Karine Jean-Pierre is a woman who knows how to get things done. The MSNBC political analyst has been a key figure in three presidential campaigns, including Barack Obama’s historic victory, and has successfully pressured big corporations like Walmart to change unfair labor practices. Now she wants you to get involved in our nation’s politics, and she won’t accept any excuses.
“No one handed it to me. I had to go out and take it,” Jean-Pierre says of realizing her political power in this country. The lesbian Haitian-American adds, “I got involved. I worked on campaigns and for politicians. Eventually, [I] worked my way all the way to the White House. My advice: Work hard, don’t take no for an answer, and never burn any bridges.”
In addition to speaking truth to power on MSNBC, Jean-Pierre shares her message through public speaking, teaching campaign management at her alma mater, Columbia University, and by acting as the chief public affairs officer for Move On. She’s also just written one of the most important political books of the year, Moving Forward, described by its publisher as a “call to arms for those who know that now is the time to act.”
Move On is a grassroots political organization mobilizing folks to fight for social justice and achieve political progress. Much like Jean-Pierre herself, the org has no qualms about calling out Trump and his administration as “a dire threat to the well-being of many Americans and others around the world,” as it states on its website, MoveOn.org, which goes on to say, “Women, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ Americans, working families, and other communities are under attack.”
Jean-Pierre agrees, explaining that this is why it’s now more important to get involved than ever.
“Representation matters,” she says. “That is why I find so many of these young newly-elected members of Congress — many of whom are women and women of color — so inspiring. The other thing I will say is, Donald Trump loyalists are going to be voting in 2020. The only way we can take power away from Trump is to show up in bigger numbers. Now is not a time to sit on the sidelines. We need everyone in if we’re going to beat Trump.”
But mobilizing marginalized people to political action is easier said than done. After all, many barriers exist that prevent people from realizing their power.
“Voter suppression. Structural racism,” Jean-Pierre ticks off obstacles marginalized communities face, “and a system that was built for us to fail. But that only means we have to fight harder [and] gain more power.”
In Moving Forward, a fascinating political memoir, Jean-Pierre reflects on her life experiences, and how she was able to realize her own power in terms of social and political change. She recalls watching then-Congresswoman Barbara Jordan speak at the Democratic National Convention in 1992 and how the moment changed her life: “She was the first Black woman in politics I had ever witnessed. In a world of pretty, pearl-wearing charmers, Jordan was substantive and authentic.”
Jean-Pierre says great change can be achieved in everyday grassroots activism and local community involvement — not just national politics. She stresses that anyone and everyone can make a difference.
“Get involved in your community. Volunteer. Get involved in your church, temple, [or] mosque,” she states. “This is an ugly and dangerous time in our nation’s history. But to me, that is even more of a reason to get in the arena. With so much at stake, now more than ever, I think we all need to engage in the political process. It is the only way we’re going to be able to turn our country around.”