Former IFES Board Chairman Ambassador Charles T. Manatt Honored at DNC Dedication Celebration
On December 10, 2014, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) hosted a dedication of the third floor of the national DNC’s offices in honor of the late Charles T. "Chuck" Manatt (1936-2011), DNC Chair from 1981-1985 and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Board of Directors Chair from 1993-1999. Members of the Manatt family participated in the tribute including his widow Kathleen Manatt, son Daniel Manatt, daughter Michele A. Manatt, her husband Wolfram Anders and Manatt’s grandson Patrick Anders.
At the ceremony, over 30 members of the Democratic Party’s current and past leadership, staff and colleagues came together to celebrate his legacy. Reflecting on Manatt’s impact on the party, former DNC Press Secretary Terry Michael noted, “I vividly remember Chuck’s fixation with the nomadic nature of the Democratic Party that they were moving from one rented office location to another. He had worked at the DNC as Executive Director of the College Young Democrats in 1960 and found it astounding that they did not have a permanent location. He committed to building a headquarters as part of his campaign for DNC Chair in 1980.” Beyond finding a permanent home for the DNC, the party’s first in-house media studio and IT infrastructure that included a state-of-the-art, direct mail system are a testament to Manatt’s vision.
The dedication ceremony also included remarks by current House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Daniel Manatt, with closing remarks by Michele A. Manatt. Dignitaries in attendance included IFES Board Director Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD); Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), who worked for Manatt; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX); former Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Kent Conrad (D-ND); Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL); former Governors Chuck Robb (D-VA) and Jim Blanchard (D-MI); and IFES Board of Directors Chair Don Sweitzer, Treasurer Leslie Israel and Board Director Scott Pastrick.
Former DNC Chairman Don Fowler also spoke at the ceremony. He underscored the significance of the unprecedented number of women Manatt named to serve in key roles at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. This included the first female Chair, Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the convention Rosalind Wyman and Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco as one of the select committee Chairs. Pelosi went on to become the only woman to serve as House Speaker and is the highest-ranking female politician in American history.
Manatt’s chairmanship also ushered in a historic field of candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination leading up to the convention in San Francisco. One of the many standouts was the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., the second African American to mount a nationwide campaign for the presidency. Equally noteworthy was the run of Senator and former NASA Astronaut John Glenn, Jr. (D-Ohio), former Senators George McGovern (D-SD), Alan Cranston (D-CA), Reubin Askew (D-FL), Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Gary Hart (D-CO) and the eventual nominee former Vice President Walter Mondale. Mondale eventually named Geraldine Ferraro as the first woman to be nominated by either major party for Vice President.
Beyond the creation of “a sacred sanctuary for Democrats” as noted by Fowler, Manatt was a master of the art of functional bipartisanship both domestically and internationally. From his party perch in the early 1980s, Manatt had great foresight. Working with leaders of both U.S. parties and the Reagan White House, democracy-building institutions were established through legislation passed in 1983. The International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and IFES were established because of this legislation and have since played a key role in democratic transitions on every continent. In recognition of his tireless party-building work, he was named U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic by then-President Bill Clinton in 1999. IFES President and CEO William R. Sweeney Jr. has referred to Manatt as “one of the architects of the global democracy movement.”
IFES annually awards The Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award to three individuals – one Republican, one Democrat and one member of the international community – who embody his unwavering commitment to freedom and democracy.