Past Speakers

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II
5th Congressional District of Missouri

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Emanuel Cleaver II is now serving his fourth term representing Missouri’s 5th Congressional District, the home district of President Harry Truman.Having served for 12 years on the city council of Missouri’s largest municipality, Kansas City, Cleaver was elected as the city’s first African American mayor in 1991. During his eight-year stint as mayor, Cleaver distinguished himself as an economic development activist and an unapologetic redevelopment craftsman. He and the City Council brought a number of major corporations to the city, including TransAmerica, Harley Davidson and Citi Corp. Cleaver also led the effort, after a 40-year delay, to build the South Midtown Roadway. Upon completion of this major thoroughfare, he proposed a new name: the Bruce R. Watkins Roadway. Additionally, his municipal stewardship includes the 18th and Vine Redevelopment, a new American Royal, the establishment of a Family Division of the Municipal Court and the reconstruction and beautification of Brush Creek. Cleaver has received five honorary doctoral degrees augmented by a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M, of the University of Texas, and a master’s from St. Paul Theology of Kansas City. In 2009, Cleaver introduced the most ambitious project of his political career—the creation of a Green Impact Zone. This zone, consisting of 150 blocks of declining urban core, has received approximately $125 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment funds. The Green Impact Zone is aimed at making this high-crime area the environmentally greenest piece of urban geography in the world. This project includes rebuilding Troost Avenue, rehabbing bridges, curbs and sidewalks, home weatherization, putting smart grid technology in hundreds of homes, and creating jobs for Green Zone residents. Cleaver was unanimously elected the 20th chair of the Congressional Black Caucus of the 112th Congress. Cleaver, a native of Texas, is married to Dianne Donaldson. They have made Kansas City home for themselves and their four children.

The Honorable Barbara Lee
9th Congressional District of California

Monday, March 22, 2010

Opportunities for All, Pathways Out of Poverty: My Journey from Public Assistance to Public Service

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee was first elected to represent California’s 9th Congressional District in 1998 in a special election to fill the seat of retiring congressman Ron Dellums. A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Lee serves on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, the State and Foreign Operations and the Financial Services subcommittees. Additionally, she serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee on the subcommittees on Western Hemisphere and Africa and Global Health. Lee was sworn in as the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Jan. 6, 2009. The 42-member CBC is one of the longest standing caucuses in Congress and is often referred to as the “conscience of the Congress” for its willingness to tackle the most serious social and economic issues facing minorities in the United States.

In Congress, Lee has authored, co-authored and supported legislation to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States and around the world, eradicate poverty and put an end to the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. She has been one of Congress’ most vocal opponents to the war in Iraq, gaining worldwide attention for casting the only vote in opposition to granting President George W. Bush authority to use military actions following the attacks of Sept. 11. She has been a leader in promoting policies that foster international peace, security and human rights.

The Honorable Maxine Waters
35th Congressional District of California

Monday, Nov. 26, 2007

Elected in November 2006 to her ninth term in the House of Representatives with an overwhelming 80 percent of the votes in the 35th District of California, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters represents a large part of South Central Los Angeles, the communities of Westchester and Playa Del Ray as well as the diverse cities of Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood and Lawndale.

She served as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and the chair of its Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity. She also serves on the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade and Technology.

She also continues to serve on the Committee on the Judiciary and its subcommittees on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, and on Immigration, Border Security and Claims. Watch Rep. Waters' lecture.

The Honorable Melvin L. Watt
12th Congressional District of North Carolina

Monday, Oct. 17, 2005

American Priorities: Where Are We Today?

U.S. Rep. Melvin L. Watt , former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has represented the Charlotte, N.C.-area in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1992. Watt is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on the Judiciary. He serves as ranking member on the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law of the Judiciary Committee.

The Honorable Charles B. Rangel
15th Congressional District of New York

Monday, Nov. 30, 2004

The Election is Over...Now What?

U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel is now serving his 20th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has compiled a stellar record of accomplishments on behalf of his constituents in Upper Manhattan, the nation and the international community. Rangel has risen to the pinnacle of influence in Congress as a member of the House leadership and dean of the New York State Congressional delegation.

The Honorable John Conyers Jr.
14th Congressional District of Michigan

Monday, April 7, 2003

A Call to Action for Affirmative Action

In his 2003 keynote address, Conyers discussed both the 2003 constitutional challenge to the University of Michigan's admissions policies and the political, social and moral merits of affirmative action.

Reserved and studious, Conyers has steadily built a solid record of legislative achievement on Capitol Hill. Re-elected in November 2008 to his 22nd term, Conyers is the second most senior member of the House and serves as the Democratic leader on the House Judiciary Committee. He is one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus and has been one of the nation's leaders on issues of civil rights for nearly four decades.

Inaugural Speaker: The Honorable John Lewis
5th Congressional District of Georgia

Monday, Nov. 19, 2001

Political Action to Build "The Beloved Community"

John Lewis is a hero of the Civil Rights Movement. He participated in the "Freedom Rides," chaired the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), helped to organize and spoke at the March on Washington, and had his skull broken by Alabama state troopers as he led the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. After the movement fragmented he remained a disciple of nonviolent action, and as director of the Southern Regional Council's Voter Education Project, he helped turn the promise of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into millions of new black voters. As associate director of the ACTION program, he helped volunteers work with citizens to improve their local economies and social services.

As a city councilman in Atlanta he worked to preserve neighborhoods and ethics in government. Since 1986 he has served Georgia's 5th District and the nation in the U.S. Congress, becoming a leader both in the Democratic Caucus as chief deputy whip, and in the details of legislating as a member of the Committee on Ways and Means.

In 1998, Congressman Lewis authored Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement with Michael D'Orso.