Matt Brown grew up in Providence, the younger of two boys. His father was a doctor and his mother was an educator and social justice activist for children’s health issues and civil rights. As a toddler, Matt was on her hip, then at her side, going door-to-door in the neighborhoods, potluck dinner meetings in church basements, marches, and protests. As a kid, he played baseball in the Fox Point East Side Little League.
Matt went to Columbia University, and the summer after he graduated, he was back home in Rhode Island strengthening our communities: co-founding and leading City Year Rhode Island. City Year enlists thousands of young people ages 18-24 to tutor and mentor elementary and middle school children to meet critical needs in our local communities. After five years with City Year, Matt went to Yale Law School and moved back to Rhode Island after graduating.
At the age of 32, Matt successfully challenged the incumbent Democratic Secretary of State in a Democratic primary, won, and went on to win the general election with a commanding 68% of the vote. As Rhode Island Secretary of State from 2003-2007, Matt increased government transparency and dramatically improved Rhode Island’s elections by building the state’s first computerized voter registration system and launching Motor Voter e-Registration, a first-in-the-nation electronic voter registration system.
In 2007, Matt co-founded Global Zero, a non-profit charitable international organization dedicated to preventing nuclear war and seeking the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. Global Zero convenes leaders, develops policy and builds grassroots support. Global Zero advocated effectively for the 2010 New START Treaty between the United States and Russia and the multilateral treaty that prohibited Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and received two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. It was backed by President Barack Obama, who wrote, “Global Zero will always have a partner in me and my administration” and leaders from around the world, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said, “Global Zero is grassroots activism at its finest.”
Matt and his wife, Marisa, live in Providence with their two children, Ella, 12, and Walker, 10, about a mile down Hope Street from the house where he grew up. He’s served as a volunteer coach for Walker’s Fox Point East Side Little League team for the past three years. Matt’s favorite Rhode Island traditions are Del’s (lemon flavor, if you are curious!) and Johnny Cakes—and yes, Walker was named after Walker’s roadside vegetable stand in Little Compton.