by Emily Landgraf
CNN political analyst Donna Brazile, who grew up in the segregated South, said she never imagined an election like this one: a bi-racial presidential candidate and a female vice presidential candidate who make this election an auspicious moment in history. However, the media often focus too much on race and gender in this historic election, Brazile said.
The former strategist lit up the Bart Leudeke Center (BLC) theater stage on Oct. 14. Brazile, the campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000, was the keynote speaker for this year’s Unity Days, which focused on Responsible Citizenship At Home and Abroad.
“Often, the media pit race against gender, as if some of us are not both,” Brazile said.
According to Brazile, whether the candidates are black or white, male or female should not be the issue in this election.
“This election is bigger than our differences,” Brazile said.
The next president will inherit a divided country, a failing economy, huge budget and trade deficits, strained relations with America’s allies and two wars. Americans need to come together and work together no matter who the next president of the United States is, said Brazile. The candidates need to bring a new tone to this year’s election, which has been permeated with attack ads and arguments about race, gender and religion.
Citing polls, Brazile stated that 90 percent of Americans think that the country is off-track.
“That’s not a Democrat response or a Republican response, that’s an American response,” she said.
Americans are able to agree that the country is in trouble, but they have been distracted and divided by the irrelevant issues often brought up in this campaign. Brazile said Americans should not be focusing on race and gender; they should be focusing on the candidates’ health care plans, tax plans and economic plans, as well as their stances on other key issues.
The unity that Brazile spoke of will not be easy to achieve.
“Unity is hard,” she said, a comment that was met with murmurs of assent from many in the audience.
Brazile said she knows that it is hard to speak to people with whom we do not agree or whom we do not respect. When Brazile was on the Louisiana Recovery Authority, she had to speak with President Bush, a man whom she did not vote for and with whom she did not agree. However, it needed to be done, and Brazile managed to find common ground with Bush, which she said is the most important thing to do in a time of crisis.
Brazile said that this presidential election could be “a Katrina moment for the entire country, but it’s an economic tsunami.”
The next president will have to recruit the best and the brightest from both parties to solve the crisis our country is facing today. Politics, Brazile said, is not about tearing each other down. It is about debating issues and finding the best solutions. That is what the next president of the United States will need to do to succeed.
Brazile’s speech was met with much approval from the audience. Her humorous approach to serious issues seemed to have a positive effect on those listening. Throughout the speech, she used many examples and stories from her childhood in Louisiana, which illustrated her thesis that Americans are not as different from one another as they think they are.
Not everyone was excited about the Unity Days speech. Members of the College Republicans gathered outside of the BLC at 6 p.m. to protest what they called the liberal bias on campus. The College Republicans made it clear that they were not protesting Brazile’s appearance; they were protesting the fact that two liberal Democrats had been chosen to speak on Constitution Day and Unity Days, two of the campus’ biggest events.
“Why isn’t the conservative point of view invited by the administration?” Joshua Hursa, president of the College Republicans, wanted to know.
Brazile spoke with these Republican students, who argued that there were plenty of conservative women who could have spoken for Unity Days, such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas). Afterwards, Hursa was pleased that they had stepped forward with their concerns.
“We felt our protest was a success,” Hursa said. “People we spoke to, whether they were Democratic or Republican, agreed with us that both sides should be invited to speak.”