Thomas Perez

Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs


The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Tom Perez ’83 grew up in Buffalo where he learned the values of a union town: hard work, integrity, service, and perseverance.

After putting himself through college with Pell Grants and working on the back of a garbage truck, Tom passed up offers from white-shoe law firms, instead choosing to start his career as a civil rights attorney for the U.S. Justice Department prosecuting racially motivated hate crimes.

Tom had the privilege of serving in President Obama’s administration. First as head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, where he led the charge against police misconduct, voter suppression, anti-LGBT discrimination, and immigrant-bashing sheriffs’ departments. Then as Secretary of Labor, fighting to protect and expand opportunities for America’s working people – from better wages and overtime pay, to retirement security and collective bargaining rights.

In 2017, Perez was elected as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

But Tom’s strongest roots are in local organizing. In 2002, he became the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County Council. And as board president of CASA de Maryland, Tom helped grow the organization from a small service provider in the basement of a church to one of the largest immigrant advocacy groups in the mid-Atlantic.

Recent News

This fall the Watson Institute hosted a unique study group in collaboration with Brown's Undocumented, First-Generation College, and Low-Income Student Center (U-FLi). The study group, which was open to all students, focused on skill-building and leadership development for first-generation, low-income and undocumented students.
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The fall of 2023 will bring renowned human rights lawyer Malika Saada Saar and former U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin to the Watson Institute as senior fellows who will lead student study groups, along with an array of practitioners who will focus on issues relevant to first-generation and low-income college students.
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This article reflects on the conversation between former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, both Brown alumni, that touched on the upcoming general election and the social consciousness of the Brown community.
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Yesterday's event"In Conversation with Tom Perez '83 and Michael Steele," co-sponsored by the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy is featured. "I reject the premise we can't have healthcare for all...The rest of the world has figured this one out and we're the only industrialized nation on the planet that hasn't," said Perez.
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