Brazen Brazile: AU’s Boldest Wonk of the Year
Shayna Vayser | 4/12/16 12:27pm
| Updated 4/12/16 12:28pm
American Word Magazine
Donna Brazile wants you to be unapologetically brilliant.
She was the first African American woman to run a presidential campaign in 2000. She is the current Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She is also American University’s first person of color to be honored as Wonk of the Year.
“I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that my boo [Anderson Cooper] and I share something,” said Brazile.
Brazile radiated a confident energy behind the podium and over the phone. Listening to her speak was like listening to fine political standup comedy—she constantly joked with a deadpan expression about everything from Donald Trump’s hair to her affection for journalist and former Wonk of the Year, Anderson Cooper.
On being honored as the first person of color to be Wonk of the Year, Brazile quipped that she’s glad “Jada and Will Smith won’t have to boycott this event.”
Brazile’s career spans 40 years, with her political involvement starting at the age of 9 helping on her neighborhood’s voter registration campaign.
“I grew up during a volatile time in American politics, a time when we had to change. As a young kid growing up in a segregated neighborhood, I became very motivated by the movement for freedom and justice and equality,”said Brazile.
Brazile recalled traveling door-to-door, encouraging people to vote for legislation that would build a park in her neighborhood.
“When I was a young woman, I didn’t see barriers. Only opportunities,” said Brazile.
The majority of her current work focuses on encouraging voter participation—immensely reminiscent of how her career began. In addition to protecting the voting rights of American citizens, Brazile wants students to engage in the direct democratic processes, despite perceived obstacles.
Growing up in a Southern segregated town never stopped Brazile.
“The funny thing about a kid like me is that I didn’t look for opportunities to fail. I’m not wounded by my experiences of dealing with racism or sexism, or any of the other ‘isms’. My struggle was about making sure that I could open doors for others to come through. That’s my philosophy,” said Brazile.
In a political atmosphere where we often fixate more on the past or promises of candidates as opposed to policy, a lot can be learned from Brazile—a woman who wants her work to speak for itself, regardless of where she came from.
“There are barriers for women of color, but I believe that the most important thing is for young people to focus on what they want to do and begin to do the work to position themselves,” said Brazile.
Brazile encouraged young professionals to stop fixating on what stands in their ways and start developing plans to efficiently and effectively reach their goals. In order to do that, you need to own who you are and not compromise any aspect of your identity.
“If you are bossy, wear it. Be the boss of your future, be the boss of your country,” proclaimed Brazile.
On a campus where the majority of students are female and politically active, Brazile’s advice comes as a relief. Tess Harkin, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs, said, “Hearing a successful woman stand up and affirm that bossiness isn’t an insult but rather a claim to fame is very inspiring. I can take control of anything in my life in order to succeed.”
For young professionals like Harkin, it is essential that these words serve as a guide. Too often, people don’t pursue an opportunity due to the fear of how they will be perceived. Brazile serves as a testament to authenticity and work ethic—her determination is boundless and continues to grow exponentially.
“My work is not finished yet. Less than 14 percent of people have participated in the primaries thus far, and I’m going to continue to expand opportunities for women and minorities. This is not my job. This is what I believe in, this is part of who I am. Go and find ways to serve your community each and every day,” said Brazile.
The most insightful take away from AU’s Wonk of the Year Donna Brazile?
“I write my own tweets. I’m 140 characters ahead of you. Not a day goes by that I’m not going to give you some Twitter love, so use #BrazileKPU, I’ve got you.”