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Congresswoman Maxine Waters to Keynote Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation

January 9, 2012

. – Congresswoman Maxine Waters will serve as the keynote speaker for Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation on January 13 at 10:10 a.m. in the Gaither Gymnasium.

Currently, Waters is a senior member of the House Committee on Financial Services, serving as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises. She also serves on the subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, and the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  In addition, Waters serves on the House Committee on the Judiciary, where she sits on the Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet Subcommittee, and the Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee.  An integral member of Congressional Democratic Leadership, Waters serves as a chief deputy whip and as a member of the Steering and Policy Committee.

Waters is considered by many to be one of the most powerful women in American politics today. She has gained a reputation as a fearless and outspoken advocate for women, children, people of color and the poor. Elected in November 2010 to her 11th term in the House of Representatives with almost 80 percent of the vote in the 35th District of California, Waters represents a large part of South Central Los Angeles, the communities of Westchester and Playa Del Rey, and the diverse cities of Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood and Lawndale — all in California.

Legislative leadership throughout her 35 years of public service, Waters has been on the cutting edge, tackling difficult and often controversial issues. She has combined her strong legislative and public policy acumen and high visibility in Democratic Party activities with an unusual ability to do grassroots organizing.

Prior to her election to the House of Representatives in 1990, Waters had already attracted national attention for her no-nonsense, no-holds-barred style of politics. During the 14 years in the California State Assembly, she rose to the powerful position of Democratic Caucus chair. She was responsible for some of the boldest legislation California has ever seen: the largest divestment of state pension funds from South Africa; landmark affirmative action legislation; the nation’s first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Training Program; the prohibition of police strip searches for nonviolent misdemeanors; and the introduction of the nation’s first plant closure law.

As a national Democratic Party leader, Waters has long been highly visible in Democratic Party politics and has served on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) since 1980. She was a key leader in five presidential campaigns: Sen. Edward Kennedy (1980), the Rev. Jesse Jackson (1984 and 1988), and President Bill Clinton (1992 and 1996). In 2001, she was instrumental in the DNC’s creation of the National Development and Voting Rights Institute and the appointment of Mayor Maynard Jackson as its chair.

She is a co-founder of Black Women’s Forum, a nonprofit organization of more than 1,200 African-American women in the Los Angeles area. In the mid-1980s, she also founded Project Build, working with young people in the Los Angeles housing developments on job training and placement.

Throughout her career, Waters has been an advocate for international peace, justice and human rights. Before her election to Congress, she was a leader in the movement to end Apartheid and establish democracy in South Africa. She opposed the 2004 Haitian coup d’etat, which overthrew the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, and defends the rights of political prisoners in Haiti’s prisons. She leads congressional efforts to cancel the debts that poor countries in Africa and Latin America owe to wealthy institutions like the World Bank and free poor countries from the burden of international debts.

Waters spearheaded the development of the Minority AIDS Initiative in 1998 to address the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS among African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities. Under her continuing leadership, funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative has increased from the initial appropriation of $156 million in fiscal year 1999 to approximately $400 million per year today. She is also the author of legislation to expand health services for patients with diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

A native of St. Louis, Mo., Waters was the fifth of 13 children raised by a single mother. She began working at age 13 in factories and segregated restaurants. After moving to Los Angeles, she worked in garment factories and at the telephone company. She attended California State University at Los Angeles, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree.

Waters is married to Sidney Williams, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. She is the mother of two adult children, Edward and Karen, and has two grandchildren.

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