The occasion was the nineteenth annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Program, sponsored by the African American Cultural Center and other IUP departments and organizations.
That very morning, Brazile told students, faculty members, and townspeople, she had witnessed in the White House East Room the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law was named for an Alabama tire factory supervisor who, toward the end of a nineteen-year career, discovered she had been paid less than men in similar jobs. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her, Congress eventually approved legislation that expanded workers’ rights to sue in similar cases and relaxed the statute of limitations.
“We will never be able to give her her money back,” Brazile said of Ledbetter, “but we will make sure that her granddaughters and her nieces will never work for less money because of their gender.”
Brazile said she had first met the bill’s signer, Barack Obama, in 2002, when he had come to her office “to see about putting together a coalition.” Since that time, she said, Obama had “turned apathy and indifference into activism.”
In speaking of King, Brazile said, “The dream was to create a beloved community, to build a promised land, where we could all be one. He would have been eighty years old this month.”Malcolm X, she said, “had a lot of deep meaning for a little child in the South.”
“When you look at the last forty years of history,” she said, “think of all the healing that must be done. How do we use this moment to remake America?”
“We should be honest and open,” she said. “We should be willing to put some hard truths on the table.”
“This is not about what Obama can do for us. This is not about how Obama is going to do this and that. The President is calling on us to serve.Will you answer the call?”
She warned that “This is going to require us to get out of our old thinking and our old behavioral patterns. Some of us are willing to answer the call only if it is a personal call. Sometimes, people send me résumés and say, ‘Have somebody call me.’ The call you need to answer is the call from within.”
Brazile ran the Gore-Lieberman campaign in 2000. “You have changed history with the election of 2008,” she told the audience. “You have dared to make a difference. Now, you must answer the call. “Step up. Take over. This is your moment. This is your time. You plant the seeds of hope,” she said, “and you stir it with everything you have.”