Matt is officially a baby boomer (b 1958) born in South Charleston, West Virginia. He attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo Michigan where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1982 with a major in Communications/Broadcast Journalism. While a student, he was a newscaster/reporter at WUK-FM, Kalamazoo’s local NPR affiliate.
In September of 1982, Matt started his career in the political arena in Washington, D.C. as Legislative Assistant to Congressman Morris K. Udall, D-AZ. Matt was his chief advisor on defense, foreign affairs, and international trade. Matt next became Congressman Udall’s Press Secretary from 1984-1986. His wrote speeches, op-ed and humor pieces, worked in coordination with the House Interior Committee to publicize public resources and land issues, and was the Udall for Congress campaign press secretary.
Matt then moved to the senate side of Capitol Hill when he became Press Secretary for Senator Dale Bumpers, one of Senate’s top orators. At the time, Senator Bumpers was contemplating a presidential bid. Matt served as a speech writer and supervised the Senate Small Business Committee press staff. He also wrote and edited opinion articles for national and local newspapers and was media strategist for Bumpers’ highly-successful 1986 Senate campaign.
From there, Matt went to work as Communications Director for New York’s senior Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. There for 3 years, Matt was the chief office spokesman and media liaison for the Senator and supervised a five-person media staff in New York and Washington. He produced and distributed satellite video, audio, and print news releases, edited articles, op-eds and newsletters, planned and coordinated the Senator’s direct mail campaign, planned and coordinated media events for the Senator, and was media strategist for Moynihan’s record-setting 1988 Senate campaign.
Matt then returned to Congressman Udall’s office as his Chief of Staff. Matt supervised the Washington, Phoenix and Tucson offices for this senior member of Congress and provided political counsel for the Congressman in all matters relating to his congressional district and the House of Representatives. He was Congressman Udall’s liaison with Arizona and national political leaders; and coordinated all activities and strategies of the Udall for Congress Committee.
Matt moved from the public sector into the world of the non-profit (his “second act”) which is where I first met him. The new foundation president was transforming a grassroots community-based foundation to a health policy think tank. Matt is what I affectionately call a “hill rat” and the president brought him on board to help make innovative changes. I asked to work with Matt and it was a great ride.
Matt has a fantastic sense of humor and while at The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, he told this story on himself. “I met my wife during a high school camping trip in Michigan. I was the only one who arrived dressed in street clothes carrying a hard-shell Samsonite suitcase! Having never camped before, I stopped on the way to the camp site and bought six Arby’s ham and cheese sandwiches to last the three-day weekend. My future wife, Donna, took pity on me and provided me with decent food.” They became good friends and have been happily married for 27 years. Equally accomplished with a degree in occupational therapy, until recently Donna was working with autistic children in the Mountain View, California school district. Their son, Evan, graduated from U.C.-Santa Barbara last June and is now living and working in Barcelona, while daughter Isabelle, affectionately called Izzy, is in her senior year at Georgetown University and is currently studying for a semester in Ghana. One of Donna’s passions is Italian cuisine. She, Matt and a group of friends all celebrating their 50s head to Italy at the end of September to attend a culinary school. Afterwards Donna will be off trekking in the Himalayas.
Matt said it took time to get the hang of the foundation world. I remember how he used to sit in his office with his feet propped up on his desk and shoot rubber bands out the open window at the tree squirrels. I also remember his habit of removing his wedding band (the Tiffany classic interlocking circle) and twirling it in his fingers, like a prestidigitator maneuvering the cards.
While at the foundation, Matt moved from Communications Director to Executive Vice President during his 19 years there. He was in charge of all media programs in the areas of health policy, reproductive health, HIV, and helped launch media partnerships on HIV education around the world. Under the leadership of his friend and mentor, Drew Altman, Matt was provided with amazing professional opportunities and together they crafted a unique and important public policy institution. Matt was instrumental in designing special initiatives ranging from public education campaigns to monitoring and reporting on changes in the evolving health care marketplace. He helped create the Barbara Jordan Conference Center and broadcast facility at the Washington, D.C. office. Matt was a member of Kaiser Family Foundation team that has won six Emmy Awards for Public Service Advertising as well as one Peabody Award.
Matt is widely published with articles appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Washingtonian and many other magazines and newspapers. Public speaking appearances include the Association of Health Services Research, The American Public Welfare Association, and lectures at Columbia University, Harvard University, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and American University.
Matt was appointed by former President Clinton in 1994 to the Board of the Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation where he is now an Emeritus Trustee. He is past chair of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health and serves on the President’s Advisory Board of the National Wildlife Federation and on the board of the CDC Foundation.
After many years as a media maven in the political arena, and subsequent work in the non-profit world at the Kaiser Family Foundation, Matt has moved on to his “third act” encouraged by Donna, who Matt says is always smarter than he is. Matt is passionate about this new direction in his life. He is a perfect example of reinventing himself and always directs his life in the direction of what we at Bette Boomer like to call meaningful employment.
Matt has political savvy, leadership qualities and is well-versed in children and family issues at the state and federal levels working to influence national and state policy and private-sector initiatives. He has deep knowledge of national politics, and can communicate in diverse arenas –at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, in statehouses, corporate executive suites and in nonprofit board rooms. Experienced in political or issue campaigns, he has “hands on” real world experience running high-level, high-impact projects. What began as a dinner conversation with two friends has developed into a new nonprofit. Here is what he has to say about this new venture: “Jim and Tom Steyer and I are strongly committed to improving the lives of our kids and our country. Like many of us, Tom, Jim and I have concerns about the direction of California and our country – and we believe that through hard work, smart policy choices and the ingenuity that America has demonstrated through the years, our future can be bright. After a few subsequent meetings, we decided to create a new nonprofit, the Center for the Next Generation. TCNG is a policy research and communications organization and is focused on three program areas: Clean Energy and the Environment, Children and Families and the California Economy and Budget.”
Matt said, “TCNG has a truly entrepreneurial spirit – driven by quality research and data and the creativity of our staff and Board. We want to make a difference on the major issues that our country faces – do we develop a vibrant and sustainable clean energy economy? Do we find ways to make smart investments in America’s kids so that they can be successful and maximize their opportunities? Our job is to educate and inform policy makers, the public and young people themselves, about the major issues that shape the future. TCNG is not aligned with any political party, but will strongly support policy proposals and solutions that we believe in. We believe that by advancing a clean energy economy and developing our most important national resource – our young people – America will be stronger and more prosperous.”
Innovation is a hallmark of the revolutionary baby boomer generation and a particular passion at Bette Boomer. Now in their 7th month of operation, TCNG has 2 projects underway. Through partnerships with other organizations, they are bringing together in innovative clusters strategic organizations to reset the frame on clean energy, which we all know is not only good for our health and the environment, but also is smart business. Investing in kids through education is also smart business and they are rolling out a nationwide public awareness and education campaign called Kids 2020.
TCNG is spear-headed by Matt as President and CEO. The Center’s offices are in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. You can reach Matt at matt.james@TCNG.org.
We will follow Matt and TCNG as they make smart public, private, and personal investment in projects that benefit the next generation. Personally, it will be fun to watch prestidigitator Matt twirling ideas, as he continues to make his magic.