Skip to content

Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, will discuss civil rights, voter suppression and the evolution of the Democratic Party on Monday, April 9, at Duke University.

Man Smiling
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee

The Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture, titled “Civil Rights and the People’s Party,” begins at 5:30 p.m. in Fleishman Commons at the Sanford School of Public Policy. The event is free and open to the public; a reception will follow. Parking is available in the Sanford School lot.

Perez became chair of the DNC in January 2017. Since taking the helm, he has instituted the hiring of local organizers in all 50 states and seen Democrats make significant gains.

Previously, he served in the Obama administration as the U.S. Secretary of Labor (2013-2017) where his priorities included securing collective bargaining rights, better wages and overtime pay, and more secure pensions. 

From 2009 to 2013, as assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Justice Department, Perez led numerous investigations into allegations of excessive force by police departments, as well as the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.

​Deondra Rose, assistant professor of public policy and political science, will interview Perez.

Woman smiling
​Deondra Rose

“Chairman Perez has built a distinguished career advocating on the behalf of workers and fighting to protect our civil rights,” said Rose, also co-director of the North Carolina chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network. “Now, as head of the Democratic Party, he is committed to addressing issues like voter suppression and gerrymandering, which so often prevent voters from seeing their interests and concerns reflected in our two-party system.

“A central task facing Chairman Perez and other party leaders is convincing citizens that there is a benefit to party affiliation -- a nontrivial task at a time when more and more people identify as independent.”

The Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture is made possible by support from the William R. Kenan Charitable Trust, and is presented by the Sanford School of Public Policy. Previous distinguished lecturers included the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.

This event is part of the yearlong centennial of the late Terry Sanford, Duke’s president from 1970-1985.