Mike Johnston has dedicated his pathbreaking career in public service to solving the toughest problems in the toughest places with extraordinary vision and compassion. As a teacher in the Mississippi Delta, a principal in some of the most challenging public schools in Denver and a nationally-recognized legislator, Mike has consistently rewritten stories of despair as testaments to hope alongside the communities where he works. Under his leadership, a high school in metro Denver with a 50% dropout rate became the first public high school in Colorado history where every senior graduated and earned admission to a four-year college. Mike was subsequently tapped to serve as an education advisor to President Obama during Obama’s first presidential campaign and then, as a State Senator, sponsored over 100 bipartisan bills that passed into law, including landmark legislation targeting criminal justice, education reform, and environmental protection.
A nationally recognized entrepreneur, author and speaker, Mike has published a memoir to critical acclaim, delivered the “best education speech ever,” (Forbes, 2012) and served as a Harvard commencement speaker. He has launched innovative for-profit and non-profit ventures at local and national scale, including New Leaders for New Schools (a pipeline for talented leaders to become public school principals), the Urban Leaders Fellowship (preparing young people for careers in public service through grassroots and policy work), and CONext (launching new technology platforms to re-engage citizens in electoral politics).
Mike holds degrees from Yale College, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Yale Law School. He has been named to Time Magazine’s list of “40 Under 40 Political Leaders,” Forbes’ list of “America’s Seven Most Influential Educators,” and most recently was highlighted in the New York Times as one of “Fourteen Young Democrats to Watch.”