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A child of civil rights era, Brazile exults in 'mountaintop moment'

Three months after the historic election of Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American president, Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile is still basking in the glow of change.

Brazile, who has worked in every Democratic presidential campaign since 1976, was the keynote speaker Thursday for the 33rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration held in the Center for the Arts on the University at Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst.

"This is a mountaintop moment, a day and an era to rejoice, a day in which we have finally moved forward as a country," Brazile gushed. "I never thought this moment would arrive in my lifetime."

The change to which she alluded was being viewed in the context of it simultaneously being Black History Month, Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial and the NAACP's 100th anniversary.

"Even when February comes to an end, we'll still have a lot to talk about, because we're living history," said Brazile.

Included in that living history, she said, are 19 African-American and Hispanic members of the House heading committees, as well as those represented in Obama's Cabinet. And the change extends even further, Brazile said.

"Yes, the Republicans, finally, they have a black national chairman, Michael Steele. And for the second time in our nation's history, an African-American football coach won the Super Bowl," she said, referring to Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin.

Brazile, 49, a native of Kenner, La., was born during the civil rights era and has experienced her own milestones. After having served as a key adviser in both Bill Clinton's 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns, Brazile was first appointed deputy campaign manager of Al Gore's 2000 presidential bid and then promoted to campaign manager, making her the first African-American to head a major presidential campaign.

Brazile got her start in politics at age 9, lending her support to a City Council candidate who promised to build a playground in her neighborhood.

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Brazile gained national attention in 1981 as national student coordinator for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Committee.

"Dr. King was more than just a groundbreaker for justice. He was a champion for the poor, the dispossessed, the lost, the left behind," Brazile said.

"And with this historic moment -- the inauguration and now the presidency of Barack Obama -- Dr. King's vision is closer to reality than ever before. That's why it remains so important for us to begin the work that will take us to the necessary steps to get to the promised land."
e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com1

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