Get to Know: Melanie Roussell, The DNC's Press Secretary
Roussell talks college activism and the importance of diversity.
Since arriving in Washington D.C. eight years ago, Melanie Roussell has held positions as an intern and staff assistant for Rep. William Jefferson, Public Information Director for the New Orleans District Attorney and most recently the Press Secretary for HUD. Now, Roussell is serving as the National Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee. A native of New Orleans, LA, Roussell received her Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Florida A&M University and her M.A. in Public Communication from American University.
How did you get involved in politics?
I was a senior at FAMU, in Tallahassee during the 2000 election and helped coordinate several protests and public events during the recount. As communications director for the Student Government Association, I had been involved in local and state politics before, but the madness of the election and the recount really stoked my interest in national politics and made me want to be actively involved in the political process.
Why is it important for young people to be civic-minded?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." We all have the power within us to speak up about issues that impact our neighborhoods, our towns and cities, our states, our families, and our nation. And if we have learned anything from the life of Dr. King and President Obama's election, it is that our voices matter, and if we speak up, we can make a difference.
What is it like as a young African-American woman at the forefront of some of the most contentious political debates?
I bring a new, unique and diverse approach to conversations that have largely been dominated by people who don't look like me. Politics is in an interesting era because now you have women, African Americans, and Latinos running for statewide and national offices and there are now national discussions about their unique experiences, as well as their public portrayals. The press doesn't know how to talk about them -- they don't know how to address a woman's femininity or an African American's blackness, and in some cases, even their staff has trouble figuring out how to promote them. I bring a different perspective, as an African American and a woman, to these conversations that can really help to shape how we communicate to diverse audiences and about diverse candidates.
What do you love most about D.C.?
The city's diversity.
What do you like least?
What's one little-known Washington tidbit you think more people should know?
We have earthquakes -- but I think everyone may know that now.
Finish this sentence: The election of 2012 will be...
...a fight for the future of this country that displays a stark contrast between a sitting President who has had tremendous accomplishments -- healthcare reform; Wall Street reform; drug sentencing reform; the Recovery Act, just to name a few -- but has so much work left to do to create jobs and help bring the middle class back from the brink, and a Republican field of candidates who are pushing the middle class further down the ladder by opposing tax cuts for the middle class and instead protecting special interests and corporations that send jobs overseas.
Follow Roussell on Twitter @MelanieDNC.