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Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 10:29 p.m.

Activists stress education to bridge U.S. economic gap at Opportunity Nation summit

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Mark Edwards, executive director of Opportunity Nation, said he was inspired by the crowd at the Wednesday summit. Attendees included politicians of both sides of the aisle – a collaboration potential Edwards said was necessary to resolve the country’s big issues. Jordan Emont | Assistant Photo Editor

This post was reported by Hatchet reporter Eric Osman

More than 1,000 political and cultural leaders crowded campus to pick out education as the root cause of America’s opportunity gap.

The 2012 Opportunity Nation Summit, held Wednesday, featured politicians like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., media moguls like Arianna Huffington and Judy Woodruff, and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.

Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, said the country couldn’t wait for a “golden chariot” to solve the country’s education problems, stressing the need to actively pursue solutions.

Mark Edwards, executive director of the Opportunity Nation campaign, said the country must meet higher academic standards or risk breaking its promise of social mobility for young Americans.

“The core idea of America is that no matter who you are, if you work hard, you should do be able to do well. That idea is unfortunately not true and there’s evidence that show that many European countries have more economic mobility than we do,” Edwards said.

The summit launched the a new tool called the Opportunity Index, which ranks states on their ability to provide jobs, education and health to communities.

Vermont topped the list with a score of 64.29 out of 100, with D.C. earning No. 23.

Graduation rates were closely tied to a state’s spot on the list. The top three states – New Mexico, Mississippi and Nevada – graduated three-quarters of their high-school freshmen.

“We are very excited about the index.  It is the nation’s first statistical measure of opportunity in the community and we think about this because it’s not just about how hard you work or how much you work, but it’s also in the opportunities in the communities they live in,” Edwards said.

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