Opening Remarks of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz
As Prepared for Delivery
105th NAACP Annual Convention – “Civil Rights, Race, and National Policy” Panel
July 21, 2014
Las Vegas, Nevada
Thank you Hilary for that wonderful introduction and for your steadfast advocacy on behalf of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.
The NAACP is fortunate to have you as their voice of truth to policy makers and the Administration.
To Chairwoman Brock, your exemplary stewardship has ensured that the NAACP doesn’t just survive, but thrives as the leading civil rights and social justice organization in the 21st century; and to President Brooks – congratulations! I know you will lead this organization through the next era of civic engagement and activism that our country still so desperately needs.
I look forward to working with you as you take up the mantel to lead the next chapter in the NAACP’s history.
And I can’t think of a better person for you to have received the gavel from than my good friend Lorraine Miller.
Lorraine is not just a friend and fellow DNC Member, she wears many hats. She’s been a trusted adviser to me and many others throughout the years.
She brought her same work ethic, dignity and grace to the role of Interim President of the NAACP as she did to the role of Clerk of the U. S. House of Representatives, and she is one of the most selfless public servants I know.
Thank you Lorraine for your leadership and service.
And finally, while I’m delighted to be here in Las Vegas with all of you and NAACP Las Vegas Branch President Frank Hawkins, and Tri State Conference President of Idaho, Nevada and Utah Jeanetta Williams, you are both wonderful hosts – there’s no place like home, so I would like to recognize the President of my home state conference – Florida and Miami-Dade Branch NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze, National Vice Chair Leon Russell and all the leadership and members from the great state of Florida.
As a card carrying member of the NAACP West Hollywood chapter, I was proud to join all of you last summer in Orlando as we Stood Our Ground and reaffirmed our collective commitment to justice and equality.
So, I’m pleased that this year’s conference theme is All in For Justice and Equality.
That’s a helpful frame to look at the contrasts between the Democratic and Republican parties, particularly with the upcoming November election.
I think the question every NAACP Member, every voter and every American must pose to its leaders is “Are you ALL IN?”
The Republican Party has chosen to promote and work for the privileged few while Democrats work to expand opportunity, justice and equality for ALL.
This couldn’t be more telling than on the economic front where Democrats have time and again offered policies to help everyone reach that next rung of the economic ladder, while Republicans have dug in their heels and just – said– NO.
As you all know, this year, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
During Freedom Summer, hundreds of young volunteers descended on Mississippi with the goal of registering African-Americans to vote.
Participants faced opposition and violence, including the murder of three activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi. But they persisted because they knew that none of our civil rights is more fundamental to American democracy than the right to vote – they were ALL IN!
Half a century later, we are still fighting to ensure that all Americans are able to exercise their right to vote.
A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key component of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Since then, the haste at which states have moved to enact voting restrictions is confirmation that the protections put in place by Section 4 are still necessary. It will require Congressional action to restore these protections. So ask yourself, is your Senator and Member of Congress ‘all in’?
If not, and they’re up for reelection, it’s time for them to be ALL OUT!
Recently, Republicans have made a concerted effort to suppress the vote. This decision is based on a narrow, short-term political calculation that Republicans can win elections by shrinking the size of the electorate.
In the meantime, Democrats are committed to ensuring that every eligible voter can register to vote, every registered voter can vote, and every vote cast is counted.
So, let’s be clear NAACP, as a Member of Congress, as Chair of the Democratic National Committee, as a parent raising the next generation, as a voter and as an American, I AM ALL IN for JUSTICE and EQUALITY!
To his credit, I know that Michael Steele has criticized Republicans’ voter suppression efforts like voter ID laws, but we need more Republicans who say something and stand up against their party.
Voter ID has been put forward as a solution to the virtually non-existent problem of voter impersonation. It disproportionately hurts women, young people, seniors and the African American community.
Even Rand Paul acknowledged to the New York Times that their voter ID push was offending people, but then went on Fox News and admitted that he was still in favor of voter ID laws. That’s certainly not a sign that he’s ALL IN!
Eliminating same day registration or cutting early voting days and hours and eliminating early voting on the Sunday before Election Day when African American churches have had historical success with their “Souls to the Polls” programs. These are all voter suppression tactics to keep some of us from voting.
Just like the leaders of the Freedom Summer, who fifty years ago knew how important it was to register as many new voters as possible. At the DNC, we’re using our technology and data advantage of today to help campaigns and allies deploy their limited resources more efficiently to maximize voter registration efforts.
One new component is a data set that will help identify where we need to commit our resources in order to change electoral outcomes.
In other words, to turn red seats blue through registration and turnout of eligible voters who aren’t registered but should be.
For example, in one of my two home counties, Miami-Dade County, 90,000 eligible African Americans aren’t registered to vote. That’s why President Nweze is conducting a Freedom Summer down in South Florida to get them registered. And the DNC is ready to help!
We will estimate how many potential new Democrats need to register, how many net votes would be produced by registering new voters, and how difficult it will be to find potential voters in an area.
In practice, this data will help us know where to direct canvassing and voter registration drives to target the highest density of unregistered voters, and how many of our resources to commit in order to influence an electoral result.
The DNC is committed to the policies and issues that are important to the African American community.
Not only are we all in for justice and equality at the DNC, diversity and inclusion are fundamental values for our party and they shape everything from our platform to our tactics.
In 2012, I worked closely with the Democratic Convention Committee, CBC, CHC, CAPAC and other stakeholders to improve our diverse hiring practices.
- As a result, for the very first time, we set a goal and exceeded it, that one-third of all convention expenditures went to firms owned by people of color.
- Half of all convention expenditures were awarded to firms owned by people from diverse backgrounds, including people of color, women, veterans and the LGBT community.
There are 66 total executive committee members of the DNC, comprised of our national officers, representatives from allied groups/other Dem committees, caucus chairs, sub-committee chairs, and regional representatives.
- 54% of the Executive Committee are women.
- 43% of the Executive Committee are people of color.
- 24% of the Executive Committee are African American.
- 15% of the Executive Committee are Latino.
We also have the most diverse senior staff of any committee between the two Parties. The heads of the Chair’s office, Communications, Political, Voter Expansion, Party Affairs, Community Engagement and Secretary’s Office departments are all African American or Latino.
We know that it is not enough to just hire a few extra people of color and call that commitment. It is our policies that speak the loudest about our commitment. From the highest reaches of our decision making, the President of the United States, our Executive Committee members, our most senior staff, and with whom the DNC does business. Our commitment to diversity speaks volumes.
We believe the most effective way to ensure that we can advance this agenda is to make our voices heard at the ballot box in November and expand those voices into a chorus that will make a difference in who is representing us in Washington and our state capitals.