Diversity Begins with "Infrastructure" says Donna Brazile

March 20, 2014

by Mary Gordon

In recalling a story about meeting Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Celebrate Diversity Breakfast keynoter Donna Brazile said, “the Justice asked me about my history when I met him.  And he meant, my recent history.  In having discussions with him, I began to understand the importance of my heritage and the importance of diversity and inclusion."

She went on to say, “we have to open up all the doors and all the windows so that we do not restrict people and the opportunities that they may have.  We all have to have a seat at the table.”

Ms. Brazile, political strategist, commentator and author, began her career 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 her lifelong passion for political progress was ignited.

This year’s breakfast event was cosponsored by NLC’s constituency groups.  Founded and sponsored by the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO), the breakfast was jointly sponsored by all of the groups including Women Municipal Government, Hispanic Elected Local Officials, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Local Officials and Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials. 

NLC President Chris Coleman, Mayor of St. Paul, Minn., presided at the breakfast and, in introducing Ms. Brazile remarked, “aside from her many accomplishments, her enthusiasm shines to encourage young people to vote, to work within the system to strengthen it and to run for public office. "

Since 2000, she has lectured on topics such as inspiring civility in American politics, race relations in the age of Obama and why diversity matters.

In speaking to NLC delegates, Ms. Brazile noted that diversity is critical to the success of a community and it must start with buildilng an "infrastructure" supportive of its development.  She acknowledged that there can be objections and fears about diversity, but sayed it is a zero sum game.  People will find a way to get others more actively engaged. 

She said that as a society, we cannot shrug off the naysayers who frown upon diversity. “We have to keep talking to them.  We cannot write them off.  We must keep talking.” 

She added that local elected officials are the future. “Why you and why now,” she asked.  “Because tomorrow is not soon enough.”

During the breakfast, Mayor Coleman also recognized the constituency group presidents.  They are; Stephen Sham, mayor, Alhambra, California, APAMO immediate past president; Keith McGlashan, councilmember, Shoreline, Washington, GLBTLO president; T. Oscar Trevino, mayor, North Richland Hills, Texas, HELO president; Adam McFadden, councilmember, Rochester, New York, NBC-LEO president and Mildred Crump, council president, Newark, New Jersey, WIMG president..

For more information about NLC’s constituency groups, contact constituencygroups@nlc.org.