Activist recalls personal impact of Katrina aftermath

by Beacon Staff • April 12, 2006

Donna Brazile, former chair of Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign and one of the best-known women in American politics, delivered the keynote address at Tuesday's "Rebuilding the Gulf Coast: Communication and Leadership Solutions," a conference aimed at exploring the educational opportunities in the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Brazile offered her personal take on the Katrina disaster, during which over a dozen members of her family were forced to evacuate their homes.

In addition to Brazile's address, which was attended by about 130 people, two groups of panelists led discussions on issues of policy solutions and leadership in the wake of the hurricane. The conference, held at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel on Tremont Street, was the last in the year-long Katrina and Leadership series sponsored by the Department of Organizational and Political Communication and the School of Communication.

Featured on the first panel were Newsday columnist and Harvard University political scientist Elaine Kamarck, Brown University sociologist John R. Logan and Edward Glaeser, an economics professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. CBS News political consultant Dotty Lynch and Pulitzer Prize-nominated political cartoonist Marshall Ramsey chaired the second panel.

Brazile was the first African American to lead a major political campaign. She chaired Al Gore's presidential run in 2000 and worked on Bill Clinton's 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns before that. Brazile was also named one of Washington Magazine's 100 Most Powerful Women in 2001.

Brazile, who currently serves on the board of directors of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, told of the fear and emotional struggle she experienced immediately after the hurricane. She warned against what she calls "Katrina fatigue"