Featured Democratic Speakers
Harold Ford and Vice President Al Gore
Photo courtesy www.house.gov
Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr.
The youngest member of Congress, Tennessee Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., led a line-up of prominent Democratic speakers Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, California, calling for health care reform and equal rights for Americans. Saying Al Gore is his role model and he feels passionately that the people of his generation have to take action, Ford's presence was designed to help the party appeal to young voters and minorities.
Listen to Ford's speech or read the text.
In 1996, when Ford was just 26, voters elected him to Congress. He was then re-elected in 1998 by a 79 percent landslide. Today, Vice President Al Gore calls Ford “a rising star of the Democratic Party” for his fights in expanding education funding and the “Patients Bill of Rights” healthcare reform -- two primary issues in the Gore campaign.
Now 30 years old, Ford remains the youngest person in Congress. He was the first African American to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic convention since Barbara Jordan in 1976. The young congressman was handpicked by Gore to take to the podium.
The son of a politically powerful Memphis family, Ford represents the same congressional district that his father did for 11 terms. When Harold E. Ford Sr. decided against running for a twelfth term, his son stepped forward to take his place.
Although born in Memphis, Ford moved with his family to Washington, D.C. in 1979. There, he attended St. Albans, one of the city’s most elite prep schools known for its long list of students who would also grow up to enter the Washington establishment. Ford also attended the University of Pennsylvania and then the University of Michigan Law School. He has frequently been mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Ford has positioned himself as a moderate in Congress. Soon after taking office, he joined the New Democrat Coalition, and began carving out a reputation for reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans, something that has won praise from the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. During his years in Congress, Ford has supported funding for new school construction and renovation and has opposed the teaching of Black English “Ebonics” and “social promotion.”
"Congressman Ford not only has taken a leadership role in fighting for the issues that Americans care about, he has also taken a leadership role in bringing young people into the Party and into politics," said the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Joe Andrew. "He has the ability to attract new voters and inspire those who have left the process with his idealism and strong oratorical skills."