Mixing anecdotes from her childhood in New Orleans with observations about her political career, Donna Brazile told an audience at Fordham that her religious faith helped her fight some of the most storied battles in contemporary American politics.
Brazile, the chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Voting Rights Institute and the campaign manager for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential run, was the keynote speaker at Pulpit Politics, an interdisciplinary conference held April 22 at the McNally Amphitheatre on the Lincoln Center campus.
The conference was sponsored by the University’s Center for Ethics Education and the Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy. Panels addressed the use and abuse of religion on the campaign trail and religious views, family values and public discourse, among other topics.
In her speech, “Under God We Trust: Faith and Politics in a Diverse America,” Brazile admitted that it can be difficult for liberals and feminists like her to address faith. But the fight for equality for all Americans demands it, she said, because the Gospels compel people to speak truth to those who are in power.
“I had a great honor last week. I left my class [at Georgetown University]early on a Tuesday to go to CNN because Bill Bennett, a fellow Catholic, was going to give the narrative of the Pope landing at Andrews Air Force Base. As a liberal Catholic, I wanted to have my voice along with Bill Bennett’s voice,” she said to vigorous applause.
After her speech, Brazile answered questions about the Democratic primary battle between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but would not reveal whom, as a “super delegate,” she would choose.
At the urging of moderator Costas Panagopoulos, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science and director of the Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy, Brazile explained how she got involved in civic affairs.
When she was nine years old, she lobbied for a new playground in her neighborhood. It was around this time that she received her first communion, and much to her parents’ chagrin, expressed her desire to be a priest.
“For me, politics and public service have been my home, my way of serving, since the Catholic Church denied me my opportunity. And when I go to my parish on Capitol Hill, especially when Scalia is sitting there, or Clarence Thomas, or some of the senators, I go sit right between them,” she said. “I wiggle myself through and sit down, because I remember that little girl who wanted to serve.
“The calling is not just to serve God, but also to serve each other and to give witness and to always, always proclaim the good news to the poor. Because I was one of those kids that needed to hear that good news in order to have faith.”