“This is the moment that Dr. King was talking about,” said Ms. Brazile, the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the “fierce urgency of now,” in fighting injustice, using the phrase in his 1967 anti-war speech at Riverside Church in Manhattan -- a call to a revolution of values. Ms. Brazile referenced a laundry list of current concerns: the travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries; healthcare and criminal justice reform; President Trump’s call to build a wall to keep out Mexicans.
“If you’re not at the table you’ll be on the menu,” Ms. Brazile said of not speaking out. And turning to the theme of her speech, she warned of the dangers of procrastination and complacency.
“There is no better way to observe Black History Month than coming on this campus,” said Ms. Brazile, the 2016 commencement speaker at MEC. “Medgar Evers is still with us today,” she said of the college’s namesake when asked about his legacy. Evers championed voting rights, a driving force behind the civil rights movement, she said, and discrimination still exists at the ballot box.
There are some new battles, too. Echoing many other Democratic leaders, Ms. Brazile called for an independent commission to investigate the links between the Russian government and Mr. Trump and his associates.
Ms. Brazile conceded that her own party lost the 2016 presidential election not because of the Russians but because they “got cocky” and allowed Trump to “crack the blue wall.” Instead of simply insisting that Hillary Clinton was the better candidate, she said, Democrats needed to pay more attention to voter concerns about how Democrats would institute real change.
“The progress that we made can be easily overturned,” warned Ms. Brazile, even though she predicted that a woman would one day be president. She also envisioned a Muslim, a Jew, and an openly gay person as the occupant of the Oval Office.
When asked about her own journey to activism, Ms. Brazile suggested that students stay engaged on social media and show up at organizations and take the reins, as she did in her student days. “Begin your activism now,” she advised.
While the current protests are important to raise consciousness, she said, there must also be concerted voter registration campaigns. “Your political power is your leverage,” she said. “When you don’t vote you give up that power.”
Asha Edwards-Newton, President of the Student Government Association, and Roderick Hurley, the association’s Day Vice-President, presented Ms. Brazile a grab bag of MEC memorabilia as a token of appreciation. She also received a Congressional Proclamation for her “outstanding work,” presented by a representative for Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and by former Assemblyman and legendary community activist Al Vann.