Navajo Nation President Nez to Keynote Tonight’s Democratic National Convention

The Democrats have selected 17 of the “next generation of party leaders” to speak via video Tuesday night, including Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez will deliver a keynote address to the Democratic National Convention tonight. He will be joined by 16 other leaders. Eleven of the 17 speakers are people of color, the New York Times reported. In addition to Nez, these “rising stars” include Stacey Abrams, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017; three members of Congress (Colin Allred, Texas; Brendan Boyle, Pennsylvania; Conor Lamb, Pennsylvania) ; eight state legislators; two mayors (Randall Woodfin, Alabama; Robert Garcia, California) ; and Florida’s agriculture commissioner.

“The speakers will offer a diversity of different ideas and perspectives on how to move America forward, but they will all speak to the future we’re building together—a future with Joe Biden at the helm,” the DNC states.

“We had two goals in mind: to include more Americans than ever before and to ensure that all Americans see themselves reflected in what they were viewing,” said Stephanie Cutter, a veteran Democratic strategist who is directing the program for Biden.

Beyond the montage of 17 keynote speakers, the representatives with air time include Jill Biden, the would-be first lady; the night’s emcee, actress Tracee Ellis Ross; and former President Bill Clinton.

Nez is an apt choice to join the 17-person keynote for the night’s theme, “Leadership Matters.” Elected to President of the Navajo Nation in 2019, then 43 years old, Nez was the youngest person to be elected to the position. Along with his running mate, Myron Lizer, they govern a physical territory larger than 10 U.S. states. At 27,413 square miles, it’s roughly 3,300 square miles bigger than the state of West Virginia.

One of the priorities of the Nez-Lizer Administration is reinforcing that inherent sovereignty and the possibilities that it provides the Nation and its citizens. (Navajo Nation for Native Business)

Prior to the presidency, Nez served three terms as Navajo Nation Council Delegate, representing the chapters of Shonto, Oljato, Tsah Bi Kin and Navajo Mountain. He also served two terms on the Navajo County Board of Supervisors for District 1.

One of the priorities of the Nez-Lizer Administration is reinforcing that inherent sovereignty and the possibilities that it provides the Nation and its citizens. 

“We’re really letting our people know how strong our ancestors were and how that resilient teaching has been passed down from generation to generation,” Nez previously told Native Business. “And at the same time, letting our people know that we have the ability to solve most or maybe even all of our problems here on the Navajo Nation if we just work together and utilize our teachings, our culture and our traditions that have been passed down.”

There’s a Navajo teaching, Nez told Native Business, called T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego, that guides the work of his Administration. 

“One of the things that we’ve been telling folks is that we have the power to change our future for the better,” Nez said. “Folks will call that sovereignty out there in Tribal Nations, but we call it T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego — to be able to do for yourself. And when you do for yourself, you make improvements in yourself and your family, then you give back to your community. Once you give back to your community, just imagine how much better off your Nation or your people will be.” 

“One-hundred-and-fifty-plus years ago, that was how the Navajo people lived — T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego,” Nez continued. “I think it’s time to go full circle in bringing that back to the forefront of our way of life. And once we recognize that here, once all 350,000-plus members recognize that, I guarantee you we will be stronger and healthier for the next 150 years and continue to be leaders in Indian Country.”

2020 has shaped up to be a turbulent year for the country and particularly the Navajo Nation, which in May surpassed New York and New Jersey for the highest per-capita coronavirus infection rate in the U.S. The Nation has employed its sovereignty to reduce traffic and prevent the spread of the virus, but still faces myriad issues from lack of infrastructure, such as running water, across rural swaths of the 27,413-square-mile Four Corners region. 

Nez will speak tonight between 9-10 p.m. EST.

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