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EmpowerMS hosts Unleash Mississippi

EmpowerMS hosts Unleash Mississippi

By: Anne Summerhays - June 9, 2021

The event featured discussions with state leaders and policy experts in the areas of education, work and justice.

Tuesday, Empower Mississippi hosted an event called Unleash Mississippi. It brought together Mississippi state leaders and policy experts for a solutions-centered discussion on how to tackle the Magnolia State’s biggest challenges and help all Mississippians succeed.

The event had ten guest speakers who spoke on a variety of issues that Mississippi constantly faces relating to education, work, and criminal justice.

The education panel featured Andrew Clark with Yes. Every Kid., Donald Nielsen with the Discovery Institute, and Grant Callen and Elyse Marcellino with Empower Mississippi. They discussed ways in which we can rethink education.

“The education system isn’t broken, it’s obsolete. It’s working exactly as it was intended to,” said Donald Nielsen.

He explained that the entirety of the American education system was built in the 1900’s and was outdated. Nielsen proposed potential solutions, saying, “We have to have better teachers, better leaders, we have to open up innovation, and we have to get angry.”

“The biggest danger that is facing us right now is that because of incremental progress here and there, we sit back and say ‘The status quo is fine,’” Elyse Marcellino said. “It’s clearly not, Mississippians don’t feel that it is and so we should be thinking outside of the box in order to change education for the better and create brighter future for Mississippians.'”

Empower Contributing Fellow ⁦Connor Norris led a panel on regulatory reform and how we can encourage work with ⁦Mercatus Center’s James Broughel and Deputy Attorney General Whitney Lipscomb. 

“We are making it easy to work,” Lipscomb said, in reference to talking about the history of occupational licensing regulation oversight in the state of Mississippi. Lipscomb also discussed different things that the Attorney General’s Office is doing to make sure that Mississippians can return to work without having to worry about unneeded regulatory burdens.

Empower Mississippi’s Steven Randel then led a panel on criminal justice with Sen. Juan Barnett, Rep. Kevin Horan & ⁦Right on Crime Executive Director ⁦Brett Tolman.  

After the criminal justice panel, Y’all Politics talked with Sen. Juan Barnett more about the discussion.

“To the be second highest state in the country, and our country is the highest poorest rated country in the nation, it’s time to do something different,” Barnett said. “I’m just happy a part of this today and hopefully what we’ve said today, the leaders of the state can hear it as well and other of the people of the state can share that with others and we can do some more meaningful things going forward.”

The event concluded with Speaker Philip Gunn sharing his ideas on how Mississippi can prosper in the future.

Empower Mississippi’s President, Russ Latino, talked about how there are many challenges that Mississippi faces.

“There are things that we’ve got to overcome in order for us to see the kind success in the state that we want to see for the people in this state,” Latino said.

He then asked Speaker Gunn what his guiding philosophy is when it comes to his role as Speaker of the House.

“I’m a conservative, I’m a Republican, and I believe that we need less government,” Gunn replied. “We stand for limited government, individual freedoms. I believe that the more freedoms we have, the better.”

State Senator Daniel Sparks also attend the event. He spoke with Y’all Politics about priorities in the upcoming legislative session. Sparks gave his opinion on what Mississippians can expect to see regarding issues such as finance and criminal justice items.

Hear what Sen. Sparks had to say below.


About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: