CITA returns with Donna Brazile

By Alexandra Kukulka

On Sept. 30, 1999, Vice President Al Gore called Donna Brazile into his office to talk about a job promotion as campaign manager for the Democratic Party for the upcoming election. Brazile was shocked and told the vice president that she would think about it.

After approximately a week, Brazile decided to accept the job offer, becoming the first African-American woman to be appointed to such a prestigious position in government.

“I called my dad and told him Gore had announced that I would [serve] as campaign manager,” Brazile told The Chronicle in an exclusive interview. “You know what my dad said? ‘Well, it’s just a job.’”

Brazile will visit Columbia on Oct. 25 as a part of Conversation in the Arts, hosted by the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to talk to students about politics and her book “Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics.”

Not only does she work on campaigns and write books, she is also a professor, syndicated columnist and political commentator on TV.

“Donna Brazile was chosen [for the Conversation in the Arts] because of the timely nature of what is taking place in the country today and because of her unique status as a political contributor on the national media,” said Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement for Columbia.

Brazile’s political career started at age 9 in a campaign working with civil rights activist Rosemary Mina to encourage people in her hometown of New Orleans to vote.

Since then, Brazile has been part of many campaigns and political movements to help minorities, women and the elderly get to the highest positions in offices.

In the 1988 presidential race between George Bush Sr. and Michael Dukakis, Brazile was the deputy field director for the Dukakis campaign. One day, Brazile denounced Bush to the media.

“I was frustrated, fed up and I decided to take matters into my own hands,” she said. “As a result, I resigned from the campaign later that day.”

However,  quitting gave Brazile time to spend with her mother before she died.

“I learned that when you’re involved in a large enterprise like a campaign, and you’re working for a candidate, it’s important that you stay on message and not try to develop your own talking points,” Brazile said, commenting on the aftermath of resigning.

She went on to write “Cooking with Grease” in 2004 in which she talks about her perspectives on her employers and causes.  Another book is in the works.

She plans to help re-elect President Barack Obama in the 2012 campaign,  and will encourage young people to vote. According to Brazile, Obama is going to face a very different election this time around. Brazile cautions the Democratic Party not to take any voter for granted and to run a strong and

vigorous campaign.

“The president inherited a mess and while his policies have gotten us from the bottom of the hole, we are still digging ourselves out,” Brazile said. “But the last thing we need is to go back to the failed policies that got us in this mess in the first place.”

She was invited to the Conversation in the Arts to inspire students to think critically, according to Deborah Holdstein, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“Brazile brings a unique perspective [that] will engender a lot of conversation, and agreement and disagreement, which is

always healthy,” Holdstein said.

The event will be held at Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., 8th floor at 7:00 p.m.