CNN political commentator Donna Brazile, former presidential campaign manager for Al Gore, gave a glimpse into her long career in politics and her support for Sen. Barack Obama before a packed audience at the Jack Morton Auditorium Monday night.
Brazile, the first African-American woman to run a presidential campaign, said she began her political career at the age of nine, when a local politician promised to build a playground, and she went door-to-door persuading people to vote for him. She succeeded in getting him elected, got her playground and realized her ability to make a change.
“My parents would always tell us that when we grew up, we could be anything or anyone we wanted to be,” Brazile said at the event, which was hosted by the College Democrats.
“I started very early, when I was nine and I didn’t wait until I was 18,” she added. “I didn’t wait for someone to discover me, and I didn’t wait for someone to send me a text message, an e-mail or for someone to tap me on my shoulder.”
The political strategist said she got involved with the Democratic Party because she said its policies support average men and women.
“It was a party that had an elevator for anyone who wanted to make a difference, anyone who wanted to make a change,” she said.
In an emotional moment, Brazile recounted a defining episode in her life after Hurricane Katrina. With tears in her eyes, she said she lost several close family members to the storm and others did not receive aid for weeks as they waited inside their destroyed homes.
“If we don’t get it right this time, it could be your great uncle on the roof,” Brazile said of the upcoming election.
She expressed the need for college students to get involved in the political process. Brazile said as a young campaign manager, she found that college students were generally ignored by campaigns because they were labeled as apathetic.
She praised her audience for being part of a generation that is registering to vote in record-breaking numbers, for going “against the establishment” and for helping Obama win the presidential nomination. But she said there is still much more to do.
“The race is not over, despite what pundits say,” Brazile said.
She added, “You need to get out there and vote and convince other people to vote too.”
Brazile called herself “cautiously optimistic” about Obama’s campaign.
“I know the tricks that can be pulled out of a hat from the other side; I know the doors that can be closed,” Brazile said. She then urged everyone in the audience to vote early if possible and encouraged students to volunteer at voting booths to make sure people do not cast invalid ballots because they do not know how to vote.
“You’re going to tell the story of how you helped transform a nation,” she said.
When an audience member asked what Sen. John McCain could do to improve his campaign, she said he should return to his roots and be an independent willing to take on his own party.
“First, he can start being John McCain again. He’s a very honorable, decent man,” she said. “McCain has run this very negative campaign.”
Many audience members reacted positively to Brazile’s talk.
Freshman Max McDermott said he was inspired to make a greater effort in getting Obama elected.
He said, “After listening to her tonight, I’ll definitely be doing the (College Democrats) trip to North Carolina.”