Political strategist Donna Brazile is 55, but her message is directed at younger generations.
She wants members of the millennial generation to get engaged in politics and their communities, and she wants them to start now.
“You are a force to be respected,” Brazile told the crowd in Millennium Student Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. “The good news is that the millennials have arrived and many of you want to serve.”
Brazile spoke to a crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members March 16 as part of the Student Life Speaker Series. She has a lengthy list of accomplishments, including work as a political strategist, author, political commentator for ABC and CNN, and is the vice chair for voter registration for the Democratic National Committee. She also managed Al Gore’s 2000 campaign for president, becoming the first African American woman to manage a major presidential run. In addition to running her own consulting firm, she has also found time to play roles on political dramas “The Good Wife” and “House of Cards.”
Brazile’s first political action came at the age of 9, when she successfully campaigned to support a candidate for city council who wanted to build a playground in her New Orleans neighborhood. The campaign was successful, and a career was born.
She wants today’s young people continue to be engaged, in ways that go beyond voting, including community service and activism.
“I hope that your generation decides to be noisy,” Brazile said. “Let your voices be heard, but do so as the marchers from Selma (Ala.) did. Not with violence and threats but with dignity and decorum. Let your language be presentable and if you are to be persuasive, be presentable. Make sure they know that you’re ready to lead and that you are ready to move the country forward.”
In addition, to involving millennials, Brazile pinpoints increasing overall participation in voting and electing more women into office as strategies to move the country forward.
When Brazile arrived in Washington, D.C., there was not yet a woman on the U.S. Supreme Court and there were only two women serving in the U.S. Senate. Today, the Supreme Court has three female members, and there are 20 female senators, but those numbers still need to rise, she said. Women make up more than half of the overall population and those who earn college degrees, Brazile said. Yet the U.S. ranks 79th worldwide in terms of women holding elected offices, she said.
“Women have a unique perspective and unique voice,” Brazile said. “The country needs our voices and activism. Can you imagine how much different the legislative agenda would be if women made up half the lawmakers?”
Voting is also necessary to improve representation and create positive change, Brazile said. Most polls show dismal voting statistics, though. Low voter-turnouts mean that a few people are deciding things for the majority.
“Because most of us are not voting, a minority of voters, backed by powerful interests are the ones who are setting the agenda in this country,” she said.