Conversations for Change: NCWIT Summit: Why Diversity Matters by Donna Brazile

[audience applauds] [upbeat music]

DONNA BRAZILE: Thank you, thank you. I have to tell you, Bobby, that was a very kind and gracious introduction, and thank you so much. As many of you know, that I get a chance to speak at conferences and summits all over the country, and I been addressing audiences for a few years and there are a few unwritten rules about public speaking, and one of them, of course, is that you never follow a Clinton. [audience laughs and applauds] Well, unless you’re president. [audience laughs] I feel like I’m at a real disadvantage. And normally, it’s age before beauty, because age is supposed to represent wisdom but in this case after hearing Chelsea Clinton, she has both wisdom beyond her years, and beauty, especially the inner beauty of a phenomenal woman. [audience applauds] It’s strange that Chelsea mentioned her age, she’s 34, I’m 54. [audience laughs] Of course when I lived in Arkansas for a brief period of time to help with the ’92 campaign, Chelsea was just a little young girl, and so to watch her grow and to develop into this amazing awesome human being, it is so personally gratifying. I was sittin’ over there in the corner, of course, emailing everybody I could, mom, dad, friends, associates, and say “Golly, Chelsea’s good, Chelsea’s substantive.” You know, I just, I, [audience laughs] I tweeted. [audience laughs] I feel really privileged to have been able to listen to Chelsea, it’s so important to, at times, listen to others just to find out things that perhaps you need to emphasize, and I just wanna say one thing that Chelsea mentioned before leaving the stage that really impacted my heart. And I said to her, “Thank you so much “for not just mentioning people of color, “and the young people who are “in the juvenile justice system.” That is so important. We never talk about that. We spend so much time, and I know, I’m on both ABC, CNN, actually Bobby, I’ve appeared on The Good Wife and House of Cards, too! [audience cheers] Acting is a lot easier, of course, ’cause all I have to worry about is playing myself and resisting the temptation of telling the director that “No, that’s not what Donna would say.” [audience laughs] But as you all know The Good Wife was, you know, sorta based on, you know, real people and real events, and that’s how show business work, but the real people and the real events I can’t discuss because that’s how politics work, and after all these years in politics, I’m probably best suited for The Game of Thrones. [audience laughs] Dabbled everything this side of dragons. But often on television, we talk about what I call the superficial. We really don’t get into the really nitty gritty, the policy, the issues, and what Chelsea also said that I wanna incorporate into my presentation is that it matters who sits at the table. It matters, it truly matters. Because often those who sit around the table, whether it’s an Oval Office or a square table, round table, it doesn’t matter what table it is. They’re the ones who are makin’ the decision, and often they don’t look like you or me. And you know, I tell people that back in 2008, when I was a, you know, a television pundit and former campaign manager, et cetera, and by the way, I worked for the guy who invented the internet, so thank you very much. [audience laughs] People will often say to me, “Donna, you’re a woman.” And I say, “Of course, I’m a woman.” “Donna, you’re black.” “Nah, yes, of course, I’m black, I checked.” [audience laughs] You’re black, you’re female, you’re black, you’re female, I said, “Wait a minute, I’m gettin’ old. “Maybe I can vote for John McCain, “I don’t wanna be pulled.” But often the people around the table don’t reflect our values. They don’t understand our struggle or our story, they don’t understand exactly how, how we got where we are and where we need to go in the future, because they’re not even paying attention, they’re not listening. Chelsea said something else that struck me. She said that this so-called ceiling, it exists because of our imagination. That we might have created the box that we’re in. Or the ceiling that’s keeping us from going the next step up the so-called proverbial ladder. Think about it, she’s absolutely right. Now when I was growing up in the segregated Deep South, as it was, we knew the ceilings, we knew the limitations. We knew which side of the so-called train tracks we had to stay behind. We knew that we couldn’t go into the room, or even think about being in the room. Ladies and gentlemen, that wasn’t a hundred years ago, that was just a few decades ago. And yet we’ve overcome so many of those barriers. You know, the generation that preceded my generation was the generation that really started to change. They’re the ones who saw the opportunities. They didn’t focus just on the barriers, they the ones who said that “We shall overcome.” They’re the ones who marched hand in hand and said, “Yes, equality now, not later.” They were the brave men and women who dared, who believed that America could become a more perfect union, and those words founded in our Declaration mattered. They saw the potential of every child, be they boy or girl. And they believed that America one day could come to embrace all of her diversity. So that we didn’t have to have an alphabet of some, some letter before our name, that we could simply be who we are. And become this great America. I’m living proof, as a child who grew up in poverty, to two working poor parents that if you invest in children, if you invest in education, their education, and give them both a headstart and a healthy start, those kids could go on to become somebody. You know, I’m a professional aunt no kids, a pank. [audience laughs] Sorta wearing pink today too. [audience laughs] But I’m so proud that although I didn’t major in computer science, my nieces and nephews all majored in computer science. [audience cheers] And just two weeks ago, I was home in Louisiana with a four year old nephew on the computer that I sent home, Auntie Donna’s famous for I don’t get you tennis shoes, I’m so sorry, you don’t have the latest, you know, designer dress or purse or shoes, but you will always get a computer from Auntie Donna. Okay? [audience applauds] It’s women and men like you in this room that inspire women and men throughout this country to keep trying, to keep moving forward. And let’s go back to that table. You know why it matters? Because diversity is a core value, is a strength. It’s not some PC concept invented by somebody in California, you know, they always– [audience laughs] anything that’s wild, crazy, or delicious, even the weather patterns. I’m like, how do we get all this rain on the East Coast when you guys haven’t had a drop of it out here? [audience laughs] I thought y’all invented the rain too! But diversity matters. It matters to our country, it matters to our future. And throughout our entire existence as a community, as a country, opportunity has been the narrative that has brought this country forward, giving others opportunity, giving ourselves the opportunity. So diversity is a core value. It is something we should all work toward. And why you? Or why you? Or why you or anyone else? Because there’s no one better. And why now? Why now is simply because tomorrow is not soon enough. We have to start this work now. Now, I been blessed to work on not just political campaigns, although I like politics, I’m not goin’ lie, I’m from Louisiana, you know, we have four delicious seasons, shrimp, crabs, crawfish and oysters, and Lucy, that’s why we go to LSU. We just wanna continue to eat all those great things and have a little bit to drink during the Mardi Gras season. [audience laughs] But the truth is, gettin’ back to diversity, we have to become champions of diversity, and we gotta start now because tomorrow is not soon enough. Tomorrow is already happening somewhere. It’s today that is important, it’s this day and this time that we must seize, to make diversity a part of America’s future. Because it is part of who we are and what we’re gonna become, whether we like it or not. And what the world has already become. And we know that we’re connected. Not just financially, but we’re connected because we are part of a human universe, and we need to begin to appreciate all that we are so that we can become all that we will become. Now, Catalyst has stated in numerous reports, and I read Catalyst, just wanted to best, you know, when I have to retweet things on a daily basis when I run outta things to tweet about, unlike Chelsea I don’t act on my anger. Wooo-eee. I was born, my Mama didn’t give us milk, we had Tabasco. [audience laughs] And with nine kids, Tabasco really comes in handy. But I don’t have that kinda anger that I can contain. I got that passion that I let flows. But Catalyst, I’m constantly retweeting, and let me just say what Catalyst reports, and that is, “Increasing diversity and inclusion in organizations is not about doing the right thing, but rather, it’s invaluable to the success of any organization.” Diversity is also about opportunity, as Chelsea said, it matters who sits at the table, even if you have to bring in a folding chair. [audience applauds] And let me say, let me tell you why. Because I’m old enough to have come into the room uninvited. [chuckles] [audience laughs] Not bedrooms. [audience laughs] Let’s be clear. I’m taking about the board rooms, the working rooms. I’ve come into a lot of rooms uninvited. People looked at me, their eyes got “Wha? “Oh my god.” “Hi.” [audience laughs] “I’m here.” I once told one of my bosses, I said, “You know, “next time you walk in the room “and you sit at the table and everybody look like you, “you jump up and scream and run out.” But I, I would come in and I noticed everybody was afraid, they all really grabbed on to their seats as if I wanted to remove them. Diversity is not about moving anybody from the seat, from the table. Sit right there. Stay there, enjoy yourself. Cross your legs, run your hands through your hair. Do whatever you do, but just scoot over. [audience laughs and applauds] Make room! [audience applauds] Scoot over, you know, like, you know, not the Miley Cyrus way, that’s that was a little bit on the bad side. We ain’t trying to get you to back up, we just saying scoot over. Make room for others. And sometime women and yes, our male friends who are our allies who understand that natural and just can’t wait to scoot over and bring a couple chairs in, but you know sometime we just have to come with our own folding chair, be willing to sit wherever. And ladies, I’mma say this to you ’cause I love you, ’cause you’re my sisters. When you get in the room, make sure the first thing you do is to help make room for other women. [audience applauds] Well we have to do that, we have to mentor. You know the biggest burden I had as a young person in politics, working in public policy, now in the media, academia, I wear a couple of hats, that’s why this hair is gettin’ a little gray. Clairol was trying to help me, but couldn’t get that right color still. One of the greatest burdens I’ve had was to learn how to speak up for others. Here I am, a black woman, and all I’d thought was, “I’m in the room, hell, I’m okay, “I’m gettin’ along, I ain’t sayin’ nothin’. “Keep my mouth shut.” And then, I realized that that was not my role. The value I had in being in that room was to open my mouth and to raise questions. Not in a confrontational way, I was never confrontational, although some people would beg to differ. [audience laughs] I’m sure, you know, maybe I was pushy. You know, don’t talk about bein’ bossy. I probably was bossy times three, four, five times bossy. But I had to speak up, because I didn’t see anybody that looked like me near me. I had to say, “It’s not right.” Because we need more people. I’m from Louisiana, I don’t know what people think in Texas. So maybe you should get some people from Texas. I always just blame everything on Texas, they so big you can blame everything on Texas. [audience laughs and applauds] Unlike California, it’s never sunny there, it’s stormy. [audience laughs] So I would blame it on Texas, and then that was my way of sayin’ “We need some Latinos in the room.” Asian-Pacific Islanders, gays and lesbians. I remember the day when nobody would even touch money from the gay and lesbian community. And I would say, “It’s green, right? “Hell, I’ll take it.” [audience laughs] “I’ll work on that.” Nowadays, when you talk about all of these things, you know, people say, “Oh you tryin’ to be PC.” No, we were just tryin’ to open the room up. There’s an old story from a great, wonderful politician in Great Britain back in the last century, Lady Astor, she said, when she was walking through Parliament, the first woman, they said, “Oh, you here?” She said, “Oh yes.” And the guys looked and said, “All right, “what’re we gonna do now?” She said, “I don’t know, “but when I walked through the door,” and I’m sure she had that kinda class, “when I walked through the door, “I kept it open for more women to come in.” That is why diversity matter. We have to keep those doors open. So that we can harness the energy, the strength of everyone. Bring ’em to the table. Opportunity means everyone will have a fair chance to achieve his or her full potential as human beings. And diversity is important, especially in the STEM field. Because in this arena, diversity is often lacking. Chelsea mentioned it. It’s not just lacking in the STEM fields, although it’s pronounced, ’cause there’s so many opportunities and the growth is going to be very important to our economy and the world’s economy, but we can tackle this if we acknowledge it. Can’t sweep it under the rug, can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Because we can make the difference. Why you, because there’s no one better. And why now, because tomorrow is not soon enough. Diversity matters because it looks like what we’re going to look like in the future. And multiple studies have shown that diversity in all of its form, including gender diversity, help these companies and corporations to better financial performances, and it can lead to increased innovation. We are stronger as a nation when we not only acknowledge diversity but we celebrate it. So part of your celebration, 10 years, NCWIT! 10 years, is to celebrate the fact that diversity matters to you as well. And to your future growth and the growth of IT and computin’. I like that word, computin’. [audience laughs] I also like codin’ too. I’m goin’ back home, I’mma learn how to code. [audience laughs and cheers] Y’all have turned me on. [audience applauds] Trust me, my app will be tied to the food industry. [audience laughs] I’m sorry, I cook with grease. But not everyone accepts the kinda diversity that I’ve seen at this summit. You know, I came in early. Often, when I go to events, I fly in the morning, fly out the afternoon, because of my interests in not just your background, but Lucy sent me so much material. [audience laughs] And I kept saying, Lucy and Kate, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, I’m a college professor. I really need to get through final exams, I have 27 students in one class, and, please. But once I finished all my readin’, I mean, one, I just became alarmed at the numbers. The fact that we’re experiencing a setback in the number of women entering into computer science and other science, math, technology and engineering. Then I looked at this other study that said that once you get in the door, so many leave the room, personal reasons, other reasons, fatigue, whatever, switch gears, make career, life balance, family, I mean, all kinda, I mean it just really made me hungry to know more. So I got here yesterday, and ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you something. Y’all are spectacular. I love the workshops, I love the challenges, I sat in the back of the room yesterday. Thought I was just gonna come on in, chew a little bubble gum and drink a little water, and then I started writin’. Then I went to another workshop and before you know it, at five o’clock, it’s five o’clock somewhere, right? [audience laughs] Well, it was actually 6:30 p.m. Y’all were a little bit on time with your wine, too. [audience laughs] I ain’t gonna lie to you, that food truck, that was diversity in motion. [audience cheers] And let me say, that matters. ‘Cause nobody walk around sayin’ that, “You know what, I didn’t have my food.” It was a little bit of everything. He should have been called the Taste of America. [audience laughs] ‘Cause I tasted it all. [audience laughs] A grilled cheese, sandwiches were not on your menu when you got here, you had some. If you were told not to have no sweet potato pie, no pecan pie until Christmas time, or Hanukkah, you had some too. I saw all those pies disappear. And the man couldn’t get that chicken out fast enough ’cause y’all were over there sippin’ and tastin’ everything. I watch ya, I ate with ya, and I listened to ya. Got up this morning, heard ya again. You’re brilliant. You’re the future. And if you’re not leading this conversation about diversity, I don’t know how we’re ever gonna achieve it. You have to do it. Because it makes sense for you to lead the way. I’mma write about you, even when I stop tweetin’ about you. And I wanna say this, because everyone, as you all know, we live in a diverse country. Not everyone accepts the kinda diversity we see at this summit, some people are afraid of it. We have to recognize that if we’re goin’ to become a nation transformed by utilizin’ the skills of all of our citizens, the talents, the ability, if we’re goin’ to move forward toward that so-called more perfect union as a nation, as the founders envisioned. Although I love when I teach my first year class, when I have all my young people, you know that’s when they really listenin’ to ya, first day? [audience laughs] That’s when you really go looking good, ’cause they know it’s a half a day of class, not a full day, so they’re really listenin’. And that’s when I say, let me just tell you what Abigail said. Of course, I don’t look like Abigail Adams, but I knew exactly how she put her foot down and put her hand on her hip and said, “Don’t forget the ladies.” [audience laughs and cheers] I love tellin’ those stories. I love tellin’ the story of how Harry Burns was sittin’ in the Tennessee legislature, just mindin’ his own business, he was wearin’ the wrong color rose because he was about to vote no on equality, no on the right of women to vote, until someone handed him a telegram from his mother, and his mother basically said, “Put the rat into ratification and you vote “to give women the vote.” He did, he listened to his mother. [audience laughs and applauds] Throughout all history, all it’s taken is one person, but you know what? It also takes one person to say “No, “we’re not goin’ this way, we’re not goin’ to move forward, “we’re not goin’ to open the door, “we don’t want gays at the table, “we don’t want more women at the table, “we don’t want blacks, we don’t want Hispanics, “we don’t want,” all right, yeah, you’ve heard enough from Donald Sterling. [audience laughs and cheers] We’re goin’ to have to find ways to explain, to persuade, to help find the accommodation. The stories that really let people know it’s your story. That’s what Maya Angelou said, she said “There’s a book in each and every one of you. “And the moment you tell it is when you inspire “somebody else to live their best life.” So you have to tell that story, your story. Because if you tell that story, you will help open more doors. You will help to create the space, and yes, you will help make the difference. You’re change leaders. I’m wearin’ your bracelet, I been wearin’ it. I wore it to the gym too. [audience applauds] Well, after drinkin’ all that, drinkin’ y’all subsidies all last night, I think y’all are sponsors. And that food, I had to go and see if I could be a change leader and change the fact that I ate too much last night. But as change leaders, you have to find a place to, you gotta find time to work together to find all of the best practices and other companies or other organizations, what do they do differently? How do you transform your own workplace? Workin’ together becomes easier and more effective if you, if you help to lead the way. Like I said, you don’t have to do that shoulder thing or even talk so loud or whatever, just find your place at the table. And we need to do it now. Before NCWIT was formed, the programs that focused on women and computin’, whether educational or in the business world, existed mostly in isolation. But you’ve changed that, and just like you changed that, you can change the way diversity is seen and diversity is implemented by leadin’ the way, and leadin’ the change. So as I close, I wanna take a coupla questions too. I really do. We’re here to celebrate, and I hope this summit was a celebration. I hope as you go back to your home or the workplace or academia, wherever you may go, find ways to share what you have learned with others. Find ways to put it in a blog, a newsletter, a pamphlet, or even post it on Facebook. I hope you got some good pictures. Pictures tell a lot too. But find ways to keep this conversation going. Find ways to foster diversity and foster conversations in your local community. Find ways where people live, where they eat, where they play, or they pray, to have a dialogue so that we can take the fear of diversity from the public sphere and talk about the transformational powers of utilizin’ all of the skills and talents that we have in abundance if we choose, if we choose to simply allow people to be who they are and to listen to them and to value their participation. We can start this today, and we don’t have to wait until tomorrow. We can permit the diversity, the infinite diversity, open to infinite combinations, to dissolve and to discard and disarray if we do nothin’, if we just watch what others are doin’, and not try to help focus the conversation. We can be proactive and we can create the new words, the new phrases, the new sentences, the new songs. I believe every part of our lives should have a song and a dance too. Because when you stop singin’ and dancin’, you stop groovin’, and when you stop groovin’ you have no rhythm, and if you have no rhythm, you’d just as well as be dead. [audience laughs] But from the combinations and the connections of what we’re doin’, we can be the difference. We can be the change. And we can create the better future for all of our people. So let me just say it one more time, you all are awesome. I don’t know how often I get to say that. But you truly are, your work, your incredible stories, the roads that many of you have traveled, the sacrifices you’ve made, yes, I know it’s a job, maybe for some it’s a job, but for many of you it’s a passion. I sat next to a school teacher last night who brought her students and she was excited to bring her kids here to see you in action. She made me excited just listenin’ to her talk about her students, and I kept eatin’ all of her gyro. [audience laughs] I was so excited, you know, when you get happy you just start eatin’. [audience laughs] She even tried to explain where her school was outside of L.A., I was like, “Really, that far? “You came that far? “Oh really?” [audience laughs] I thought I gave up lamb and chicken and all that during Lent, and stop me, I was eatin’ it last night like it was the first time I ever had it. But you’re role models, you’re mentors and you’re sponsors. And so you leave here going forward, taking that message, building that narrative, celebrating the fact that you’ve come far, and we’re goin’ to continue to make progress. So let me just remind you, to celebrate diversity, to embrace it, to allow it to empower us. And remember whenever someone challenges you about it, say “Diversity increases dialogue, “it expands opportunity, it fosters innovation, “and it improves the social contract.” We are, we are going to make a difference in this world. And 25 years from now, or as I saw with the little glasses that you want me to wear next time I’m on television, I’m lookin’ into the future. Y’all know I’m bringin’ back all those little gadgets y’all gave me, includin’ the little foldin’ red chair, I can’t wait to go to the White House and say, “Woo-eee, I don’t see enough women.” And put my little chair out. [audience laughs and cheers] Well, y’all know, y’all know I don’t have a problem. But we need to empower our vision of the future and go forward from celebration to celebration, workin’ all the harder in between until we no longer have to talk about it. So thank you, and why you? Because there’s no one better. And thank you, because why now? Because tomorrow’s not soon enough. Thank you for being the change, thank you for creating opportunities, thank you for investing in young girls and women, and yes, I’m sure men too. Can’t help, and that’s good. Thank you for being the change that we’ve always been waiting for. And now take that torch and set ablaze for a future that will be stronger because we embrace diversity today. Thank you and God bless you all. [audience applauds] Thank you, thank you. Thank you, thank you. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Now Lucy, I got on my Tiger shoes, I notice you didn’t put your Tiger shoes on, huh? [audience laughs] I’m still baby, I still got that stuff in me. [audience laughs] Here we go, Tigers, here we go. Any comments, questions, recipes? Oh, thank you, hi.

GINGER WANGE: Hello, my name is, is this on? Yes, my name is Ginger Wange, and I’m with PBS Scigirls, and we are the only show on television showing real girls doing real science.


GINGER WANGE: And we wanna tell the computer science story and we need help, but my question to you is, if someone asks why does diversity matter? Why do we need a special show? What do you say to those people?

DONNA BRAZILE: Because diversity increases dialogue. It increases opportunity, it helps expand opportunities for every person. We need it because we don’t acknowledge it, we don’t appreciate it, we don’t celebrate it and we don’t embrace it. And the reason why it matters is because when a kid looks at him or herself and see themselves in the future, they start plannin’ immediately for their lives, for a future, and when they don’t see themselves, they, it’s like any seed, it doesn’t grow, it doesn’t understand how to become who they really are. So it’s about the future, and I know, like I said, I know people get tired of it, I mean, look, I get emails all the time. I get tweets too. Some of ’em I don’t like, I block ’em. [audience laughs] I don’t let no negativity in me. I’m like this is a space, you know, we all got our, you know, you say when you’re born with a little space, it’s called a bubble. And I don’t know about my bubble, but I keep expandin’ it, lotta y’all in my bubble right now. It’s all good. But you know what, people come into your space and say “Well, you know what, we don’t like it, “We don’t,” it’s negativity and when they say you don’t need a show, they don’t know, they don’t understand. Because first of all, it’s gonna increase the number of women and minorities, that’s a good thing, that’s jobs. That’s opportunities, that’s people able to tell their stories. I wanna hear all the stories. I don’t wanna just hear the stories of this person or that group, I wanna hear everybody’s story. It makes us stronger to know the stories, to know who came before, how they got there. What challenges, you know, just two weeks ago I went to President Lincoln’s cottage in Washington, D.C. It’s not far from my house. Who knew that Lincoln had a cottage in the ‘hood? [audience laughs] In the neighborhood. I mean this was not the White House, this was up, up, up, up near Howard University. President Lincoln had a cottage. And I went, and you know just recalling his story, this is a man who started with nothin’, growin’ up in Indiana and Kentucky and Illinois, in rural conditions and it just made me realize how grateful I am to Lincoln and his courage. He grew up, didn’t, never saw anybody look like me, yet came to find the compassion and the love of country to fight, to stand and believe in the freedom of all human beings, a dignity. And readin’ his story, it made me feel stronger. And it makes me realize that we have to all pay it forward. Not get back, we cannot pay the dues of what our parents put into us, or our teachers, or anyone else. We can pay it forward. It’s hard to pay it back. And that’s why you should go in there and make another case for it, you know, and start a little campaign outside the room. Nobody need to know the inside-outside strategy and get a little pressure goin’ and a little sponsorship happenin’ and the love will follow. Open your bubble, okay? All right. Over there? Oh hi.

PAULA STERN: Paula Stern, I’m one of your biggest fans.

DONNA BRAZILE: Honey, I’m one of yours too, thank you.

PAULA STERN: It’s my question was really very much related to the prior question, because I’m conscience now we’ve got this new TV show called Silicon Valley, and so I’m wonderin’ if you would maybe tell us a little more how we get that pressure in Hollywood, to try to insert your message about diversity and inclusiveness in those kinds of images that are so impactful, like this new TV show or some maybe new great film we oughta be putting out. Is there, what more can we do besides making the moral case and the good diversity case about why it’s good for America. How do you convince Hollywood about those kinds of things?

DONNA BRAZILE: Well, you know, I, Paula, in all honesty, I wish it was just Hollywood where we had the problem. Although what magnifies on the screen is much larger, as you all know, than life itself at times. But the truth of the matter is, that visibility is viability, and if all we’re seein’ is the same cast of characters and the same quote unquote cookie cutter kind of folks, we don’t see the diversity and the real strength of our country and, you know, I was thinkin’ when I started, you know, ’cause I know I’m ’bout to tell y’all my personal life here. I’m a big, I love HBO. I can watch HBO all day long and turn on CNN for two hours, go back to HBO and then go back to CNN. I leave my evenings every night, I’m on HBO or Showtime. I love those shows, but when I saw this new Silicon Valley, I’m like, “Okay, really?” It’s such a narrow typecast. And I’m sure, and I was waitin’ for somebody from Silicon Valley, that community itself, the leaders there, to say “Wait a minute, “this is not what we look like. “There’s more diversity.” And as I started readin’ the reviews of the show, and I noticed just a few voices were poppin’ up about whatever. And I’m like, “There’s no outcry.” And part of the problem, Paula, is that there’s no outcry. There’s no outcry in the movies that are made, you know, as you saw from Misrepresentation, the documentary, there’s no outcry. We’ve come to accept the stereotypes, we’ve come to accept the exclusion, thinkin’ that okay, things will change. But it’s not, but we have to, we have to raise our voices. And we have to, as one of the civil rights leaders is doin’ today, and I’m gonna mention his name, Reverend Jesse Jackson is goin’ to all of the so-called corporate board meetings, Silicon Valley, sayin’ “Where is the diversity? “Where are the women on the board? “Where are the CEOs, the CFOs, the COOs? “Where is the board diversity? “Why do we have just 3% of corporate women “on 3% of the corporate boards?” I mean, so we have to raise objection. It shouldn’t just be Reverend Jesse Jackson coming from the civil rights. It should come from every sector of society. From corporations to individuals to organizations and associations, but we the viewers, we also have to put in our three cents. Just like we don’t like demeanin’ portrayals of women, I don’t like demeanin’ portrayal of women of color, I mean I hate to typecast. I don’t watch anything that is desperate. [audience laughs] Just the title Desperate, I don’t do no desperate. I’m not desperate to watch that trash. We have to speak up, and speak out. Because visibility is viability, and our young girls are seein’, and young boys too, and they’re takin’ all kinda cues early on in life from these shows. And the one cue that I can tell you I’ve taken from that show is that I don’t matter, I’m not there. And I’m not at the table, I’m not in the room, I’m not even close by, I don’t even live in the neighborhood. They even go to hamburger joints, and there are no people of color. No women, now y’all know that ain’t right. [audience laughs] How can they go to a beer joint or a hamburger joint and still you don’t see no people. You don’t have no extras? Call me, I got my sad card. [audience laughs] I’ll cameo. By the way, Al Gore, like I said, you know, when you tweet, when you feel good on Facebook, yeah, my ex-boss created all of that good drama. But if he didn’t create it, he sure enough was there to back it when it was being created, so I give him a A plus for bein’ in the room. [audience applauds] Thank you, Paula, for your leadership. Yes, hi, hello again.


DONNA BRAZILE: Third time the charm.

SEANICE DESHIELDS: My name is Seanice DeShields, I work for the University of Connecticut, UConn Huskies!

DONNA BRAZILE: Yeah, let me state, y’all, well, y’all just stop winnin’ all the championships, please?

SEANICE DESHIELDS: That’s what we do.

DONNA BRAZILE: What do y’all feed those young people? I’m goin’ come and get some. [audience laughs] Maybe I can go back to playin’ ball too. I got a dribble in me.

SEANICE DESHIELDS: There you go, well, I don’t have a question, I just have a comment, I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your talk and I will be carryin’ my foldin’ chair to every dean’s meeting, faculty staff meeting, and will be there speakin’ up for myself as well as for others, thank you.

DONNA BRAZILE: I appreciate your leadership, my young friend. [audience applauds] Thank you so much, thank you.

DEBORAH KING: Yes, hi there, so I am Deborah King.


DEBORAH KING: And I’m a very proud member of NCWIT’s board, and I think that you are awesome and everybody here is just amazing, and I’m just so thrilled with everything that I’m seeing, so thank you.

DONNA BRAZILE: And thank you for your leadership.

DEBORAH KING: But I wanna say, that something that you said to use Chelsea’s words, pissed me off a little bit.

DONNA BRAZILE: What’s that?

DEBORAH KING: And so that was the word bossy. So when women are aggressive and proactive and strong, they’re called bossy. And having been called a pushy broad myself, I wanted to know what advice you would give to everybody in the room, when you’re trying to open the door for other women, for yourself and then for other women, and there are all of these unconscious biases in the room, what is the best way to combat that, and not think of ourselves as being bossy and pushy, but think of ourselves as leaders.

DONNA BRAZILE: I love bein’ a leaner, and you know, all my life I’ve been ambitious. And I was never afraid to say, “I’m ambitious.” I’ve always, you know, worked hard, I’ve always wanted to succeed, whether it was playin’ basketball or writin’ poetry, whatever I endeavored to put my mind to doin’, I wanted to achieve success. So when I heard that bossy was the word we had to take out of our vocabulary, I said, “Okay, okay, I’ll take that out now.” Now, my mother, when I was a little girl used to say to us, “Donna, it’s not what they call you, “it’s what you answer to.” I have been called everything in the book. Everything, everything, and I don’t answer to all of those things. I’m like, “Really, that’s what you think of me? “God bless you too.” Assertive, aggressive, bossy, brassy, that other B word that rhyme with the W word, all those are great things, okay? But you know what? Tough, tender, compassionate, you know, I’m a leaner. I been a leaner, I been leanin’ in, before Cheryl, who I, you know, I’ve known for many years also, all of the Clinton alumni, you know, Bill Clinton when he really write the story of Bill Clinton and so many others he put so many women in terrific leadership positions and I praise him for that work, but there’s no question that we’re at a moment in our history and our growth and our potential where I do believe that we have to be a little bit more assertive and making sure that we are getting, you know, opportunities to move up the proverbial ladders, opportunities to, you know, climb farther, reach higher, but also we have to be a little bit more aggressive. Now, I don’t know if, I’m not, I’ve never been the person in the room with the right language. The right song, but not the right language. But the song has to go with the melody, and the melody has to also exist in our souls so that we know when we’re speakin’ up for ourselves, whether it’s our pay or you know, why, you know, the things that we wanna do in the workplace or in your organization, whatever, like you said, when you go and talk to the board and say, “Hey, there are not enough people “of color in this room and not enough women.” Whatever word that fits the mood, the melody, use it. I mean, and let them call you that. I mean, you know what? In honesty, you’re a leader. Your job is to demand that changes be made. And whether you can massage somebody ego or to make sure that you don’t rub the wrong elbows, you have to speak up and you have to lean in. And if you don’t, no one else will. So, I don’t have the right word. I just know one thing, I will not accept the status quo. Because if you accept the status quo, that often means that we will never get our seat at the table, and all we’re gonna do is retread old water and make people who feel uncomfortable in the first place feel like, “Okay, well I stopped the movement.” No, you ain’t stopped the movement. The movement is gonna happen. You just gotta direct the change that’s gonna take place, and you wanna be at the table so you can direct that change, ’cause it’s happening. But I don’t know the right words, and like I said, my mother was so proud of her nine kids. My parents put eight out of nine of us through college. And they did that because they believed in the value of education. And they wanted us to succeed, as children and as adults, but my mother always, she preached it to the girls as well as the boys, and God knows, my daddy preached a whole bunch of stuff. [audience laughs] Some things I cannot even tell ya, because I’ll tell you, on the, during the time my father was in his last days, and the president, you know, I’m friends, I’m not droppin’ names, but he called and said, “You know, I’m so sorry about your dad.” I said, “You know, my daddy was a wounded veteran. “He received four Bronze Stars in Korea, “he’s a tough man, he’s facin’ this.” So my dad gets on the phone with the President of the United States and my dad, “I’m so glad you killed that and bleep bleep bleep “bleep bleep.” [audience laughs] And I’m like, [audience laughs] President called me round, he said, “Wow.” I said, [audience laughs] My parents used to tell us, “You’re afraid of what?” “There’s a snake outside.” “You afraid of a snake?” “It’s a water moccasin, it’s poisonous.” “You afraid of a poisonous snake?” [audience laughs] “Yes.” “Well don’t be afraid of a snake. “Go and get it, move it out the way.” “I’ll kill it.” “Oh.” [audience laughs] And I had sister, number seven, Demetria, I’m number three, and she would just go out there with a brick, boo. [audience laughs] And me, I was the kinda charmer, “Now, let me tell you, Miss Eddie Bee next door “has chickens, don’t you want a chicken?” [audience laughs] “Please move out my way, because my daddy has a gun “and he’s goin’ kill you, “or worse, he’s goin’ make me kill you. “I don’t wanna do that.” But my parents just kept pushing us. We couldn’t go back at home and say, “Well, we can’t do that. “Well, I was bossy, I was.” My mother said, “Donna, you have to do it.” And I did it, I couldn’t disappoint her, I didn’t want to disappoint her. My father was a little bit more adamant. We had to find the words, the language, that’s why I said we need to come up with the words that feel good to us. And the messages that can help us get our point across. But we cannot sit by and wait. We been waitin’ too long. And we’re not makin’ progress. I don’t wanna wait till 2054 to make the same amount of money as a man, I don’t know about y’all, but in 2054 I might find me a nice little air conditioned something else and be somewhere else, you know? We need to start now. With all of the things we want to do. And all the things, all the talent that this country is missin’ out, ’cause we’re not usin’ half the people in our society. That’s why we have to create the language. And some people will not like what we’re doin’ or sayin’, no matter how much we try to massage the egos, I’ve massaged enough egos that I should have chalk all over my mouth. Massage the ego, massage, come on, please? We’ve waited. The time is now. Last question coming, I don’t know how many more? Yes.

MIMI LUFKIN: Hi, I’m Mimi Lufkin.


MIMI LUFKIN: CEO of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, pleasure. We do a lot of public policy and advocacy work in Washington, D.C. and as a member of the K12 alliance at NCWIT, we’ve been charged today, with a group of us, to talk about how we create a national voice for this issue. You are an amazing political strategist and have done amazing things in your career. If you could give us one word of advice about what maybe would be the first step we should take to get this issue onto the policy stage in a very public way, I’d love to hear what it would be.

DONNA BRAZILE: Well, as you know, and K through 12, whoo, with Common Core and all of the various fingers that in, from the federal to the state level, you know, I don’t know how we ever get one set of rules and one set of terms that we can sorta use across the board. I always tell people it’s best to start low, go slow, rise high, strike far, and then relax. [audience laughs] We have to start where we are, and start right in those school districts and those communities. I try to go into neighborhoods and community schools similar to where I was born and raised, because I come from those places. I have to go back and like, especially in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, I mean, at that age, when I was growin’ up, I mean, all hell was breakin’ loose. And I’m not just talkin’ about hormones or as Chelsea said, PE. All hell was breakin’ loose. I didn’t know if I had a future. I knew I wanted a future, but I didn’t know exactly what I could be or what I could do in my life. Nobody was talkin’ about college, nobody was talkin’ about anything in terms of career, nobody was even giving me a notion of what I could do with my own life. Luckily, I had school teachers. Miss LeBlanc, Miss Pierce, Miss Collins, Mr. Eugene, Mr. Marshea, Mr. Lockwood, Mr. Lee. I had school teachers and principals and coaches that encouraged me to keep at it, to keep developing my skills whether they were in sports or academics, and we gotta sorta go back into these school districts. The policy may not be right before the prescription is already being applied. We may have to just go into these school districts, get everybody in this room to say, “I’m gonna commit one day, one day through the semester, “just to go back to the school I went to on career day.” They all have career days, by the way. And I’m gonna be the featured speaker. I’m gonna pay it forward. And, I mean, that’s how I think it starts. Yes, you know, the politicians, I mean, you know, Congress is as popular as a root canal right now. [audience laughs] And the President would see the bottom of his own poll numbers if Congress wasn’t, you know, standin’ in the way. They’re not popular. So we cannot use politicians anymore to try to get anything done. I mean, yeah, they’re part of the solution, but right now they’re more part of the problem. So that’s why, again, these academic organizations, these institutions, these corporations, all the great investment partners that NCWIT. I mean, you all have amazing partnerships and the work and the studies and the research, all that need to be utilized. But don’t wait for the politicians to get their act together, they’re in a, first of all, they’re all in an election phase. They all worried about the outcome of the next election versus what’s happening today in our own classrooms across the country, so we have work to do. And that’s why I like to pay it forward. And that’s, and we should all do it. We all are role models. We all been successful in one way or another, and we should share that success, and share our stories, with ‘specially young people. They are lookin’ for us. They need us, and just to tell you how important it is, not far from where I live, in Washington, D.C., and when I say pay it forward, I’m not saying you gotta do something in a dramatic way, gotta wait till you get a big check or a big grant from some big institution. So there’s this young woman, she’s, her mother is a single woman, she has three children. And she just received a scholarship offer for Cornell University, and I’m so proud of her. ‘Cause she’s done everything right. Despite all of the issues, all of the challenges she’s facin’, so I said “Cassandra,” you know, and I knew her, because when I walk my little doggy, you know, I’m tryin’ to meet all the little kids, I look kids in the eyes. I don’t look past ’em, I don’t do this. I “How you doin’?” Like don’t y’all still speak to people, I know I’m old, how you doin’? [audience laughs] “Oh Miss Donna, I’m okay.” “What’s goin’ on in school.” I make ’em talk to me, oh yeah, they gotta talk to me. I know they can’t wait to get home and say, “Mama, really?” Yeah, I even made one last week come outside. I say, “Come let me show you how I’m plantin’ my tomatoes. “Come here.” But Cassandra, you know, I said, “Cassandra, “you’re goin’ to college, I’m so happy.” And I said, the first thing I said, ’cause I’m always hustling computers. I even have friends who know how to put computers back together after you throw them away. And I said, “You need a computer?” “Oh, I have a computer, but I don’t have a printer.” I say, “I’ll get you a printer as your graduation gift.” We gotta, we gotta, I mean, 49 bucks, that’s for the HP, I looked at the paper. [audience laughs] I mean sometime my mouth get before my wallet, but my purse is always goin’, you know, my mom said “To whom much is given, much is required.” But you know what, one day I’m gonna look at this young lady, and say, you know, just like I look at my nieces and nephews and say, “You know what, I tried to make a difference “in her life, I want to be part of her life. “I want to be part of her success.” I want to be part of success of every child in this country, ’cause every child matters. Whether we give birth to ’em or not. And I’ve given birth to hundreds, don’t even ask me who the fathers are. [audience laughs] But they’re my kids. And that’s what we do, we give birth to their dreams. And as Eleanor Roosevelt said, you know, “The truth belong to those who believe “in the beauty of their dreams.” And I believe that all these kids wake up with dreams. Beautiful dreams about their future, but then there’s no one there to help them realize that dream, and I wanna be just that one person if I can help a child, you know, that’s my legacy. I’m good with everything else, all the other stuff, people will say that was the gravy, ’cause her potatoes were delicious. [audience laughs] And we’ve gotta give back, but let’s not wait for somebody else to lead the way, and since you’re in charge, you and I can connect in DC over coffee, we will not do that little truck thing. We will connect over coffee, and maybe we can share some stories and I can help you help my friend Lucy over there, so the LSU spirit can continue. Well, thank you all, God bless you. [audience applauds] God bless you, thank you. [audience applauds] You know, this is the homegirl tryin’ to do her action, look, see? [audience laughs] We can show y’all, at LSU Death Valley Stadium, we used to do some dances, some wicked dances, huh? [audience laughs] But I’m not gonna show off our moves.

LUCY SANDERS: No, no. You have to sit right in this chair, we want your picture.

WOMAN: We have something here? I don’t know if I have this type of red chair. This is good.

LUCY SANDERS: This is the way we’re gonna end our summit, how delightful, right? [audience applauds] And one final comment, we’re gonna ship you a big red chair so that when you go to the White House you can haul that big white chair right in, I mean, red chair in there and go–

DONNA BRAZILE: I need my cellphone.

LUCY SANDERS: That’s, oh no no. You can have mine too.

DONNA BRAZILE: Well, trust me, I have more than one. [audience laughs]

LUCY SANDERS: Well thank you all, what a delightful way to end the summit. [audience applauds] And it just doesn’t seem right to have the housekeeping side so we’ll see you next year, 2015. Woohoo, thank you all. [audience applauds] [crowd talking]

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