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Who's in the Video
Melissa Harris-Lacewell is Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of the award-winning book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black[…]

Lacewell was inspired by a teacher who taught a course called “Leadership in a Democratic Society.”

Question: What inspired you to pursue political science

Harris-Lacewell: And then I also had a teacher who taught this amazing course called Leadership in a Democratic Society.  It was a course I sort of took on a whim.  I was an English major, but I took this politics course.  And that class, Leadership in a Democratic Society, really changed sort of the course of becoming not an English teacher, but instead for me a political science professor.  I think it was the first time that I’d really considered the idea of what democracy is and what democracy requires from us.  I think before that I just took the notion of democracy for granted.  Well we live in a democracy.  We vote, that’s just kind of true, and we can move on.  I . . .  It had never occurred to me as, I guess, I don’t know, an 18 year old that there were debates within the notion of democracy that there wasn’t just one way to be a democratic society; and that within the American context some of the tools that we use for propagating democracy – some of the things we think of as central to the America project – actually have a huge effect of silencing people who have fewer resources and less access to privilege.  And this was really the first time that someone had made explicit to me that the electoral college; that one man, one vote; that the Senate even, were things that impacted how Americans could have a voice; and particularly how poor Americans, less privileged Americans,  Black Americans could or could not have a voice in our . . . in our political system.