COEUR d'ALENE - Bruce Reed recalled a time years ago when his dad - Coeur d'Alene attorney Scott Reed - couldn't get some lingering guests to leave his home one winter night.
So Scott Reed climbed on the roof of the family home on Fernan Hill, put a piece of plywood over the top of the chimney, and smoked the long-lingering guests out of the house.
Bruce Reed said his dad, now 86, has never shied away from a tough fight.
"He proves you don't have to be the tallest man in town to have the most backbone," he said Monday night, as the keynote speaker of the annual banquet hosted by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.
The banquet, at the Best Western Plus Coeur d'Alene Inn, had 476 guests, the second-largest attendance number in the event's 17 years.
Bruce Reed's mother, Mary Lou Reed - a former state senator - was a force for good, too, he said.
"She led the successful fight for Idaho to finally recognize Martin Luther King Day," he said. "She persuaded Republicans to expand Medicaid to cover hospice care."
Mary Lou and Scott Reed were inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame at the banquet.
Bruce Reed said he grew up watching his parents stand up for principle against all odds.
"My parents taught me that there's no such thing as a lost cause, just battles you haven't won yet," he said.
When the Aryan Nations and Richard Butler "turned up in your midst" in North Idaho, residents here had a hard choice to make, Bruce Reed said.
The presence of the hate group and its leader could have been played down, and residents could have just hoped the problem went away.
"The way I look at it, the entire community of North Idaho pulled a Scott Reed," he said. "So you climbed up on the roof, put plywood on the chimney, and smoked the Neo-Nazis out of your house, never to return."
Bruce Reed, a native of Coeur d'Alene, is a former speech writer for Al Gore, a former special assistant to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden.
Bruce Reed currently is president of The Broad Education Foundation in Los Angeles.
He said the nation still has a ways to go, but progress has been made.
"When I was born, states still used poll taxes to deny African-Americans the right to vote," he said. "A half century later, we've elected and re-elected an African-American president."
Historic steps have been made toward marriage equality, he said.
"When I started in national politics 30 years ago, the only voices on gay rights were against them," he said.
Now, the military has done away with "Don't-ask, don't tell," one-third of states allow same-sex couples to marry, "and the dwindling number of politicians who still oppose marriage equality are the ones who keep their mouths shut."
Also Monday night, former Coeur d'Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem, former Councilman Mike Kennedy, former Councilwoman Deanna Goodlander and current Councilmen Woody McEvers, Ron Edinger and Dan Gookin received the 2013 Task Force on Human Relations civil rights award for passage of the anti-discrimination ordinance last summer.
Bruce Reed said immigration reform will one day bring millions "out of the shadows."
"Sooner or later, we will help young people in Indian country grow up with a fair shake," he said.
Finally, he said the greatest civil rights issue of the time is education.
"If there's one idea all of us across the spectrum can agree upon, it's that education is the ticket to a better life," he said.
There has been positive news on that front, as more low-income students are graduating from high school and more minorities are going on to college.
"But our schools aren't getting better fast enough, the gap isn't closing fast enough, and far too many young people are still trapped in low-performing schools where they'll never catch up in time to be ready for a college or career," he said.
In the meantime, a gap is growing between the U.S. educational system and the systems of global competitors, he said.
The U.S. used to be first in the world in graduating kids from college. Now the U.S. is 16th, he said.
"On math and science, compared to the rest of the world, our students are in the middle of the pack," he said. "The future of our society depends on closing both those gaps, because from now on, they're going to matter more than ever."
It's why he left Washington, D.C., after 28 years, for southern California.
"As president of The Broad Foundation, I get to spend every day trying to improve the public schools and expand opportunity for the kids who need it most," he said. "I know every child in America can learn, if we just give them the chance."