CHARLOTTE – Democratic National Chairperson and Florida Congressman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz addressed the Monday session of the Faith Council at the Democratic National Convention, where she described her early upbringing and the lessons she learned from her family around their dinner table.
"I am Jewish but I grew up in what I would call a 'secular' household," Wasserman-Schultz told the 150 people who were attending the two-hour panel discussion in Charlotte. "But being Jewish is both a religion and a culture."
Wasserman-Schultz talked about growing up in her New York home and how she was taught to help those who are less fortunate, both in a religious and non-religious way. She credited her grandmother with teaching her many of these lessons and also talked about how surviving a bout with breast cancer brought her a greater appreciation for life.
"Being diagnosed with cancer made me wonder how many birthdays I would celebrate with my children or how many anniversaries I would have with my husband," said Wasserman-Schultz.
But the former Florida state legislator and now liberal congresswoman has just as big a task in front of her as she strives to be one of President Obama's top surrogates. There have been reports that Wasserman-Schultz was not viewed as an effective spokesperson for the president because of her overly partisan rhetoric, but nonetheless, her strong comments during the morning session played well to the party faithful who were in attendance.
"We're here in Charlotte this week to bring something unique to this city and our country," she said. "It's not like the smoke-filled, back-room deal making that we saw last week," Wasserman-Schultz said in an obvious reference to last week's Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. "We're going to have a convention that is open to the people who are going to help us reelect President Obama."
Just prior to the DNC chairwoman's remarks, Dr. Carroll Baltimore, who presides over the Progressive National Baptist Convention, talked about the GOP efforts to suppress voter turnout by requiring voters to present photos when they show up at the polls. Such requirements are commonly referred to as Voter ID laws and have been passed by a number of predominately GOP-controlled state legislatures.
"We're going to fight this election cycle to see that everyone, that anyone who shows up can cast a vote for President Obama," Baltimore told the group.
Another theme championed by both the minster and the congresswoman was access to affordable health care, a subject that is commonly associated with President Obama's Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
"Giving people the proper access to health care and under President Obama's leadership, Democrats have made that a top priority," claimed Wasserman-Schultz. "President Obama has fought for this and other rights, first as a community organizer and now as president of the United States.
Prior to meeting with faith leaders, Wasserman-Schultz also addressed the Disability Caucus before heading off to have lunch with some of the delegates.
The convention will officially convene on Tuesday and will feature a prime-time address from First Lady Michelle Obama.