Michelle Nunn

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Michelle Nunn
Michelle Nunn 2012.jpg
BornMary Michelle Nunn
1966 (age 47–48)
Perry, Georgia, U.S.
ResidenceAtlanta, Georgia
Alma mater
OccupationCEO of a non-profit
Political party
Spouse(s)Ron Martin
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Michelle Nunn
Michelle Nunn 2012.jpg
BornMary Michelle Nunn
1966 (age 47–48)
Perry, Georgia, U.S.
ResidenceAtlanta, Georgia
Alma mater
OccupationCEO of a non-profit
Political party
Spouse(s)Ron Martin

Mary Michelle Nunn[1] (born 1966)[2] is a candidate for Georgia's U.S. Senate seat in 2014 and past (on leave of absence) CEO of Points of Light, an American nonprofit. She has been an executive for the volunteer service organization since 1990, previously running the predecessor and member organizations Hands On Atlanta, City Cares, and HandsOn Network. A member of the Democratic Party, she is the daughter of former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn.

Early life and early education[edit]

Michelle is the daughter of Sam Nunn, a lawyer, farmer, and politician, and the former Colleen Ann O'Brien, who worked for the U.S. State Department, and then briefly for the Central Intelligence Agency under foreign service cover, before becoming a stay-at-home mother.[1][3][4][5] She has a brother, Samuel Brian, known as Brian, two years younger.[1][2][5] Within a couple of years of her birth, her father was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. He subsequently was elected to four terms as U.S. Senator from Georgia, serving from 1972 to 1997, and was chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1987 to 1995.

Michelle was born and initially lived in Perry, Georgia, where her grandfather had been mayor and where the family had a 2,400-acre (970 ha; 3.8 sq mi) farm.[6][7][8] But when she was six, the family moved to Bethesda, Maryland,[7] and thereupon lived in the Washington, D.C. area in conjunction with her father's election to national office.[9][10][11] She credits her mother for having "really safeguarded a very normal and private environment for us."[5] Her volunteering began in junior high school, when she frequently engaged in activities such as reading books to old people and giving toys to poor children.[11] She went to the all-girls, private National Cathedral School in Washington.[7] There she was a star on the basketball team[12] and graduated in 1985.

She attended the University of Virginia, where she majored in history[11] and had a minor in religion, and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.[13] She studied at the University of Oxford[13] during 1987. She also studied for four months in India[5] during 1989. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1989.[5]

Hands On Atlanta, City Cares of America[edit]

After college, Nunn applied to join the Peace Corps and considered going to law school, but instead opted to join Hands On Atlanta.[14][15] Founded in 1989 by twelve young professionals,[15] Hands On Atlanta was a non-profit dedicated to engaging volunteers, especially young businesspeople who would sign up for single days of service on a monthly basis.[16][17] Rapidly expanding and needing someone to help manage their efforts, they hired Nunn on a part-time basis as their executive director and only paid staffer (despite the title, she later described the position at first as "a glorified internship").[15][11]

In May 1990, Nunn became full-time executive director, and by September 1990, Hands On Atlanta was coordinating 700 volunteers.[18] Nunn later said, "I had a real passion for community service and volunteerism, so I had a real passion for the work."[14] She also credited her upbringing, saying in 1992, "My father has influenced me through example. His own work in the public sphere, I'm sure, played a large part in my work in community service."[10] Nunn was an early practitioner in garnering corporate backing for such ventures.[11] Over the next twenty years, volunteers for Hands On Atlanta put in more than 6 million hours, and its founders credited Nunn with a significant role in helping it grow.[15]

Similar organizations developed in other cities, and in 1992 they formed a national group under the name City Cares.[16] By 1995, the concept of appealing to young working people had proven successful, and Hands On Atlanta had a budget of $1 million, a paid staff of 17, and over 11,000 volunteers on its mailing list, 7,500 of whom participated in a Hands On Atlanta Day.[17] At the end of 1998, City Cares of America relocated its headquarters from New York to Atlanta, and Nunn became interim executive director for it, while continuing on as executive director of Hands on Atlanta.[19] (She was sometimes referred to in the press without the 'interim' designation.[20]) Subsequently, Nunn returned to focusing on Hands On Atlanta,[21] and staged a successful, multimillion dollar capital campaign for a new headquarters building in that city.[11]

Further education, marriage and family, and potential 2004 Senate run[edit]

Nunn was a Kellogg National Fellow[13] in the KNFP-15 group,[22] c. 1995–1998. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2001.[23]

At a beach ceremony on Cumberland Island in Georgia on June 2, 2001, Nunn married Ron Martin, Jr.,[24] who works in the real estate business.[11] The couple live in the Inman Park neighborhood of Atlanta with their two children, Vinson (born 2002)[21] and Elizabeth[13] (born c. 2004).[11] He has served as a stay-at-home father to enable to Nunn to pursue her career.[7]

Nunn considered a run in the United States Senate election in Georgia, 2004, when incumbent Zell Miller decided to retire.[21] She had little public visibility and few political assets other than her father's name.[21] In October 2003, she decided not to become a candidate, saying, "In the next few years, I believe that my primary focus is best directed toward my 11-month-old son and family."[21]

HandsOn Network, Points of Light[edit]

In late 2003, Nunn left Hands On Atlanta to become president of City Cares.[25] In 2004, City Cares renamed itself to the HandsOn Network.[16] Under Nunn's leadership, the City Cares model changed somewhat, and a majority of new HandsOn Network affiliates were themselves volunteer centers.[16]

In 2006, Nunn was named to the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.[26] Later in 2006, she was the editor of Be The Change! Change the World. Change Yourself., a collection of stories from hundreds of volunteers.[27] It contained forewords from George H.W. Bush and Tom Brokaw and was republished in 2012.[28]

In 2007, the Points of Light Foundation began talks with the HandsOn Network to join forces through a merger to create one national organization with local affiliates focused on volunteering and service. They formally combined forces on August 11, 2007, to become the Points of Light and Hands On Network (later Points of Light Institute and later still just Points of Light). Nunn presided over the merger, saying of its motivation, "We both could have continued along the route we were on, growing incrementally, but I believe neither of us would have achieved the kind of exponential change we wanted."[29] She also ensured that the combined operation had its main offices in Atlanta.[11]

As CEO of Points of Light, Nunn has good relations with the Bush family, as the Points of Light Foundation had derived from President George H. W. Bush and his "thousand points of light" philosophy.[30] Nunn's trip to Texas to meet with George H. W. Bush had been a key element in forming the merger. Neil Bush, the chair of Points of Light, has characterized Nunn as "a fabulous leader" (although he did not endorse, or oppose, her subsequent Senate candidacy).[11] Points of Light became the largest organization in the U.S. purposed towards volunteer service.[31] By 2009, it had a budget of $39 million and its associated HandsOn Network affiliates had a collective budget of $180 million.[15] In 2011, Points of Light had revenues of $55 million and had over 4 million volunteers mobilized under it.[11] Nunn's salary was over $300,000.[11]

2014 Senate run[edit]

When Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss from Georgia announced in January 2013 that he had decided to retire after two terms, his senate seat become open.[32] With Democratic Congressman John Barrow passing on the race, Nunn consulted with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee about possibly running,[31] as well as with Georgia political figures such as Shirley Franklin, Roy Barnes, and Andrew Young.[30] Though she was little known to voters,[33] Democrats embraced the hope that Nunn, with her executive experience as well as family name, could make their party once again competitive in-state.[31]

On July 22, 2013, Nunn declared herself a candidate for U.S. Senate.[34] (She was granted a leave of absence from her position with Points of Light.[35]) She said: "Our opportunity is to define ourselves. I'm going to talk a lot about the deficit. Neither side of the equation is really tackling that. I think people are really tired of the mudslinging and the silliness of this."[34] If elected, Nunn would become the 29th Georgian elected to the U.S. Senate or U.S. House with a family member who previously served in Congress, and the first since her father (who is the grandnephew of Carl Vinson).[36]

Making reference to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Nunn said that some aspects of it should be fixed, but that it should not be eliminated, and she criticized Georgia's refusal to accept Medicaid expansion under the act.[34] Following the start-up problems with the associated HealthCare.gov website, Nunn broke with the Obama administration and said that the individual mandate portion of the law should be delayed.[37] On Same-sex marriage, she said she personally favors marriage equality, but that the decision should be made on a state-by-state basis.[34] She favors construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.[12] She believes that members of Congress should be forced to pass a budget each year, or forfeit their pay; in regard to ongoing congressional dysfunction, she said, "There's blame on both sides."[12]

Initial and subsequent polls by Public Policy Polling have showed Nunn tied or slightly ahead of the various possible Republican candidates,[38][39] while a Landmark CommunicationsRosetta Stone poll found Nunn slightly behind most of the Republicans.[40] She raised $1.7 million in campaign funds during the third quarter of 2013, more than twice that of any Republican running.[41] She followed that with a $1.6 million fourth quarter[42] and a $2.4 million first quarter of 2014, again the most of anyone in the race.[43] Her stump speech has emphasized an appeal to bipartisanship.[44] Nunn has received support and donations from former Republican Senators Richard Lugar and John Warner, both of whom were close to her father.[45] Commenting on her public image, The New York Times said, "At 47, the cautious and cerebral Ms. Nunn is every bit her father's daughter, down to her owlish glasses and centrist message about curing dysfunction in Washington."[7] The race has garnered national interest since Democratic control of the Senate may depend upon it.[12]

Awards and honors[edit]

Nunn was chosen in 2006 as one of the 100 most influential Georgians by Georgia Trend.[46] In 2010, she received a Global Ambassador of Youth Award from the World Leadership Awards for her work with volunteer organizations.[33] In 2012, Nunn was named for the sixth straight time to The NonProfit Times' annual Power & Influence Top 50 list of the most influential nonprofit executives.[47] In naming her in 2011, NonProfit Times described Nunn thusly: "The Pied Piper of national service, she has a unique ability to organize disparate people and organizations into a coalition that elected officials are compelled to embrace."[48]

Nunn, along with her father, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Oglethorpe University in 2006.[49] In 2010, she received an honorary Doctor of Public Service from Wesleyan College.[50]


  1. ^ a b c Salmon, Stephanie (July 16, 2008). "10 Things You Didn't Know About Sam Nunn". USA Today. 
  2. ^ a b "Sam Nunn: Biography". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Rep. Sam Nunn ... Profile of Demo nominee for Senate". Rome News-Tribune. Associated Press. August 30, 1972. p. 4B. 
  4. ^ Noah, Timothy (December 1989). "Born to be mild; he's influential, informed, and responsible. But do you really want Sam Nunn to be president?". The Washington Monthly. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Downey, Maureen (July 13, 1990). "Second to Nunn: Secure in a low-profile life she's cultivated offstage, senator's wife organizes a transition to the limelight". The Atlanta Constitution. p. G1. 
  6. ^ Nunn, Michelle, ed. (2012). Be The Change! Change the World. Change Yourself. Atlanta: Hundreds of Heads Books. p. xv. ISBN 1-933512-00-8. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (January 25, 2014). "Old Democratic Name (Nunn) Stakes Bid on Shifting Georgia". The New York Times. p. A1. 
  8. ^ Savage, Randall (July 25, 2013). "Michelle Nunn Greets Macon Lunch Crowd". WMAZ-TV. 
  9. ^ "GOOD Q&A: Michelle Nunn". Good Worldwide. June 27, 2008. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Thonnia, Lee (June 17, 1992). "Daddy and me: 4 women share their stories". The Atlanta Constitution. p. D3. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Malloy, Daniel; Bluestein, Greg (May 28, 2013). "Newcomer Nunn built service career". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. p. A1. 
  12. ^ a b c d Newton-Small, Jay (March 6, 2014). "Democrats' Georgia Reach". Time. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Michelle Nunn". Points of Light. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Johnston, Lori. "Michelle Nunn: Hands on Atlanta". Divine Caroline. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Quinn, Christopher (October 12, 2009). "Hands On founders battled 'greed is good' philosophy". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  16. ^ a b c d Ellis, Susan J. "Historical Context of the Merger Between POL and HON". Energize, Inc. Retrieved March 18, 2012.  Included linked-to chart from the third edition of the Ellis–Noyes book.
  17. ^ a b Sack, Kevin (November 25, 1995). "Making Volunteerism Easier For Busy Workers of Today". The New York Times. 
  18. ^ Downey, Maureen (September 18, 1990). "Volunteers handily turn good intentions into action". The Atlanta Constitution. p. B1. 
  19. ^ "City Cares group moves to Atlanta". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 16, 1999. p. B2. 
  20. ^ Fritz, Mark (December 31, 1998). "Angling to Reel in Volunteers". Los Angeles Times. 
  21. ^ a b c d e Pettys, Dick (October 25, 2003). "Michelle Nunn, daughter of Sam Nunn, not running for Senate". The Augusta Chronicle. Associated Press. 
  22. ^ "Collaborative Partners". Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance. Retrieved July 25, 2013.  Fellows were given "the opportunity to engage in a three-year quest to broaden their intellectual horizons and bolster their capacities for leadership through self-directed experiential learning and group participation." See "Kellogg Fellowship Groups". Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance. Retrieved July 25, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Classnotes". Harvard Kennedy School Magazine. Winter 2011. p. 22. 
  24. ^ "Engagement/Wedding/Anniversary Index". The Macon Telegraph. June 24, 2001. p. 5F. 
  25. ^ "Hands On Atlanta's Nunn leaving". Atlanta Business Chronicle. September 12, 2003. 
  26. ^ "President Bush Welcomes New Members of President's Council on Service and Civic Participation" (Press release). PRNewswire. February 14, 2006. 
  27. ^ "Volunteering guru's view: Yes, you can effect change". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. December 31, 2006. p. MS1. 
  28. ^ "Be the Change! Change the World. Change Yourself.". Amazon.com. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  29. ^ Strom, Stephanie (November 11, 2007). "Charities Trying Mergers to Improve Bottom Line". The New York Times. 
  30. ^ a b Galloway, Jim (May 15, 2013). "Like father, like daughter: Decoding Michelle Nunn's Senate deliberations". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  31. ^ a b c Joseph, Cameron (May 24, 2013). "Michelle Nunn actively preparing for a Senate campaign in Georgia". The Hill. 
  32. ^ Joseph, Cameron (January 25, 2013). "Report: Sen. Saxby Chambliss to retire". The Hill. 
  33. ^ a b Galloway, Jim (May 8, 2013). "Michelle Nunn outperformed John Barrow in Dem poll". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  34. ^ a b c d Galloway, Jim (July 22, 2013). "Michelle Nunn declares herself a U.S. Senate candidate". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  35. ^ "Statement from Board Chair Neil Bush on the Leadership Transition at Points of Light" (Press release). Points of Light. Retrieved July 25, 2013. 
  36. ^ Ostermeier, Eric (July 25, 2013). "Michelle Nunn: A Return to Dynastic Politics in Georgia?". Smart Politics. Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. 
  37. ^ Galloway, Jim (October 24, 2013). "Michelle Nunn calls for delay of Obamacare mandate". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  38. ^ Fox, Lauren (August 6, 2013). "Could Michelle Nunn Be the Candidate to Win Georgia Democrats?". U.S. News & World Report. 
  39. ^ Bluestein, Greg (March 10, 2014). "Poll shows Paul Broun with double-digit lead in GOP Senate race". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  40. ^ Geary, Lori (April 2, 2014). "Poll: Nunn in close race with 5 Republicans for Senate". WSB-TV. 
  41. ^ Crawford, Tom (October 21, 2013). "Some interesting numbers might shake up the races". The Alma Times. 
  42. ^ Galloway, Jim (January 5, 2014). "Michelle Nunn hauls in $1.6 million in Senate bid". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  43. ^ Sullivan, Sean (April 14, 2014). "Michelle Nunn raises $2.4 million in first quarter". The Washington Post. 
  44. ^ Trygstad, Kyle (April 17, 2014). "Michelle Nunn Hits Bipartisan Tone in Georgia Senate Stump Speech". Roll Call. 
  45. ^ Camia, Catalina (January 6, 2014). "Michelle Nunn gets donation from Lugar PAC". USA Today. 
  46. ^ Grillo, Jerry. "The 100 Most Influential Georgians". Georgia Trend. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  47. ^ "Michelle Nunn named to The 2012 NonProfit Times Top 50". HandsOn Network. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  48. ^ "The Nonprofit Times Power & Influence Top 50". The NonProfit Times. August 1, 2011. p. 4. 
  49. ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Retrieved May 22, 2013. 
  50. ^ "Wesleyan College Graduates 130 at 2010 Commencement". Points of Light. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 

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