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February 02, 2023

Midyear 2023: Top political strategist Donna Brazile serves up inspiration, wisdom

When it comes to booking a speaker for the American Bar Association Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division’s Present and Powerful Women’s Speaker Series,” Houston lawyer Melanie Bragg looks for a “certain type.”

­“I look for someone who’s confident and successful in her field. Someone who’s brave and not afraid to tell it like it really is,” said Bragg, co-chair of the Women’s Initiative Network, which organizes the annual reception featuring a prominent female leader. “Hopefully it’s someone who’s not a lawyer, so they can offer our audience a fresh perspective on living your best life, professionally and personally.”

This year’s headliner, veteran political strategist and television analyst Donna Brazile, checks all those boxes.

A full-capacity crowd of about 300 people are expected to attend the event, which includes a wine-and-cheese reception that takes place on Feb. 3 during the 2023 ABA Midyear Meeting from 4-5:30 p.m. at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel.

Bragg said the initial idea to invite Brazile came during a conversation with Maryland lawyer and WIN co-chair Yonelle Moore Lee, who had “met” Brazile in several group phone calls, but never in person.

“We were thrilled when she said yes,” said Moore Lee, who was elected to a seat on the Charles County (Maryland) Board of Education in November and was named a division vice chair earlier this month.

Brazile grew up in New Orleans as one of nine children in her family, so speaking at the ABA Midyear Meeting will be “like coming home,” Moore Lee said.  “Donna is very warm, funny and smart, and believes strongly in fostering the next generation of women leaders. She doesn’t believe in pulling the ladder up behind her.”

Bragg cited the first “Present and Powerful” speaker in 2017 ─ Joann Lublin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Wall Street Journal editor – as an example of the kind of role model she seeks to secure. 

“[Lublin] had just written one of the first honest books about what it took to get ahead.” The book, “Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World,” features interviews with women about their trials and tribulations on the road to success. “It was refreshing to read about their experiences,” Bragg said.

“We need to share all the good, the bad and the ugly about what it often takes for women to succeed. Ever since that first year, we’ve been able to get wonderful women speakers who have inspired us.”

In addition to her work as a campaign strategist and TV commentator, the very-busy Brazile is an adjunct professor in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Georgetown University; an ABC News contributor; a member of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board; a writer for The Grio; a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors; a guest columnist for The Hill newspaper; and the author of several books, including The New York Times’ bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.”

Moreover, Brazile served two stints as acting chair of the Democratic National Committee and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, and she managed Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000. And impressively, she has lectured at more than 237 colleges and universities on diversity equity and inclusion, women in leadership and restoring civility in American politics.

In addition to the ABA GPSolo Women’s Initiative Network, the Present and Powerful Speaker Series is sponsored by the ABA Law Practice Division’s Women Rainmakers Committee, the ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and the ABA Dispute Resolution Section.