history, and the very foundations of our democracy are under enormous stress. These times demand bold leadership, new ideas, and sharp strategic thinking. In Tom and Cecilia, we have a promising partnership to lead our work in the U.S. forward.”
Perriello has dedicated his career to organizations and campaigns fighting injustice, climate change, economic inequality, and crimes against humanity. Among his previous nonprofit work, he served as CEO of Center for American Progress Action, a cofounder of Avaaz.org and FaithfulAmerica.org, and an advisor to the Reverend James Forbes’ Prophetic Justice Principles and the International Centre for Transitional Justice. As a member of Congress (VA-05), Tom supported landmark legislation, including the Affordable Care Act, DREAM Act, and climate and stimulus legislation. In his 2017 campaign for Virginia governor, he advanced robust policies for addressing the racial wealth gap, reproductive health, resurgent monopolies, and corruption. He also served in the Obama Administration as Special Representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and U.S. Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes Region. He has taught at the University of Sierra Leone and the University of Virginia School of Law on human rights and transitional justice.
“It is an incredible honor to have the opportunity to join Patrick, Cecilia, and the entire team at the Open Society Foundations at this defining moment for American democracy. While the challenges are massive, so too are the opportunities to make this a transformative moment for finally living up to America’s highest ideals of true liberty, democracy, and equality,” said Perriello. “I look forward to the fight.”
Muñoz served for the full eight years of the Obama Administration on President Obama’s senior staff, working as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs prior to leading the Domestic Policy Council. At New America, she leads efforts to strengthen and circulate the work of local innovators, and to bring the skills of technologists to the efforts of NGOs and policymakers to promote equity and justice. Previously, she was senior vice president at the National Council of La Raza (now UnidosUS), where she served for 20 years. She is also a senior fellow at Results for America, a trustee of the Kresge Foundation, and a member of the board of the Protect Democracy Project.
“The Open Society Foundations play a vital and strategic role supporting disenfranchised communities as they participate in shaping this democracy,” Muñoz said. “It is a privilege to help guide the Foundations’ U.S. Programs’ work in a political climate that has turned increasingly hostile toward immigrants, people of color, and the human and civil rights so many have fought so hard to advance.”
The work of U.S. Programs is organized around four central goals: a more inclusive and accountable American democracy; a fair criminal justice system; full political, economic, and civic participation of communities of color and immigrants; and equitable economic growth. For more on the program’s mission and a list of its grantees and fellows, visit the U.S. Programs web page.