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Donna Brazile Urges Howard Students to Answer the Call to Serve

Photos by Justin D. Knight/University Communications
Veteran Political Strategist Donna Brazile delivered the third annual Charles W. Harris Public Policy lecture on
January 28, 2010 in the Blackburn Center Auditorium at Howard University.

By Kerry-Ann Hamilton
University News
Thursday, January 28, 2010

WASHINGTON – The auditorium in the Blackburn Center was at full capacity at 11 a.m., a full 30 minutes before the third annual Department of Political Science Charles W. Harris Lecture featuring veteran political strategist Donna Brazile was scheduled to begin. The overflow room across the hall was also filled with students, faculty and staff who came to hear Brazile’s passionate and inspirational message.

The hour-long lecture, titled the “Fierce Urgency of Now,” paid homage to Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy and ideals and implored students to heed the call to public service.

Brazile said although she grew up in a working class family in her hometown of New Orleans and at times went to bed hungry, she remains committed to giving back to her community, to her country and to her family who gave her a lot with the little they had.

At age nine, she worked on her first campaign and helped a local politician get elected.

In her early 20s, she and her contemporaries answered the call to agitate for equality. Brazile referred to Howard University as a “fertile ground” for young organizers. She also lauded the University’s role in the struggle for civil rights and the tireless efforts to secure Martin Luther King Day as a Federal holiday.

There were times that the young and unabated champion for change had no money. “Even without a job, I still had a cause and a mission,” said the author of the best-selling memoir Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics.

She urged the students of today to answer President Obama’s call to serve in this “difficult time in our nation.”

“As the President said in last night’s State of the Union address, this is not the time ‘to run for the hills,’” Brazile said. “…You will not get a letter of invitation to serve. Don’t try to find a title. It is not about you, but it is about us, our nation and our world.”

She added that while Dr. King would have been happy with the strides African Americans have made since the Civil Rights Movement, he would not have been satisfied.

“He would remind us of the fierce urgency of now,” said Brazile of the slain Civil Rights leader. “Long before the ink on the stimulus bill was dry, he would demand that the funds get to the communities in greatest need.”

In closing, Brazile urged students to keep the momentum that led to the historic presidential election victory for Barack Obama and keep King’s dream of equality for all alive.

Brazile is an adjunct professor, author, syndicated columnist, television political commentator, Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation at the Democratic National Committee and former chair of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She is founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates LLC, a general consulting, grassroots advocacy, and training firm based in Washington, DC.

This year's lecture was organized by Dr. Daryl Harris, chair of the Political Science Department. Professor emeritus Charles W. Harris funds the annual lecture series.

"I was inspired by the English department's Burch lecture," Harris said "They had such distinguished speakers and I wanted to start a lecture series for students of political science."

Past speakers include UC Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. and former Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law deputy director John Brittain. The topics discussed include affirmative action in higher education and voting rights litigation before the US Supreme Court.

About Charles W. Harris, Ph.D.

Professor Charles W. Harris served Howard University for 32 years as a scholar, teacher, administrator and mentor, retiring 2002. Starting as a full professor of political science, he taught several courses in American theory, human resources and urban politics. He also chaired the political science on different occasions and as Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1982 – 1992). His career also includes service in industry and government. Professor Harris was a Ford Foundation and Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

The generous gift to Department of Political Science for annual public policy lecture series possible is one of four to educational and/or religious institutions.

Dr. Harris received his B.A. from Morehouse College, M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison; all in the field of political science. He did post doctoral work/and or special study at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University (SAIS), University of Michigan and the Georgetown School of Law. During his initial term as chairman of Political Science at Howard, the Department received a $2 million grant from the Ford Foundation to improve the graduate program. It resulted in the creation of a second masters degree program, the Masters of Arts in Public Administration.

Editorial Note
A video of Donna Brazile’s lecture will be available by February 4.

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