| Kira Hofelmann | firstname.lastname@example.org | February 28, 2020 |
On Monday, February 24th, juniors and seniors attended a talk at d.tech given by special guest speaker, Congresswoman and Representative of California District 14, Jackie Speier. Organized by Director of Learning Nicole Cerra, Speier took the time to come and share her experiences and collected life knowledge with the students of d.tech.
Speier began her talk by providing the audience with her personal background. Speier expressed that she was born and raised in San Mateo, attended public school from kindergarten to 12th grade, then attended UC Davis, followed by a gap year, and finished her academic journey by attending law school. Following her graduation, Speier moved to Washington DC and worked with Congressman Leo Ryan. Ryan was deeply concerned with a church located in San Francisco called The Peoples Temple, and as Speier revealed in her talk, there were “about 2000 members in the congregation” and it continued to grow. Soon, the Peoples Temple fled to South America where they promised a Utopia for all, but as the population grew rumors began to spread of “physical abuse and sexual abuse and child abuse” said Speier. Ryan and Speier became concerned about these rumors and decided to travel to South America and check it out for themselves. The visit ended with Ryan receiving 45 bullets by members of the Peoples Temple as Speier and Ryan were loading people onto an escape craft. Ryan was “the first and only member of Congress to be assassinated outside of the country,” recounted Speier.
Speier received 5 shots along her right leg as they were loading people onto an escape craft.To stay alive, she “played dead” until the shooters had left, and spent 22 hours waiting for medical assistance. But as she was lifted onto a plane with the words “United States of America,” written on the side Speier recalled that she felt as if someone had “wrapped [her] in the American flag,” and from this experience she hopes students realize that “we are so lucky to live in this country,” and to have the rights, responsibilities, and privileges that we do. She also hopes her story will set an example for students, encourage people to continue fighting, pursue their dreams, and never give up.
Speier’s story of Jonestown appeared to have a great impact on students. Senior Sam Lash commented that “It’s miraculous that she survived because those conditions are not something that anyone should have to go through.” In agreeance, senior Lian Bensaadon and junior Ellie Fulkerson both found her story extremely “inspiring”.
Following her story, Speier told the crowd that she ran for Ryan’s seat in Congress after her recovery, and unlike the expected, she lost. Proudly, Speier explained that she is a three time loser: she lost student body president, lost the first time she ran for congress, and lost for Lieutenant Governor of California. As she looked around the room she exclaimed to students, “Never ever be afraid to fail” and “Never take another day for granted.” Speier then told the students how she didn’t let her losses discourage her, and how she then ran for the Board of Supervisors, to become the youngest member to serve on said board. Six years later she ran for the State Assembly, and she won by 505 votes which she used as an example to show students how powerful it is to vote; every vote counts. She also became “The first Legislative to have a baby in office” then the “oldest legislative in office.”
Speier then openly shared a tragic part of her life. When she was three months pregnant with her second child, Speier’s husband died in an automobile accident, and in that one moment, she instantly became a widow, and quickly started falling into bankruptcy. Speier believes that the reason she was able to survive was due to her “Nucleus of family, friends, and faith,” there to support her. Speier hoped that students walk away from her story realizing that life will not be a smooth road; there will be bumps, and we will be bruised, but we must always get up and embrace our failures in order to succeed. As Bensaadon pointed out, Speier has similar values as dtech, “like, never give up and failing is good,” and she truly is “a real life example of that.”
The floor was then opened up to questions, giving students the opportunity to ask Speier what they wished. She discussed her resolution of the Equal Rights Amendment which would have Congress strike the deadline date from the resolution so it does not stop the Equal Rights Amendment from being enacted. It passed the House last week.
Speier also shared some of her role in the “Me Too” movement. She focused on the topic of sexual harassment in Congress and making laws to protect victims. She hopes that her work will help people feel safer going to work, because “That’s what it’s all about,” said Speier.
For anyone interested in pursuing politics and changing the world, Speier explained that she is open to and actively encourages students to sign up to be an intern at her office.
Speier hopes that students will walk away from her talk with a sense of strength, ability to embrace failure, and the feeling of hope that change is possible if we believe.