Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Taubman Center

Voting Rights at a Crossroads

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum, 111 Thayer Street.

Join Wendy Schillerdirector of the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy for a conversation with Watson Senior Fellow Tom Perez '83 about voting rights and the aftermath of the Senate's failure to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.

The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Tom Perez ’83 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.

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.

In 2017, Perez was elected as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and served in that role until January 2021.

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.

Wendy Schiller is Professor of Political Science, Professor of International and Public Affairs, and Director of the  A. Alfred Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy at Brown University. She did her undergraduate work in political science at the University of Chicago, served on the staffs of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Governor Mario Cuomo, and then earned her PhD from the University of Rochester. After fellowships at the Brookings Institution and Princeton University, she came to Brown in 1994. She teaches popular courses titled The American Presidency, Introduction to the American Political Process, and Congress and Public Policy.

Among books she has authored or co-authored are Electing the Senate: Indirect Democracy before the Seventeenth Amendment (Princeton University Press), Gateways to Democracy: An Introduction to American Government (Cengage), The Contemporary Congress (Thomson-Wadsworth), and Partners and Rivals: Representation in U.S. Senate Delegations (Princeton University Press). She has also published articles in the American Journal of Political Science, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Studies in American Political Development, and the Journal of Politics.

Schiller has been a contributor to MSNBC, NPR, CNN.com, and Bloomberg News. She provides local political commentary to the Providence Journal, WPRO radio, RIPBS A Lively Experiment, and is the political analyst for WJAR10, the local NBC affiliate in Providence.