Join One Country Project board members, guest speakers, and rural advocates for the inaugural One Country Rural Progress Summit this October 13th – 15th online on Zoom.

It’s clear that rural America holds an essential role in moving our country forward and deciding who controls the agenda in Washington, D.C., yet rural America is often left out of important policy decisions. The summit will bring together rural stakeholders from across the country to ensure future policy considerations address the challenges rural communities face. Along with discussions of important rural priorities, we’ll also highlight the vital role rural areas play in shaping the nation’s energy, economic, and agricultural future.

 The One Country Rural Progress Summit will provide a forum to develop a consensus on the future of rural America and its position as a leader in the future of our country.




Rural Progress Summit Agenda

More details and speakers to come – check back for updates soon! (All times are Eastern)


Day 1 – October 13th

1:00pm – Summit Opens


1:20pm – Aidan O’Connor, Critical Care Flight Paramedic in New York, discusses how to deliver better healthcare for rural communities

Aidan O’Connor joined Air Methods 9 years ago as a Critical Care Flight Paramedic and is now the Northeast Sales Director and member of the Senior Leadership Team. Aidan was elected to office in 2015 as a County Legislator and was appointed as Chairperson for the Health Services Committee and elected Minority Leader. He continues to work clinically has a Paramedic in rural upstate New York.

1:35pm – Governor John Kitzhaber with MODUM Health discusses value-based healthcare in Oregon

John was born in Colfax, Washington, March 5, 1947; graduated from Dartmouth College, 1969; and the University of Oregon Medical School, 1973. Following his internship in Denver Colorado he practiced Emergency Medicine in Roseburg, Oregon from 1974-1989. As Oregon Senate President, he authored the groundbreaking Oregon Health Plan, built around a list of health services prioritized on the basis of social values, clinical effectiveness and a consideration of impact on the health of the entire covered population. Hundreds of thousands of low and moderate-income Oregon families and their children still have access to health care because of this work. During his third term as governor John was the chief architect of Oregon’s Coordinated Care Organizations, the first effort in the country created on a statewide basis to meet the Triple Aim—better health, better quality, lower cost— with a focus on community and population health. Over the course of five years, this new care model enrolled over 385,000 more people under the ACA Medicaid expansion; maintained benefits, quality and outcomes; and held medical inflation to just 3.4% per member per year for a cumulative total funds savings of over $1.1 billion.  

1:50pm – Sean Robbins, VP of External Affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield

Sean Robbins is executive vice president of external affairs for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), a national federation of 35 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies. Today, one in three Americans is covered by the Blue System. With a track record of leading private and public sector organizations through complex, high-profile initiatives, Robbins’ experience as an operational healthcare leader combined with his public affairs background is unique within the industry. As executive vice president, he provides leadership for BCBSA’s external affairs functions, including the Office of Policy & Representation in Washington, D.C., which shapes public policy on behalf of the BCBS System, as well as the Brand Strategy and Marketing and Strategic Communications teams, which protect and enhance the BCBS brand on a national level.  Earlier in his career, Robbins led two community development organizations as CEO and supported two governors in building Oregon’s statewide economic development strategy. 

2:05pm – Rural Health Care Panel Discussion with Dr. Richard Powers, Governor John Kitzhaber, Aidan O’Connor, critical care flight paramedic, and Sean Robbins, VP of External Affairs at BCBS, moderated by Leader Anthony Daniels.

Dr. Richard Powers is a psychiatrist and neuropathologist who received his medical degree from the University of Kentucky in 1976. He served for three years in the United States Army as a Squadron Surgeon and Clinic Director. He completed an Anatomical Pathology Residency at the University of Kentucky.  He completed a psychiatry residency and neuropathology fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  He practiced psychiatry and neuropathology at the University Of Alabama School Of Medicine where he held the rank of Professor prior to retirement in 2011. While at UAB, Dr. Powers also served as the Medical Director for the Alabama Department of Mental Health and assisted with creating the geriatric mental health system for the state of Alabama as well as providing psychiatric services to persons with intellectual disability.  He has subsequently practiced within the Veteran’s Administration Health Care system as an Associate Chief of Staff for Geriatrics and Extended Care as well as in the Outpatient Mental Health Clinic caring for veterans with PTSD. He continues to practice at the University as an Adjunct Professor in the department of pathology as well as the Medical Director for Behavioral Health for VIVA Inc. Dr. Powers has been involved in numerous public policy initiatives at the local, state and national levels. He was one of the founding members of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and he has assisted numerous advocacy programs on behalf of persons with dementia and their family caregivers. Dr. Powers is the recipient of numerous awards including his induction into the Alabama Health Care Hall of Fame and the Nathan Davis Award presented by the AMA in 2011 for public service provided at the state level. He is the author of numerous book chapters, scholarly publications and consumer education programs that focus on neurodegenerative diseases or neuropsychiatric disorders.

3:05pm – Guest Speaker Sister Simone Campbell

Sister Simone Campbell (a Roman Catholic Sister of Social Service) is a religious leader, attorney, and author with extensive experience in public policy and advocacy for systemic change. For almost 17 years she was the executive director of NETWORK, Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and leader of Nuns on the Bus. In 2010, she wrote the “nuns’ letter” that was seminal in the passage of the Affordable Care Act. She has twice spoken at the Democratic National Conventions, appeared on numerous television and radio programs and received many awards including a “Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award” and the “Defender of Democracy Award” from the Parliamentarians for Global Action. Prior to her work in Washington, this native Californian did interfaith state-based advocacy in Sacramento and for 18 years was the founder and lead attorney at the Community Law Center in Oakland to serve the family law and probate needs of working poor families in Alameda County.  Her two books, A Nun on the Bus (2014) and Hunger for Hope (2020), are award winning reflections on the substance of her life and the call to faithful justice seeking.


3:55pm – Neela Mollgaard, executive director of Launch Minnesota

Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director of Launch Minnesota, is working to create an environment to support entrepreneurs and nurture tech startups with a goal of fostering an innovation ecosystem across the state that draws global attention, talent, and capital. Neela has a proven track record in this area. She was a founder of the nonprofit Red Wing Ignite, which supports entrepreneurs, businesses, and students to succeed in the 21st century economy. She has created a model in Greater Minnesota that has received national attention by forging partnerships with government, academic, corporate and organizational partners – and included creation of a regional makerspace at Minnesota State College Southeast, the Golden Triangle angel investment fund, a regional network to support entrepreneurs, and programs to grow the talent pipeline. Neela has served in leadership roles with local nonprofits. She’s a former member of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband and chair and a founder of Women Cents. Neela holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Master of Science in community health from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

4:10pm – Dr. Mittie Cannon, founder of Power Up discusses workforce training in rural communities

Dr. Mittie D. Cannon has been engaged in workforce development in the construction industry for over two decades. Over the years, she recognized that statistically the construction industry was consistently challenged to pull in a qualified and diverse workforce – specifically, the industries overwhelming deficit in female employees. Through recognizing this critical shortage, Dr. Cannon has developed a passion for exposing young women to careers in construction through innovative programing. Dr. Cannon initially ran summer camps for young women to expose them to careers in the construction industry.  In early 2015, Dr. Cannon began envisioning a program that would introduce young women and their mothers to exciting careers in construction. To ensure success in her programing, she sought out partnerships with industry leaders who had also expressed a desire in bringing about a more diverse construction industry workforce.  Dr. Cannon leaned on her community, construction industry, and educational connections and in October 2015 a collaborative partnership was formed to present our signature program Power UP: It’s a Mother-Daughter Thing!. Since inception the signature program has had tremendous success with over 800 attendees, employer partners, training providers, and higher education institutions. 

4:25pm – Future of Work Panel Discussion with Dr. Mittie Cannon, Power UP, Gabe Horwitz, Third Way, Shelly Steward, Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative, Matt Dune, Center on Rural Innovation, and Neela Mollgaard, Launch Minnesota, moderated by Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

Gabe Horwitz directs Third Way’s Economic Program, which is committed to advancing modern economic ideas. Gabe works with Capitol Hill, federal agencies, advocates, and business leaders to reimagine government’s role and expand the opportunity for everyone to earn a good life. Prior to joining Third Way in 2012, Gabe spent more than a decade developing advocacy and grassroots issue campaigns, serving on presidential and congressional campaigns, and holding numerous positions on Capitol Hill. Most recently, he was an Executive Vice President at McBee Strategic Consulting, where he advised companies and municipalities on tax, health care, energy, and telecommunications policy. 

5:25pm – Closing remarks

5:30pm – Summit adjourns for the day


Day 2 – October 14th

1:00pm – Welcome to Day 2


1:10pm – David Axelrod, founding director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and former senior advisor to President Barack Obama leads discussion on policy consensus with Mitch Landrieu, Heidi Heitkamp, and Ashton Clemmons.

David Axelrod is a preeminent American political strategist and commentator and the former chief strategist and senior advisor to President Barack Obama.  Axelrod currently serves as the founding director of the University of Chicago’s non-partisan Institute of Politics and as a senior political commentator for CNN.  He is the host of The Axe Files, a top-rated podcast featuring in depth conversations with public figures across the political spectrum.  A former political writer for the Chicago Tribune, Axelrod produced media strategy and advertising for 150 campaigns across the U.S., culminating in President Obama’s historic elections.  Axelrod is also the author of The New York Times best-selling memoir, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics. 

2:00pm – The Common Rural/Urban Policy Agenda Panel Discussion with Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of Rural Telecom, Colleen Fisher, CEO of Council for Affordable and Rural Housing, and Julie Bomar, Executive Director of Wisconsin Farmers Union. Moderated by Representative Ashton Clemmons.

Colleen M. Fisher has served as the Executive Director of the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing (CARH) since 1996. CARH represents the interests of companies that are involved in the building, development, financing, management and ownership of housing in rural areas across the country. Prior to joining CARH, Ms. Fisher was the Industry Relations Manager in the Resolution Trust Corporation’s (RTC) National Marketing Department in Washington, DC,  Vice President for Government Relations for the National Apartment Association (NAA) and as a Legislative Assistant for former Senator Richard S. Schweiker (R-PA).  She was also a Majority Professional Staff member on the United States Senate Appropriations Committee, where she worked for former Senator Jake Garn (R-UT) on the HUD-VA and Independent Agencies Subcommittee. Ms. Fisher serves on the Board of Directors for the National Affordable Housing Preservation Associates, Inc. (NAHPA) and the Fredericksburg Festival of the Arts Council and is a member of Fannie Mae’s Rural Duty to Serve Advisory Council.  She is a past member of the Advisory Board for the Housing and Development Reporter (HDR) and Fannie Mae’s National Housing Advisory Council. 

Shirley Bloomfield is chief executive officer of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, the premier association representing nearly 850 independent telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. With more than 30 years of experience representing the country’s smallest telecom operators, Bloomfield is an expert on the role of federal communications policies in sustaining the vitality of rural and remote communities and the benefits rural broadband networks bring to millions of American families, businesses and the national economy. Bloomfield has a strong track record of leadership in aligning strategic partnerships among rural telecom companies, their larger counterparts, other rural utilities and federal agencies, advancing digital equity and economic opportunities for rural Americans. Under her leadership, NTCA has promoted public-private partnerships among rural communications providers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and FCC, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars flowing to rural communities to advance broadband networks and help close the digital divide. Bloomfield is a strong supporter of national efforts to improve the resilience and reliability of critical electric and telecommunications infrastructure and serves as a board member of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative and the Southeast Reliability Corporation (SERC). 

Julie Bomar is the Executive Director of Wisconsin Farmers Union, an agricultural organization representing over 2,000 farmers and farmer allies across the state. The Farmers Union provides education, cooperative development, rural organizing, and policy advocacy to keep rural communities thriving and independent farmers on the land and in business. Julie has a Ph.D in anthropology and has worked in community development and organizing for over 20 years.

3:00pm – Whitney Kimball Coe, director of National Programs at the Center for Rural Strategies gives Keynote Presentation

Whitney Kimball Coe is a vice president and Director of National Programs for the Center for Rural Strategies. Kimball Coe directs the work of the National Rural Assembly, a program that brings together rural leaders and advocates from every region with national public- interest organizations, funders, and policymakers in ways that inform public policy and private investment in rural people and places.  In 2017, she was a featured speaker at the inaugural summit of the Obama Foundation and a guest on the radio program On Being with Krista Tippett. Her focus on building civic courage in communities is directly tied to a practice of participation in her hometown of Athens, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband Matt and daughters, Lucy and Susannah. Coe has a MA in Appalachian studies from Appalachian State University in North Carolina and an undergraduate degree in religion and philosophy from Queens University of Charlotte.

Follow on Twitter @ruralassembly & @whitneykcoe

Find her on Instagram @whitneykcoe & @rural_assembly

3:30pm – Hanna Love, research associate at the Brooking Institution discusses the changing demographics of rural America

Hanna Love is a Research Associate with The Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking at the Brookings Institute Metropolitan Policy Program.

4:00pm – Adam Zabner and Danny Vesecky, UChicago students, discuss original research by OCP on best practices for rural organizing and voter persuasion

Adam Zabner is a 4th-year neuroscience major at the University of Chicago who was born in raised in Iowa City. Before interning at One Country Project, Adam worked in Iowa as an organizer for Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 caucus campaign and the regional organizing director for Northwest Iowa for the 2020 Iowa Democratic Party coordinated campaign. After the general election, Adam worked to deliver the senate on Jon Ossoff’s runoff campaign. 

Danny Vesecky is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago. He is pursuing a major in Public Policy Studies and a minor in Mathematics. Danny grew up in New Jersey, and before attending the University of Chicago he worked as a field intern for the 2018 Tom Malinowski for Congress campaign. During his college education, Danny has interned for the ExoTerra Project and the One Country Project and has worked as a research assistant at the Harris School of Public Policy. Danny is also an avid science-fiction fan, and loves to play table-top games.

4:15pm – Sen. Heitkamp and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand discuss the impact of paid family leave in rural America.

5:00pm – Closing Remarks and Adjourn

5:05pm – Happy Hour with Rural Trivia


Day 3 – October 15th

1:00pm – Welcome to Day 3


1:10pm – Tim Luecke discusses research on disinformation and presents key findings

Tim Luecke was born and raised in Cologne, Germany. He lived in the United States for fifteen years, during which he got his bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in International Relations. After completing his dissertation, he worked as postdoc scholar at the Mershon Center in Columbus, Ohio. He has expertise in political theory, international security, and generational change. In 2018, Tim and the photographer Sonja Niemeier travelled for almost three months across the United States to interview Americans of all walks of life why they believe Donald Trump became president. They conducted further interviews over the next three two years. The book will be released on November 1, 2021, and it is the first part of a three-part series, called “The Crisis of the West,” which tries to understand the political crisis and increasing polarization in Western societies. In 2019, Sonja and Tim co-founded Transatlantika, a network of independent scholars, artists, academics and experts from both sides of the Atlantic, dedicated to the goal of promoting transatlantic relations and to developing creative solutions to the Crisis of the West. Transatlantika offers consulting, conducts independent research, organizes events and workshops with a variety of partners, and operates as a publishing house.

1:40pm – Laura Quinn, president of Catalist, analyzes the disinformation divide between rural and urban America

Laura Quinn currently advises philanthropists and investors engaged in a variety of progressive media enterprises.  She is also a current Board member and President of Catalist.  A founder of the company, she served as CEO from 2006 through 2018.  Ms. Quinn previously served as White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore; as Executive Director of the U.S. Senate Democratic Technology and Communications Committee for Majority Leader Tom Daschle; and in communications and economic policy positions for U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller, Carl Levin and Joe Biden.  In addition to her work in business and government, Ms. Quinn has held senior roles on five national Presidential campaigns; and senior management and consulting positions for numerous national and statewide political and advocacy campaigns and not-for-profits.  In 2018-19, she was a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Ash Center for Governance and Innovation, and at Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy.  Ms. Quinn currently sits on Boards and Advisory Committees of several technology enterprises that serve the progressive civic community.

2:10pm – Slowing the Spread of Disinformation Panel Discussion with Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prize winning editor of Storm Lake Times, Laura Quinn, president of Catalist, Tyler Axness, North Dakota radio talk show host, Phil Snape, co-founder of Impact Social, and Tim Luecke, author of Why Trump?.

3:00pm – Former Candidates Panel Discussion with Jon Hoadley, former candidate for Congress in Michigan, Christina Hale, former candidate for Congress in Iowa, and JD Scholten, former candidate for Congress in Iowa, moderated by Kael Weston.

Jon Hoadley – With nearly twenty years of experience managing people, organizations, financial resources, and coalitions to achieve high impact outcomes, Jon Hoadley has built a track record of success in the non-profit, campaign and public sectors. Hoadley recently concluded his service as a State Representative, serving the greater Kalamazoo area from 2015-2020.  While in the legislature, he served as the Minority Vice Chair of the Appropriations and House Fiscal Agency Governing committees, numerous subcommittees related to the Appropriations process, and on the leadership teams of the Democratic caucus during each of his three terms. Prior to his service in the legislature, Hoadley was the Founder and CEO of Badlands Strategies, a progressive public affairs firm specializing in coalition management, campaigns, and donor advising.  Among others, clients included the Unity Michigan Coalition to expand LGBTQ+ equality and local non-discrimination ordinances, an array of Labor organizations fighting against Michigan’s Right to Work legislation, the first election to the Michigan Supreme Court of now Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, the West Michigan Progressive Donor PAC, efforts to expand access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act, and support for the initial donor alliance nearly ten years ago. 

Christina Hale – Be Latina News called Christina Hale “a doer with the right intentions and the right goals to benefit all, not just the few at the top.” That’s because Christina has lived firsthand the challenges that so many of us face every day. As a young, single mother she put herself through college while raising her son. Between sweating through work shifts and studying to earn the grades that made her a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, Christina had to balance paying the bills with daycare runs and bedtime stories. So yes, she truly knows what it means to hustle and provide when people are counting on her. Those were difficult times, but they led Christina to a career helping others. Much of her career was spent as a nonprofit executive at Kiwanis International, a global NGO dedicated to supporting children and public health, where she served in a variety of roles including lead area director for Europe and Asia Pacific, chief communications officer, and executive director for Kiwanis Youth Programs worldwide, positions leading large teams and projects. Christina’s leadership included the launch of a joint venture with Kiwanis and UNICEF to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, an experience that highlighted the need for safe birthing practices around the world and also in her community at home. Seeing the lack of urgency to address this and other important issues in her own community, Christina decided to run for office. Serving as an elected member of the Indiana General Assembly, she earned a reputation for effectiveness and bipartisanship. Even as a member of a super-minority, Christina was able to pass more than 60 bills, every single one with bipartisan support. In 2014, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce called her “one of the most active, thoughtful and determined state legislators. In selecting her to be his running mate in 2016, Indiana gubernatorial candidate John Gregg cited her “record of reaching across the aisle and getting things done.” A Cuban-American, Christina was the first Latina to run for statewide office in Indiana, and in 2020, Christina was the first Latina nominee for U.S. Congress in the state as well, a race that was heralded as one of the most competitive in the country. Christina is an honored and tireless volunteer. She has served on a number of boards including the Indiana University School of Nursing Board of Advisors, the Indiana University National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, Heartland Film, the Indiana Commission for Latino Affairs, and the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking, a group she helped to found. “I always try to be very mindful that I can be part of solutions,” she told the Indianapolis Business Journal, which named Christina to its “Women of Influence” in 2015. “That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.” A sought-after public speaker, she appears often on broadcast television and streaming media and writes for a number of publications. She also hosts her own podcast, Changemakers with Christina Hale.

JD Scholten – A 5th generation Iowan, J.D. Scholten is a two-time congressional candidate in Iowa’s 4th district who ran a creative, grassroots campaign that drew national attention for how Democrats can compete in rural areas. In 2018, his campaign lost by just 3% —fewer than 11K votes—in a district with 70,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, and where Trump won by 27% in 2016. In 2020, Scholten took his campaign RV to all 374 towns in the district and was one of the few non-incumbent candidates to outperform the top of the ticket. The Sioux City native attended college and played baseball at Morningside College and the University of Nebraska. After college, he played baseball in 7 different countries. He then went on to work as a paralegal before he launched his congressional campaigns. Currently, J.D. is a rural advocate raising awareness of issues that often don’t make the headlines in national publications. 

3:45pm – David Daley, author of Ratf**ked and Unrigged discusses the American political environment

David Daley is a senior fellow for FairVote and the author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, which helped spark the recent drive to reform gerrymandering. Dave’s second book, Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy, chronicles the victories and defeats in state efforts to reform elections and uphold voting rights. A frequent lecturer and media source about gerrymandering, he is the former editor-in-chief of, and the former CEO and publisher of the Connecticut News Project. He is a digital media fellow at the Wilson Center for the Humanities and the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia. His work has appeared in theNew Yorker, The Washington Post, The Guardian, New York magazine, the Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, Details, and he’s been on CNN and NPR. When writing for the Hartford Courant, he helped identify Mark Felt as the “Deep Throat” source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.   

4:15pm – Bipartisan House and Senate Ag Committee Updates

4:45pm – One Country Presents Original Polling and Social Insight Analysis by Doug Usher

5:15pm – Summit Concludes