Influential policymakers guiding the Biden equity agenda

Charlotte Burrows
Chair, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

A constitutional and civil-rights lawyer by training, Charlotte Burrows has spent two decades creating and implementing federal antidiscrimination policies for workplaces in the executive branch and in Congress. 

After clerking for a federal appeals-court judge, Burrows found her niche as a litigator in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, where she quickly rose to become deputy chief of the department and helped enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Rep. Cori Bush
Democrat, Missouri’s 1st Congressional District

No, Cori Bush is not a member of the administration. But the first-term congresswoman from Missouri is becoming a key figure in ensuring that the White House keeps its promises on racial equality and social justice.

Bush has been called the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the 2020 cycle after her ouster of longtime Rep. William Lacy Clay in the Democratic primary. But she had cut her teeth politically long before. A nurse and ordained pastor who founded a church in St. Louis, she helped organize protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, including providing support as a medic and holding worship services in a local school.

Alphonso David
President of the Human Rights Campaign

In 2019, Alphonso David became the first immigrant and the first Black man to head the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization. But that’s far from the only notable chapter in his biography.

Born in Silver Spring, Maryland, David moved with his family to Monrovia, Liberia, at 1 year old. His great uncle, William Tolbert, was elected Liberian president in 1971, and his father was elected the mayor of Monrovia in 1977. In 1980, Tolbert was assassinated in a military coup, and David’s father was incarcerated; his family spent 18 months under house arrest before seeking asylum in the United States, ultimately relocating to Baltimore.

Bishop Garrison
Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense

A longtime fixture in Democratic foreign-policy circles, Bishop Garrison served in the Obama administration, advised Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and joined the Biden transition team as a counterterrorism-policy adviser. 

But it wasn’t until this year that Garrison really broke new ground. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin appointed him to the newly created role of senior adviser on human capital and diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition to promoting diversity within the officers’ ranks, Garrison heads a working group aimed at countering extremism within the military’s ranks, and he also sits on the Pentagon’s anti-sexual-assault commission.

Vanita Gupta
Associate Attorney General

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta’s interest in civil rights piqued when she worked on youth-violence prevention in Boston in the 1990s, observing firsthand the discrimination towards Black youth in the community. 

Since then, Gupta has risen to national prominence as a civil-rights lawyer and activist. She worked at the American Civil Liberties Union, advocating for immigrants’ rights and an end to mass incarceration. After almost a decade at the ACLU, Gupta pivoted to the government sector, serving as acting assistant attorney general and head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department during the Obama administration.

Catherine Lhamon
Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity

A longtime civil-rights lawyer with a passion for educational equity, Catherine Lhamon has returned to the White House to craft domestic policy through a racial-justice lens.

After graduating from Yale Law School, Lhamon spent a decade working for the ACLU of Southern California before serving as director of impact litigation at Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law firm. In 2013, President Obama nominated her to serve as assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department, where she led a team of 600 people and managed cases involving discrimination violations. Most notably, her team authored guidance to colleges that inadequate responses to sexual-assault cases or discrimination against transgender students could constitute a violation of Title IX.

Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón
Chief of Staff to the First Lady, and Co-Chair of the White House Gender Policy Council

One of many immigrant success stories who have made their way into the Biden administration, Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón immigrated from the Dominican Republic to the South Bronx at age 7, going on to graduate in the top 5 percent of her class at Harvard and editing a law journal at Columbia.

After working in the international practices of several prestigious New York firms, she entered politics through volunteering on Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaigns. Clinton later brought her on as assistant deputy secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Obama then tapped her as ambassador to Uruguay.