With the presidential campaign in full swing and with Saint Augustine’s University President Everett B. Ward being a well-known political junkie (he was a former high-ranking official of the Democratic National Committee), the Falcon Forum decided to sit down with Dr. Ward and discuss his political views and influences and his work for the Democratic party.
FF: “How did, your family influence your political influence.”
Dr.Ward : “My father was a precinct chairman in district 35. As a precinct chairman he was very engaged in Democratic party politics. He also, helped inform the community about candidates and issues. He also helped work the polls on election day. My mother was a registrar, she registered people to vote. I grew up in a home where politics were discussed every day. My sister Doctor Felicia Ward Harding became the first African American chair for the Franklin County Democratic Party.
FF: What did you do as the College Federation of Young Democrats?
Dr. Ward: We made students aware of issues.In 1976 I had the privilege of going to my first Democratic Convention, the year Jimmy Carter won the nomination. At that time, Howard Lee was running for lieutenant governor and he was a member of the Democratic National Committee, and I went to the Convention of ’76 with the guest credential of Howard Lee.
Now this year when I go to convention I will mark my twentieth year of service for the Democratic National Committee. It’s ironic that I went to my first convention as a guest, as a high school student, and here we are now 40 years later, I will go as a member as the Democratic National Committee. This will be my last Convention, as a sitting member of the National Committee, because I have not sought re-election because of my presidency here.
FF: Do you think the media creates an accurate perception of super delegates?
Dr. Ward: As a member of the Democratic National Committee, you have to vote your conscience. You are voted by the Democrats of North Carolina. I remember in 2008 when there was great discussion about then-Senator Barack Obama, and the discussion was would he gain support from members of the Democratic Committee. I reviewed his policies and voting record; I was one of the first members of the DNC to come out and support him in the state of North Carolina. I think DNC members work hard.
FF: How did You feel when you saw Barack Obama get elected president?
Dr. Ward: To see two inaugurations, to see his last state of the union address, I thought at that moment of Ron Brown [the first African-American chairman of the DNC]. I thought of Shirley Chisholm [the first African-American woman to run for president], and Ralph Campbell [the first African-American mayor of Raleigh], the people who paved the way. This highway to democracy for us as a people has been long and there has been a lot of potholes on the way. To see an African-American man become the president of the United States was phenomenal, but I was not in such a celebratory celebration that I was intoxicated with jubilation because we still has a long way to go. So I’m excited about the new generation your generation.
FF: Do you think the Republican and Democratic Parties are doing enough for America’s large demographic change in the next few years?
Dr. Ward: One of the issues I find extremely disappointing is the public discourse given across the country by Mr. Trump. I don’t believe it is healthy for the country when you need to be talking about real policy issues. It’s not about building walls; It’s about the state of education in this country, it’s about the economy, it’s about health care, it’s about seniors, young people being provided opportunities through jobs and it’s about the job market and keeping jobs in America. We have to have a president with the capacity and intelligence to lead. I find it most appalling for the political climate of this country.
FF: What is the university doing to encourage students to get out in vote?
Dr. Ward: I encourage students to study the candidates because, as university men and women, you are intellectuals, so there is a higher expectation of your knowledge base. So what I am encouraging students to do is study the candidates. While you may be for Bernie Sanders and I may be for Hillary Clinton, when we discuss the reasons why it should be based on vision and perception because we are intellectuals. We sponsor forums on campus and we will do even more of that heading towards the general elections.
If I’m president, we surely have to be politically engaged.
— Adolph Drayton Simmons, III