Jackie Speier was sworn into Congress on April 10, to fill the unexpired term of the late Congressman Tom Lantos. In addition to including an impressive political career, Speier's story is a powerful one of survival.
After earning her Juris Doctor degree from UC's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, Speier joined Congressman Leo J. Ryan's staff as his legal advisor in Washington, D.C. In 1978, Speier accompanied the congressman to Jonestown, Guyana, to investigate claims that constituents were being held against their will at the People's Temple by the Rev. Jim Jones. While Speier and Ryan escorted defecting cult members to their plane, they were ambushed by gunmen.
Congressman Ryan and four others were killed, including an NBC reporter and cameraman, and a photographer for the San Francisco Examiner. Speier, then 28, was shot five times and left for dead.
For 22 hours, Speier lay bleeding on the Guyanese airstrip waiting for help to arrive. This was a defining moment in her young life, as she told the Washington Post: "I think the experience in Guyana just made me more fearless … Once you have looked death in the eye, you're just not nearly that afraid."
During her political career, including 18 years in the California State Assembly and Senate, Speier authored more than 300 bills that were signed into law by both Democratic and Republican governors. Her four-year crusade to protect consumers' financial privacy from the invasive practices of banking and insurance companies led to passage of the landmark California Financial Privacy Act, which was hailed by Consumers Union as "the strongest financial privacy legislation in the nation."
Upon her election to Congress, Jackie Speier was picked by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to serve on two influential committees: The House Committee on Financial Services, chaired by Congressman Barney Frank, and The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Representative Henry Waxman.
When asked for her philosophy of life, Speier often quotes Winston Churchill: "Success is never final, and failure is never fatal."
"Congresswoman Speier's life and career are an inspiration to women everywhere,” says Thea Selby, principal of Next Steps Marketing and co-chair of the Women's Leadership Conference. “We're fortunate to have her speak to us about leadership, what it means in good times and in more difficult times."
Speier will join up to 150 women coming together at the first-ever Women's Leadership Conference to be educated, inspired, and empowered. Other speakers at the conference include Michela O'Connor Abrams, president and publisher of Dwell magazine; Jan Bruce, publisher of Body & Soul; Barb Newton, president of Sunset Publications; and Madeleine Buckingham, COO of Mother Jones.
The one-day event ($199) includes breakfast, luncheon and Keynote address, and cocktail hour. Register at WIPP.net.
Women in Periodical Publishing (WIPP) was founded in 1999 by five women looking for an organization that met the needs of women in print and online periodical publishing. Out of this need, WIPP was formed to accomplish two goals: to educate, empower and support women in print and online publishing and to educate, empower and support women through the power of print and online publishing. In just a few short years, WIPP has built a strong and diverse community, consisting of nearly 100 individual and corporate members throughout the U.S. and internationally. Visit www.wipp.net for more information.