National Press Club

Rep. Barbara Lee: "Second Name is Courage," Helen Thomas Says

February 5, 2009 | By Barbara Bird and Andrew C. Schneider

Helen Thomas, right, introduces Rep. Barbara Lee

Helen Thomas, right, introduces Rep. Barbara Lee

Photo/Image: Sylvia Smith

A Book Event happened on the way to the White House.

Rep. Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was called to the White House by President Obama for a meeting shortly before her scheduled C;ub appearance on Wednesday to discuss her new book, “Renegade for Peace and Justice: Congresswoman Barbara Lee Speaks for Me”. In a gracious gesture, she said she would be a little late to the meeting in order to keep her Press Club commitment.

Veteran White House Correspondent Helen Thomas introduced her longtime friend with the explanation, “Courage is her second name.”

Thomas spoke of Lee’s early opposition to the Iraq War, her support for victims of Hurricane Katrina, her fight against the spread of HIV-AIDS, and her efforts to end the genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

Lee spoke of the encouragement Thomas had given her to write her memoir as an African-American woman who rose from segregation and public welfare to become a member of Congress. As an illustration, she described how her grandmother fought for her mother’s admission to a whites-only Texas hospital to give birth and how the delay in treatment nearly cost her mother’s life.

“People ask me what makes me fight so hard against racism and injustice. I guess it was because of the way I was born, I almost didn’t get here,” she told her NPC audience.

Barbara Bird, member of the Book and Author Committee introduced Helen Thomas as the “First Lady of the Press,” which included a list of Thomas’ lifetime “firsts.” Thomas requested a copy of her introduction stating, “it’s not often you hear your obituary read.”

Upcoming Book Committee events include:

Wednesday, Feb. 11, 6 pm: Helen Fisher, Why Him? Why Her? (A Valentine's Day-themed event)

Friday, Feb. 13, 5 pm: Former Sen. George S. McGovern, Abraham Lincoln: The 16th President, 1861 – 1865. NOTE NEW TIME

Tuesday, April 7, 6:30 pm: Paul Dickson, The Dickson Baseball Dictionary and Allen Barra, Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee . (An event to mark the opening of the 2009 Major League Baseball season)

Monday, May 4, 6:30 pm: Bill Moyers, Moyers on Democracy .

Wednesday, June 3, 6:30 pm: Michael Connelly, The Scarecrow.