Monday, March 09, 2009

Donna Brazil has the recipe

Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am be living in the cultural epicenter of the state of Kansas. Lawrence may be in the middle of the country, but it's a pretty spectacular place to live.

Last night, the Hall Center for the Humanities hosted The Emily Taylor and Marilyn Stokstad Women's Leadership Lecture featuring Donna Brazile. (See link for all Ms. Brazile's amazing accomplishments). Let's just say, I found a new hero. Besides not letting Anderson Cooper be her boo and washing all the nasty things she wants to say out of her mouth with chardonnay at the end of the day, Donna Brazile knows her stuff and has been a part of some amazing things in modern American politics. DB told AC he wasn't her boo because he was pushing for some information. This incident took place the night of the Democratic National Convention and AC wanted to know what candidate Barack Obama said to her the night before the day of voting. She would not reveal to AC what was said between her and Senator Obama. But last night she DID reveal that conversation. Candidate Obama was asking DB (among other superdelegates) to change their choice and cast their vote for Senator Obama as their nominee. DB told Senator Obama she would not and he accepted that. And then went on to say how much he had learned from Senator Clinton and how great he thought she was. (As a campaign volunteer for Secretary Clinton when she was Senator and Candidate Clinton, this warms me to our current president even more.)

Ms. Brazile, a native of New Orleans, LA, was asked and responded to the performance of current LA governor, Bobby Jindal, and his response to President Obama's address to Congress two weeks ago. First, although Gov. Jindal is a republican, Ms. Brazile acknowledged his impressive political resume, made more so by his young years - only 37. She went on to say the first thing Gov. Jindal should have done was to thank the American people for their resources (ie TAXES) being used to rebuild New Orleans after the horrible destruction and catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. He should have thanked the American people and gone on to tell them WHY New Orleans was important to our country. A major export point for goods in the midwest and importer of 30% of the petroleum used in this country; New Orleans is a vital port for this country. Ms. Brazile then scolded (in an appropriate, responsible way, of course) Gov. Jindal for politicizing such a horrible event. The tone in her voice was not to be argued with as she recounted her efforts in requesting assistance for her mentally disabled sister who lived in an assistant living facility. FEMA told her that assisted living facilities and mental institutions were not priorities in the evacuation. I was dumbfounded. For this to be their policy is very, very wrong; but to communicate this to a loved one is just disgusting. Ms. Brazile made her way to a network camera and told the country what was going on. Within an hour (5 days after the storm), her sister and 3 others were rescued from the facility by the Lousiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries. Only FOUR people survived the week from that specific hospital.

Ms. Brazile's lecture focus was "Women in Politics: Are We There Yet?" but it was the stories she injected into the lecture that made this a truly memorable evening. She spoke of her "political children" and how she made her way to the platform for this year's inauguration with her sister Lisa and Lisa's three disposable cameras. (The lecture included lots of laughs). Though Ms. Brazile strayed from her speech several memorable times, her message was still clear. We have not made it to political gender equality in this country. She mentioned being 57th out of 58 countries in terms of women participating in governing (I'm still trying to find this specific statistic) and this truly saddens me. As my own interesting in being involved in politics has increased over the years, specifically since 2000, my grandpa has remarked several times that he expected me to run for office. I always just smiled and said "no, grandpa, I'd rather be behind the scenes", since I was definitely the shy one in school and didn't much improve my public speaking skills in college. But if there were one inspiration to start a career in public service, it would be Donna Brazile. I cannot even fully communicate what she said but it was something along the lines of "if you as a woman don't step up to serve, how can you expect others to do it?" It was a very different approach to being a leader and getting involved to make things happen; to realize the fully potential of this country.

She ended her lecture speaking about an assignment she had give to her students in 1994. Her students had to create a plan to elect a black candidate to the presidency. Looking back at what she had assigned, Ms. Brazile spoke with some former students and talked to them about creating a plan to elect a woman to the presidency. Lucky for us, she believes they've found the recipe.


Additional quotes from the local article about Ms. Brazile's appearance:

On the Sebelius HHS nomination:

“Kansas is coming to Washington, D.C. Thank you for sending your governor. I’m telling you she has one major responsibility with over 14,000 Americans losing their health insurance each and every day. I know Governor Sebelius is up to the challenge.”

Rush Limbaugh challenging President Obama to a debate:

“Sorry, Mr. Limbaugh, but he’s busy right now. He inherited a huge mess.”

About women seeking the presidency:

“I know that it’s our turn and that we must prepare ourselves to take our position at the table even if we have to bring in folding chairs.”

Her conversation with Obama when two superdelegates would have given him the nomination:

“He said, ‘I admire (Hillary Clinton) so much. I’ve learned so much from her.’ He was so complimentary of Senator Clinton that I grew to like him even more that night.

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