Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

A Conversation about Partisanship Today with Tom Perez '82 and Lincoln Chafee '75

Thursday, March 15, 2018

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

This event is for students only and is limited to 60 participants. Registration is now closed.

Join DNC Chair Tom Perez '82 and former Senator and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee '75 for a lunch time discussion on the future of bipartisanship. 


The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Tom Perez grew up in Buffalo where he learned the values of a union town: hard work, integrity, service, and perseverance.

After putting himself through college with Pell Grants and working on the back of a garbage truck, Tom passed up offers from white-shoe law firms, instead choosing to start his career as a civil rights attorney for the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting racially motivated hate crimes.

For the past 8 years, Tom had the privilege of serving in President Obama’s administration. First as head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, where he led the charge against police misconduct, voter suppression, anti-LGBT discrimination, and immigrant-bashing sheriffs’ departments. Then as Secretary of Labor, fighting to protect and expand opportunities for America’s working people – from better wages and overtime pay, to retirement security and collective bargaining rights.

But Tom’s strongest roots are in local organizing. In 2002, he became the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County Council. And as board president of CASA de Maryland, Tom helped grow the organization from a small service provider in the basement of a church to one of the largest immigrant advocacy groups in the mid-Atlantic.


Lincoln Chafee has the distinction of serving as a mayor, governor, and United States Senator.

First elected to public office in 1985 as a Delegate to the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention, he served on the Warwick City Council from 1986 to 1990. In 1992, he became the first Republican mayor of Warwick in 32 years, and the popular municipal leader was re-elected in 1994, 1996 and 1998.

Chafee was appointed to fill the unexpired term of his late father, U.S. Senator John H. Chafee. In 2000 he was elected to a full six-year term. While in the Senate, Chafee was a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works and he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East Subcommittee.

Chafee was a member of the Gang of Fourteen – a bipartisan group of Senators who successfully negotiated a compromise in the spring of 2005 to avoid the deployment of the so-called “nuclear option” over an organized use of the filibuster by Senate majority leaders. Chafee was the only Republican in the Senate to vote against authorizing the use of military force in Iraq.

From 2007 to 2009, Chafee was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. During this time, he served on the boards of NARAL Pro-Choice America, American University of Beirut, The Foundation for Effective Government (Ukraine), Slater Mill National Historic Landmark, and the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests.

Chafee was co-chair of Independents and Republicans for Obama in 2008 and he was a National Co-Chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012.

In 2010, Chafee became the first Independent elected Governor of Rhode Island in over 150 years. Taking office at the height of the great recession, his emphasis on education, infrastructure and workforce development and reversal of deep cuts to state colleges, local schools and municipalities led to a record drop in unemployment. Governor Chafee also championed the Rhode Island Marriage Equality Act.

Chafee is a 1975 graduate of Brown University, earning a degree in the Classics. A four-year varsity wrestler, Chafee received the Francis M. Driscoll Award for leadership, scholarship and athletics. Upon graduation, Chafee attended Montana State University’s Horseshoeing School and for the next seven years he worked as a blacksmith at harness racetracks throughout the United States and Canada. From 1983 to 1990, Chafee was employed in manufacturing, including stints at Electric Boat and Cranston Print Works. From 1991 to 1992, he was a professional advocate for clean energy and electrifying the Northeast rail corridor.

He is the author of Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President (2008).

Politics in Action

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