Let's Get Real.
For years, Laurene Powell Jobs lived quietly in the shadow of her husband, Apple founder Steve Jobs. A charismatic man who also brought Pixar Animation Studios to mainstream success, Jobs passed away in 2011 leaving his wife in charge of his money and his legacy.
Today, with all her philanthropic and advocacy work, Powell Jobs no longer plays second fiddle to anyone; in the past few years, she has become an advocate for immigration reform and specifically the DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to those children brought to the US illegally. She also continues to work with College Track, an organization she founded in 1998 to help low-income students get into college.
After the DREAM Act failed to pass in 2010, Powell Jobs was frustrated; she then took the unusual step of hiring Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster, to conduct focus groups and determine what it would take for voters to support an overhaul of the immigration system. Results in hand, she began visiting some of Washington’s power players in an attempt to get legislation passed, going so far as to tell then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that President Barack Obama had the authority to act without Congress to stop deportations. The president would do exactly that just months later.
Powell Jobs even funded a documentary by Davis Guggenheim, director of “Waiting for Superman” and “An Inconvenient Truth” called “The Dream is Now”. The film was not only broadcast on MSNBC, but due to Powell Jobs’ contacts was also shown at the US Capitol Visitor Center. She told NBC’s Brian Williams, “I think there’s been a great realization over the last several years that, in fact we do not wish to punish the children because of any actions from their parents.” She continues to push for changes to immigration policy.
Emerson Collective, an LLC that she founded, funds a number of projects including College Track. Growing to over six sites with over 1,200 students, the organization offers tutoring, extra-curricular activities and classes in leadership for minority and low-income students, and also offers a scholarship fund for undocumented students as well.
College Track indirectly caused Powell Jobs’ involvement with immigration policy; as she explained to the Wall Street Journal, graduates would come out of college with skills they couldn’t use in their field due to their immigration status. “Year after year we saw potential wasted,” she said. Powell Jobs is not the only Silicon Valley supporter of College Track either; Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google; Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo; Ron Conway, the angel investor; and Marc Benioff, founder of Salesforce.com, are all involved as well.
As Politico has noted, Powell Jobs continues to make her voice heard on Capitol Hill, through her donations to Hillary Clinton and others. I think Luntz put it best, “The only thing that Senate Democrats and House Republicans have in common is a good relationship with Laurene.” With immigration policy and enforcement at the forefront of Capitol politics again, the woman who used to simply be Steve Jobs’ wife may wind up having more lasting influence than her late husband ever did.