With a Little Help from My Friends


Patti Solis Doyle Talks About Her Path to Success

Events celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month last fall came just months after presidential candidate Donald Trump’s assertion that Mexico is “…sending people that have lots of problems…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” It began a vigorous discussion of immigration in America as an issue for the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16 — in the midst of this political discussion — Patti Solis Doyle, the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants and a former campaign strategist for Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, visited Georgia Southern to talk about the future of Hispanics in the U.S. through the lens of her own experience.

Before she became the first Hispanic woman ever to manage a presidential campaign, Solis Doyle grew up in a tough, working-class neighborhood in Chicago’s Lower West Side. Her father worked three jobs and her mother worked two jobs in order to make ends meet for their family of eight, and they never made more than $18,000 a year combined.

Despite their economic situation, Solis Doyle’s father believed that hard work was the path to success, and always told his children hazte valer, which means “value yourself.”

“Always work hard, do the best job you can do and never do anything to embarrass your family,” she said. “That’s been my go-to advice when things seem insurmountable…and that has seen me through.”

It’s this advice that helped her work her way from serving on street teams, canvassing for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, then moving to Arkansas in 1992 to serve Clinton on her husband’s bid for president. She continued to serve First Lady Clinton in the White House, and became one of her most trusted advisers, serving as a campaign strategist on her successful campaigns for the U.S. Senate, and then as campaign manager for her 2008 bid for president.

It was also her dad’s advice that helped Solis Doyle through her most public failure, when she was fired from the Clinton presidential campaign after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses. She thought her career in politics might be over.

“It was a terrible time for me,” she said. “My rivals on the campaign trashed me in the press. I was on the front page of every newspaper in the country, and not for a good reason.”
However, because of her reputation as a hard worker and her connections in Chicago, Solis Doyle got a second chance, running the campaign for Joe Biden during his vice presidential bid with Barack Obama.

For Solis Doyle, success for her and other minorities has come not only because of individual hard work, but also “because people in power acted at every level,” she said. She said she was there to watch Clinton enact policies that helped minorities and women, but also placed those people in key roles on her own staff.

“My career is a lesson in how a little help from mentors and friends makes big things possible,” she said.

Since serving Clinton in the White House, Solis Doyle says that Hispanics have made huge progress in America, growing in number and influence. Hispanics operate more than 3.2 million businesses in the U.S., contribute more than $500 billion to the economy and have nearly tripled their buying power since Bill Clinton’s presidency. Presently, 33 Hispanics serve in U.S. Congress, and Hispanics also serve as the CEO’s of 10 of America’s largest corporations.
And while diversity is now embraced in the U.S., Solis Doyle believes that current political rhetoric threatens to endanger this value.

She agrees, however, that the U.S. immigration process is a problem — as is what to do about the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. While some candidates have suggested deporting them all, others say it’s too expensive and difficult a process to undertake.
“There’s no pragmatic way to do it, so I think we need to stop the hate rhetoric and roll up our sleeves and find the best way to handle the problem,” she said. “But this country was built by immigrants. Their culture, their diversity has made this country great, and we should value it.”

To the minority students, watching this discussion unfold, Solis Doyle’s message was, “hang in there.”

“You are different than I was,” she said. “You don’t need to be convinced you have a right to lead. That’s great, but it won’t make a difference if you don’t look out for one another.” — Doy Cave

Comments are closed.