Clinton aide Solis Doyle tells her career history

By
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Patti Solis Doyle: longtime aide and campaign manager for now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the first Latina to manage a presidential campaign and one-time campaign chief of staff for the candidate Barack Obama’s future vice president. She may have an impressive resume now, but Solis Doyle’s credentials have been hard-won.

In Salomon 101 last night, Solis Doyle, a child of Mexican immigrants, delivered the opening convocation for Latino History Month, spearheaded by the Third World Center. In keeping with this year’s theme, “Unlocking the Present: Shaping the Future, Honoring Our Past,” her lecture charted her path from a difficult adolescence through her contributions to the 2008 presidential election.

Solis Doyle began her political career working in the offices of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, She made her way through the ranks and was soon hired as the sole aide for would-be first lady Hillary Clinton during Bill Clinton’s 1992 run for president. Solis Doyle said she established a close relationship with Hillary Clinton during that first campaign and continued to work with her for many years, through Clinton’s bid for president in 2008.

Solis-Doyle resigned from the campaign during the 2008 primaries after she became the focus of negative media attention.

In response to accusations that she was too aggressive and foul-mouthed, Solis Doyle shrugged off the criticisms. “Do I always have the vocabulary of an altar boy? Not so much. Do I like to win? Yes,” she said last night.

Despite her ultimate resignation, she said, “I am proud of the race we ran … I’m proud of the 18 million votes she got … I am especially proud of the role Hispanic voters played.”

Solis Doyle later ended up as the campaign chief of staff for the potential vice president of the Obama campaign. Her position involved securing venues, travel arrangements and speeches for the five Democratic vice-presidential hopefuls.

Though she did not speak much on her short-lived work with the Obama campaign, Solis Doyle said she is proud of his historic run and her role in it. “For me I took pride in my role as a top Hispanic aide,” she said.

Solis Doyle credited her strong work ethic to her father, Santiago Solis, a Mexican immigrant.

“Hazte valer – value yourself, work hard and never do anything to embarrass yourself and your family.” Solis Doyle repeated her father’s creed often throughout her talk and said, “It is still the best advice I have ever been given.”

Solis Doyle described her father as a determined man, who was deported twice after attempts to immigrate to the United States. His third attempt at citizenship was successful, and he and his family settled into the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.

Though her parents both worked hard at multiple jobs, Solis Doyle estimated that they never made more than $18,000 a year combined. Despite the family’s economic hardship, Solis Doyle worked hard in school and was able to obtain a scholarship to Northwestern University.

“To me, school was one world, home was another,” Solis Doyle said. “In some ways it felt as far as Mars.” Despite her enthusiasm for her education, the conflict between her home life and the pressures of school ultimately led Solis Doyle to lose her scholarship. She dropped out of school temporarily, married at the age of 19 and was divorced by 21. Eventually she returned to Northwestern to finish her degree.

It was through the influence of her brother, Daniel Solis – a Chicago city council alderman – that Solis Doyle was able to make connections and establish herself in the political arena. Solis Doyle said she was inspired to continue working in politics by “the power of organizing ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

Students reacted positively to Solis Doyle’s talk. “I thought she was very down to earth,” Ashtin Charles ’12 said. “Her ability to connect with people, minority people, was profound so the audience could really relate.”

“I thought she was excellent and wonderfully combined personal anecdotes with examples from her political activism and professional life in a stirring review and tribute of past, present and current contributions of the Latino community,” Morgan Ivens ’12 said.

After Solis Doyle’s talk, the floor was opened up for a question and answer session. Solis Doyle dispensed advice from her experience as a political operative. When an audience member asked why she thought the Republicans were less successful than the Democrats in the past election, Solis Doyle spoke of the importance of the Hispanic media team in the campaigns.

Other questions also returned to the importance of Solis Doyle’s ethnicity to her political life. When asked how she balances her cultural and professional roles, she responded, “You can’t really hide who you are or what you are, its a fool’s errand.”