Demand better government, ex-U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek tells the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.
By MATTHEW WAITE
Published March 25, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - Former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, the South Florida Democrat who served for 10 years in Congress, on Wednesday said everyone should push for better, more equitable government.
Meek, in St. Petersburg to accept the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club's Benjamin Franklin award for outstanding public service, said it is the duty of elected officials to treat all people fairly.
"Elected officials are supposed to take care of the people's business, and they are supposed to do it in a way that's fair and equitable," she said.
Meek, 77, retired from Congress in 2002, making way for her son, Kendrick Meek, to replace her in the Miami district. The granddaughter of slaves and the child of a sharecropper, Carrie Meek won a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 1979, was the first black woman elected to the state Senate and the first black woman to be part of Florida's congressional delegation.
Meek recalled growing up during segregation, "but I'm not a victim," she said. "I came up through the system."
Meek said she was shown little fairness in her own life, and she felt she should be fair to all during her life in public office. She listed among her accomplishments changing Florida affordable housing policies, increasing funding for elderly food assistance, championing equal rights for women and congressional redistricting to help minorities gain political power.
Answering a question from the audience, Meek said that black political power aligned almost exclusively with the Democratic Party wasn't a good thing.
"I think we need black people at every table," she said. "I do not think African-Americans should restrict their affiliation to one party."
Regardless of who is in Washington, people need to always push public servants to do right by people, she said.
"Don't get too happy about the situation you're in," she said. "You need to press for better government."