Keynote Speakers

We are excited to announce our keynote speakers
for the 2019 NH Progressive Summit!

Overcoming Generation Lockdown: Bold New Policies & Tactics to Save Lives

Charlie Mirsky, Co-Founder & Political Director – March for Our Lives
Igor Volsky, Author & Executive Director – Guns Down America
Clai Lasher Sommers, National Survivor Network & Executive Director – GunSenseVT

Twenty years after Columbine, leading national gun violence prevention activists offer perspectives and ideas for how to reduce gun violence in our country – from advancing strong public policy to radical new ideas and messages to confront the public health epidemic of gun violence. The transformation and experience of the gun violence prevention movement in recent years provides lessons and ideas for other pressing social justice causes of our day.

Ninety-six people die from guns in America every single day. Twelve thousand Americans are murdered each year. The United States has more mass shootings, gun suicides, and nonfatal gun injuries than any other industrialized country in the world. Our panelists will discuss a range of actions in the gun violence prevention movement, from March for Our Lives to innovative state legislation to bold new approaches to drastically reduce the 390 million guns already in circulation. All have one purpose: to end the stranglehold of the gun lobby and create sensible gun violence prevention policies that save lives.

Charlie MirskyCharlie Mirsky, Co-Founder & Political Director – March for Our Lives

Charlie Mirsky is the Co-Founder and Political Director of March for Our Lives. In the days after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland students started organizing to make sure that what happened to their community never happens again. Their bold, energetic, and intersectional approach to stopping senseless gun violence has transformed our nation in the year since. March for Our Lives organized the largest single day of protest against gun violence in history. Millions came together to protest our political leaders’ inaction. Inspired by the Freedom Riders of the 1960s, they toured the country on the Road To Change and registered over 50,000 new voters, in addition to working with Mayors For Our Lives to help register another 800,000 people on National Voter Registration Day — an all-time record. They helped spur a historic youth turnout in the 2018 midterm elections, with a 47% increase over the last midterm election and the highest percentage of youth voter turnout ever — with a record 46 NRA-backed candidates losing their elections that November. March for Our Lives is harnessing the power of young people across the country to fight for sensible gun violence prevention policies that save lives, from organizing school walkouts, lobbying for better safety measures on campus, writing statewide legislation, and showing up at school board and city council meetings, and in the halls of Congress.

Igor Volsky

Igor Volsky, Author & Executive Director – Guns Down America

Igor Volsky is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Guns Down America, an organization dedicated to building a future with fewer guns. Volsky made headlines in 2015 for using Twitter to shame lawmakers who took money from the NRA and sent “thoughts and prayers” after mass shootings. A lively interlocutor, he has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC television, and many radio shows. The author of Guns Down: How to Defeat the NRA and Build a Safer Future with Fewer Guns (The New Press), Volsky outlines a New Second Amendment Compact developed with policy experts from across the political spectrum, including bold reforms that have succeeded in reducing gun violence worldwide, and offers a road map for achieving transformative change to increase safety in our communities.

Clai Lasher Sommers, Photo Credit Jeb Wallace-brodeur Seven Days VTClai Lasher Sommers, Survivor Network & Executive Director – GunSenseVT

Clai Lasher Sommers is a gun violence survivor with over 20 years of experience in the gun violence prevention movement. The executive director of GunSenseVT, Lasher Sommers helped craft and pass a recent package of gun safety legislation in Vermont which includes closing background check loopholes, extreme risk protection orders, limiting magazine capacity, banning bump stocks, and requiring people under 21 years old to take a hunter safety course before they can buy a gun. Another piece of legislation – creating a waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a firearm – just passed the Vermont legislature. Lasher Sommers serves as a national fellow for Everytown working with the survivor network across the country, and as a key member of the States United to Prevent Gun Violence (CeaseFire) network. Based in New Hampshire where she runs an organic farm, Lasher Sommers is a Board member of Granite State Progress and has served as an advisory member of the NH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition for the last 4 years.

Recommended Reading:

March for Our Lives Policy Agenda

Guns Down Policy Agenda

Guns Down: How to Defeat the NRA and Build a Safer Future with Fewer Guns

We are excited to share that Igor Volsky will be available for book signings during the NH Progressive Summit! Purchase in advance or at the summit.

Previous keynote speakers are listed below.

2018 Keynote Speakers

Labor & Faith: Why the Right Wing is Attacking Unions – and Why You Should Care

The consistent right-wing attacks on organized labor is an attack on all of us. Unions have played a major role in social justice movements over the decades, organizing major victories for working people both inside and outside of the union. Right now, various unions are leading the Fight for $15, protecting public education, organizing campaigns to address gender and racial inequity, supporting immigrant rights, and protecting and advancing access to quality, affordable health care for every American. Politicians and special interests on the opposite side of these issues attack unions to try to fundamentally tilt (more of) the power back to wealthy corporations and individuals. Resist! Together we are stronger – learn about the major issues facing organized workforces and how you can help.

Keynote Plenary Speakers: Jan Schaffer, Retired AFL-CIO National Staff; President Rich Gulla, SEA, SEIU Local 1984; President Megan Tuttle, NEA-New Hampshire; Rev. Gail Kinney, Worker Justice Minister, Meriden Congregational Church

Gloria Totten

2017 Keynote

“Don’t Just Resist, Refuse: Why Progressives Need to Play Offense Even When They’re Down” by Gloria Totten, Founder and President of the Public Leadership Institute

Gloria A. Totten has directed nonprofit organizations and led advocacy and electoral campaigns on the federal, state and local levels for 25 years. She is the President and Founder of the Public Leadership Institute (PLI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy and leadership center organized to raise public awareness on key issues of equity and justice and to develop public leaders who will improve the economic and social conditions of all Americans. PLI provides leadership development and communications training, develops and disseminates model legislation on a range of issues, and houses the nation’s largest network of progressive elected officials, comprised of nearly 13,000 lawmakers.

Prior to starting PLI, Gloria formed and ran Progressive Majority from 2001-2015 with the distinct mission to identify, recruit and elect progressive champions at the state and local levels. Progressive Majority became the largest, most comprehensive progressive candidate recruitment operation in the nation.

Gloria served as Political Director for NARAL from 1996-2001 and Executive Director for Maryland NARAL from 1993-1996. In her home state of Minnesota, Gloria worked on a number of electoral and issue campaigns, as the Education Director for Pro-Choice Resources, President and Lobbyist for the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Media Chair for It’s Time Minnesota!, a campaign to expand anti-discrimination protections to GLBT individuals under the Minnesota Human Rights Code.

Gloria serves as chair of the board of directors for Brave New Films and as a board member for the New American Leaders Initiative and PowerPAC+ . She is an Advisory Committee Member for Oakland Rising Lead East Bay, Progress Now, Wellstone Action and the Women’s Information Network. Gloria was named a “Rising Star of Politics” by Campaigns & Elections magazine and was awarded the “Progressive Champion Award” by Campaign for America’s Future and the “Progressive Leadership Award” by Midwest Academy. Gloria is the co-author of Voicing Our Values: A Message Guide for Policymakers.

We are excited to share that Gloria Totten has agreed to also lead a “Voicing Our Values” workshop for NH Progressive Summit participants!

Arshad Hasan

2016 Keynote

Arshad Hasan is the Chief Engagement Officer (CEO) for Greenpeace USA. As CEO he leads Greenpeace’s overall engagement efforts, enabling the organization to build stronger people-powered campaigns for change.

Previously Arshad served as Executive Director of ProgressNow & ProgressNow Education, strengthening the network’s core capacities and working with a talented, savvy team of communications professionals in 23 states. Before joining Progress Now, Arshad was the Executive Director of Democracy For America (DFA) for six years. In that time he doubled and then nearly tripled the size and reach of the organization, leading it through the challenges and triumphs of running a progressive political organization active in all 50 states. Arshad originally joined DFA in 2005 where he built the organization’s training program, growing it into one of the largest programs of its kind and training tens of thousands of activists online and in-person, including establishing the popular grassroots training programs DFA Campaign Academy and DFA Night School.

Prior to DFA, Arshad worked with a variety of PACs and non-profits on legislative issue campaigns, corporate accountability campaigns, grassroots fundraising and electoral campaigns. He began his career as an environmental organizer in the late 90s, canvassing neighborhoods to discuss national forest policy.

Active with a variety of organizations in the progressive world both locally and nationally, Arshad was honored to be elected Chair of the Board of Directors for Netroots Nation. Arshad has built a career building and developing the progressive movement’s modern generation of organizations, harnessing technology to build people-powered movements. He also occasionally takes a leave of absence to work for progressive campaigns around the country.

Arshad lives in Burlington, Vermont with his husband Abbott and fun-loving puppy Cole, and is known for baking bread while on long progressive planning conference calls.

Fekkak Mamdouh

Fekkak Mamdouh

2015 Keynote

Fekkak Mamdouh is a co-founder of the country’s first national restaurant worker organization, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, and co-author of The Accidental American, a high-profile book about his life and the story of ROC.

Fekkak Mamdouh came to the United States from Morocco in 1988 at the age of 27. Working in New York City restaurants since his arrival, he started at the restaurant Windows on the World in 1996 where he became a shop steward for the union and stood up for the rights of all workers. Workers from all shifts and positions turned to him for help and assistance on the job.  After September 11th, 2001, Mamdouh led search parties for the families of 73 victims who lost their lives at Windows, and was later hired by the union HERE Local 100 to staff a temporary operation known as the Immigrant Worker Assistance Alliance (IWAA) to provide relief services to his fellow displaced workers and to the families of his brothers and sisters who had lost their lives at Windows. In April 2002, after IWAA shut down, Mamdouh co-founded ROC-NY the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York; and in January 2008 he co-founded the country’s first national restaurant worker organization, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, which works to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s 10 million restaurant workers by raising restaurant industry standards. Mamdouh is the co-author of The Accidental American, a high-profile book about his life and the story of ROC.

Ariel JacobsonAriel Jacobson is the Development and Communications Director at ROC-United.

Prior to joining the organization, Jacobson was the Program Manager for Economic Justice at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, an international human-rights organization. She has also worked with organizations focused on grassroots community development, the rights of women and Indigenous Peoples, and youth leadership development, including MADRE, the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

About ROC: Using tactics that include organizing workers, litigation, and public pressure, ROC demonstrates public consequences for employers that take the ‘low-road’ to profitability, such as violating workers’ rights and offering little chance of upward mobility. ROC recognizes that it is primarily workers of color who are concentrated in the industry’s “bad jobs” and that these restaurant workers have nowhere to turn for help, as most of the industry is non-unionized. For many, reporting abuses would mean losing their jobs; some fear deportation. Nationally, ROC has led and won 13 major campaigns against exploitation in high-profile restaurant companies, organizing more than 400 workers and winning more than $7 million in financial settlements and improvements in workplace policies.


2014 Keynote

Richard Kirsch is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and the author of ‘Fighting for Our Health: The Epic Battle to Make Health Care a Right in the United States, published in February 2012 by the Rockefeller Institute Press.

In his current work for the Roosevelt Institute and as a Senior Adviser to USAction, Richard focuses on how progressives can tell a powerful, value-based story about our core beliefs. He also focuses on issues related to creating good jobs and writes about implementing the Affordable Care Act. Richard’s blog posts appear regularly on Next New Deal, the Huffington Post, and Salon.

Prior to joining the Institute, Richard was the National Campaign Manager of Health Care for America Now from the Campaign’s founding to its successful conclusion in April 2010. HCAN is a 1,100-member coalition, led by major progressive organizations, which deployed staff in 44 states and spent $47 million to organize for comprehensive health care reform. As HCAN’s chief spokesperson, Richard appeared on PBS’s The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, CNN, ABC’s World News Tonight and Good Morning America, Fox, CSPAN, and The Colbert Report and was frequently quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and other national newspapers, as well as NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace.

Richard led successful campaigns to provide affordable, comprehensive health coverage to more than 1 million working New York families. He is an author of New York’s Managed Care Consumer Bill of Rights, among the strongest HMO protection laws in the country. Richard helped direct a 1998 ballot initiative campaign that resulted in dramatic improvements in New York City’s system of providing public financing of elections.

Follow Richard on Twitter @_RichardKirsch.

2013 Keynote

Long-time political reporter and editor Michael McCord on political times and his forthcoming political satire “The Execution Channel: A Political Fable”.


2012 Keynote (Morning)

D. Arnie Arnesen is a radio and TV commentator based in New Hampshire. Arnie currently hosts a daily two-hour talk show called “The Attitude” on WNHN 94.7 Concord NH. She has been recognized by the NH Association of Broadcasters as both Radio and TV Personality of the Year. Prior to her media career, Arnie worked as a low income advocate and an adult educator. In 1984 she was elected to the NH House of Representatives, where she served until 1992 when she ran against the former Democratic Party Chair and 5 term congressman to become the first female Democratic nominee for Governor.

In 1997 Arnesen was selected to be a Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard and began writing for the Boston Globe’s NH Weekly. For the last two decades Arnie has lectured at leadership programs across NH and has addressed a wide variety of groups from the Massachusetts based Theological Opportunities Program to local Rotaries and Chambers of Commerce to the Monadnock Summer Lyceum to the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women for Women and Politics at Iowa State to national Union groups across the US.

Arnie is a regular political commentator on Iowa Public Radio, WGBH, and WKBK in Keene NH. Every four years Arnie provides Presidential Primary analysis for such outlets as: New England Cable News, TV Ontario, SBS TV Australia, CNN and Al Jazeera English. Arnesen graduated from St. Olaf College in 1975 and received her JD from Vermont Law School in 1981. She currently resides in Concord, NH and can see the State House Dome from her house.

Richard Parker

2012 Keynote (Dinner Program)

Richard Parker is a Lecturer in Public Policy and Senior Fellow of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kenney School of Government.  An Oxford-trained economist, his career before coming to the Kennedy School in 1993 included journalism (he cofounded the magazine Mother Jones as well as Investigative Reporters & Editors, and chairs the editorial board of The Nation); philanthropy (as executive director of two foundations he donated more than $40 million to social-change groups); social entrepreneurship (he grew environmental group Greenpeace from 2,000 to 600,000 supporters, helped launch People for the American Way, and raised over $250 million for some 60 non-profits), and political consulting (advising, among others, Senators Kennedy, Glenn, Cranston, and McGovern). From 2009 to 2011 he was an economic advisor to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

His books include The Myth of the Middle Class, an early study of widening U.S. income and wealth distribution and Mixed Signals: The Future of Global Television, a critical assessment of the spread of satellite-based news and its political impacts. His intellectual biography, John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics, which traces the history of 20th century economic theory and policy through the career of Harvard’s most    famous economist, was described by William F. Buckley as “the best biography of the century”, by Sean Wilentz as “the best progressive history I’ve read in 15 years”, and by Keynes’ biographer Robert Skidelsky as “an unparalleled achievement.”

His academic articles appear in numerous academic anthologies and journals and he writes regularly for magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New Republic, Nation, Harper’s, Le Monde, Atlantic Monthly, and International Economy, among others.

2010 Keynote

During the 2010 Roots Camp hosted by Granite State Progress and supported by partner organizations, former State Senators Maggie Hassan, Jackie Cilley, and Betsi DeVries kicked off the event with a discussion about what progressives need to do to build power and create lasting change for Granite State families and small businesses.