Opening Session Speakers
April 9, 2016 - 4:45pm
Veteran Democratic political strategist Donna 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 interim National Chair of the Democratic National Committee as well as the former chair of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute.
Aside from working for the full recovery of her beloved New Orleans, Ms. Brazile’s passion is encouraging young people to vote, to work within the system to strengthen it, and to run for public office. Since 2000, Ms. Brazile has lectured at over 125 colleges and universities across the country on such topics as Inspiring Civility in American Politics, Race Relations in the Age of Obama, Why Diversity Matters, Women in American Politics: Are We There Yet?
She first got involved at the age of nine when she worked to elect a City Council candidate who had promised to build a playground in her neighborhood; the candidate won, the swing set was installed, and a lifelong passion for political progress was ignited. Ms. Brazile worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 through 2000, when she became the first African-American to manage a presidential campaign.
Author of the best-selling memoir Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics, Ms. Brazile is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, a syndicated newspaper columnist for Universal Uclick, a columnist for Ms. Magazine, and O, the Oprah Magazine, an on-air contributor to CNN, and ABC, where she regularly appears on ABC’s This Week. Her passion is acting; she has made two cameo appearances on CBS’s The Good Wife. Most recently, Donna has appeared on Netflix’s new series House of Cards. Ask her and she’ll tell you that acting, after all, is the key to success in politics.
In August 2009, O, The Oprah Magazine chose Ms. Brazile as one of its 20 “remarkable visionaries” for the magazine’s first-ever O Power List. In addition, she was named among the 100 Most Powerful Women by Washingtonian magazine, Top 50 Women in America by Essence magazine, and received the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s highest award for political achievement.
She is currently on the board of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the National Institute for Civil Discourse, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the BlackAmericaWeb.com Relief Fund, Inc.
Last, but never least, she is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. In the aftermath of the two catastrophic hurricanes that made landfall in the Gulf region, Brazile was appointed by former Governor Kathleen Blanco to serve on the Louisiana Recovery Board to work for the rebuilding of the state and to advocate for the Gulf recovery on the national stage.
Ms. Brazile is the proud recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from Louisiana State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Grambling College, Northeastern Illinois University and Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically Black, Catholic institution of higher education in the United States.
Ms. Brazile is founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates LLC, a general consulting, grassroots advocacy, and training firm based in Washington, DC.
Cal Thomas is one of America's most widely-read syndicated op-ed columnists, and one of the most highly respected voices on the American political scene. A FOX Newscontributor for more than 15 years, Thomas also hosts a daily radio program syndicated to more than 300 stations nationwide and co-writes a twice-weekly forum page with Bob Beckel titled "Common Ground" for USA Today.
Thomas offers his view of the American landscape and addresses the historical conditions and decisions that have shaped it. As a political speaker, he addresses the failed attempts -- political, commercial and social -- to solve the major problems of recent generations and offers his own views on the right remedies we should be using.
His recently released book What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America, offers what Thomas describes as solutions, not theories and political progress, not political posturing.
Thomas focuses on what promotes the general welfare, regardless of which party or ideology gets the credit, and provides an answer to the question of why we constantly fight the same battles over and over.
In What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America, Thomas urges readers to pay attention so that politicians can no longer pick their pockets---literally or intellectually -- and challenges political leaders to forget about the next election and start focusing on the needs of the people.