Following a rousing introduction by Spelman College’s retiring president Beverly Daniel Tatum, the commencement’s 2015 keynote speaker and highly-touted political strategist who has been described by The New York Times as having “political opinions as fiery as Tabasco,” Donna Brazile graciously rose to the podium to take her place in front of the 480 class of 2015 Spelman graduates and an auditorium filled with family, friends and supporters.
“Like Spelman women, Donna Brazile understands the importance of being actively engaged in her community and being a global citizen,” adds Tatum.
Brazile, an academic and author, was among three august women chosen to receive honorary degrees at the 128th Commencement held at the Georgia International Convention Center. She starts, “I feel encouraged today. Seeing your faces, feeling your energy gives me hope. I am looking for a few good women to run for office.”
Brazile has worked with a candidate every presidential campaign from 1976 through 2000. While onstage, she affirmed we will witness our first female POTUS in 2016. The first African American to manage a presidential campaign, she is the founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates LLC, a general consulting, grassroots advocacy, and training firm based in Washington, DC and the vice chair of voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee.
Making a big push for female leadership, she continues, “Sisters find your path, your niche, your passion. Become a leader. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be intimidated. Fear has a way of making you weary. As Alice Walker, one of Spelman’s distinguished alumna said, ‘Nobody is as powerful as we make them out to be.’ …I fully expect to see women as leaders not just in politics, sports, why not? Academia. Finances. The Sciences.”
Brazile had an epiphany following “intense conversations” with the mayor of Baltimore; the head of the Maryland Army National Guard and the Baltimore city State’s Attorney – Black female leaders. She shares, “Heaven must be in need of some leaders. You have nothing but Black women in charge. Black women are finally being seen as leaders. We are finally finding our place at the table. We are finally being listened to. They will listen even when they disagree with Michelle Obama. They will listen to the first lady of the United States of America.
“We now have the opportunity. We have to seize this moment; take advantage of the opportunity and to get into the arenas. I say arenas, plural, because the opportunities for leadership are not limited to politics. In every field and endeavor, more and more Black women are taking charge, becoming leaders. It is a natural move. A transition so obvious, so necessary.”
Sharing the platform with a host of professors and members of Spelman’s board of trustees as well as fellow honorary degree recipients Spelman alumna Yvonne Jackson and Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives Lisa Jackson, whom Brazile calls her “homegirl,” she closes, “You have degrees in a diversity of field and each one of them we need leaders in every field you will go into. Whatever your major, sister, the opportunity is there.”