Our People

Melody Barnes

Melody Barnes was Assistant to the President and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration . She was also executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and chief counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Her experience includes an appointment as director of legislative affairs for the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and serving as assistant counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. 

She is co-director for policy and public affairs of the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia. Barnes is also the Dorothy Danforth Compton Professor of Practice at the Miller Center of Public Affairs and a distinguished fellow at the School of Law.

Barnes is narrator and host of the National Endowment for the Humanities-supported podcast, LBJ and the Great Society and co-author of “Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever).” She is a commentator on U.S. domestic public policy, and her media appearances include This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Morning Joe, the NewsHour, Fareed Zakaria GPS and The Daily Show.

Barnes earned her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with honors in history and her J.D. from the University of Michigan. Currently, she serves on several corporate, nonprofit and philanthropic boards of directors, and lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Marland Buckner Jr.