Patrick Gaspard, Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), visited 1199’s Manhattan headquarters June 16 for an afternoon of discussion and dialogue with members from the Union’s PurpleGold initiative. PurpleGold works to engage, educate and empower younger 1199ers through workshops, social events, technology and mentoring relationships with older, experienced activists.
Gaspard was for nine years 1199’s Executive Vice President for Politics and Legislation until he was asked to serve in 2008 as White House Political Director under President Obama. Last year he took the post heading up the DNC.
During his visit with PurpleGold members, Gaspard spoke at length about Obama Administration policies, the struggles in a viciously partisan Congress to pass legislation that works, and the vital role that maintaining youth enthusiasm will play in helping re-elect President Obama.
“There has been an uptick in this in battleground states,” he said, which he attributed to Mitt Romney’s and the Republican threat to defund Planned Parenthood, the cuts to Pell Grants, and the likelihood for a protracted engagement in Afghanistan in the event of Romney victory in November.
He spoke at length about spin and the dearth of real voices of working people in today’s media.
“You have to read everything. There are things I read 20 years ago that still inform my judgment today,” said Gaspard. “And not just the mainstream media. You guys have an advantage we didn’t have; you have the Internet. If you aren’t getting you information from multiple sources, it’s easy to be fooled.”
After his remarks, Gaspard participated in a lively question and answer session with members who asked about everything from health initiatives to voter suppression to playing hardball with the conservative right wing. He highlighted several of the Obama administration’s many successes, including the preservation of federal student aid programs by taking them out of the hands of banks and ending the military’s anti-gay policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
“Despite the summer of the Tea Party and the fact that people were burning Barack Obama in effigy and the fact that people were throwing bricks through district office windows, we got those things done,” he said.
Regina Holmes found Gaspard’s visit inspiring. “It was very informative. I was aware of some of the things President Obama has done, but not all of them,” she said. “Patrick made me feel closer to our president. This made me want to go out and share the message.”