Institute of Politics

Jackie Speier

Former U.S. Representative from California

  • Spring 2024 Pritzker Fellow

  • Seminar Series: "The Politics of the Personal: Jackie Speier’s Legislative Agenda That Found Its Roots in Life"


Jackie Speier is a former U.S. Congresswoman for California’s 14th district, where she served from 2008 to 2023. Before that, she served on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the California State Assembly and the California Senate, bringing her total time in public service to over 40 years.

Jackie is a fierce advocate for women’s rights, gun violence prevention, health care, LGBTQ+ rights, and the care of service members and veterans. Her decade-long fight in Congress against sexual assault in the military earned her recognition by Newsweek Magazine as a top “150 Fearless Women of the World.” She was named one of Politico’s 50 most influential people for bringing the “Me Too” reckoning to Congress.

In the California State Legislature, Jackie had a record 300 bills become law and authored the nation’s strongest state financial privacy law, the Gender Tax Repeal Act and jockeyed the assault weapon ban.

While working as a legislative counsel to Congressman Leo Ryan in 1978, and investigating the People’s Temple cult, she was shot five times and the Congressman was assassinated in the Jonestown massacre in Guyana.

Jackie is the author of two bestselling books, Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage and Fighting Back and This Is Not the Life I Ordered. She is a graduate of the University of California College of Law and the University of California, Davis. She is married to Barry Dennis and has two children and an adorable goldendoodle dog named Emma.


"The Politics of the Personal: Jackie Speier’s Legislative Agenda That Found Its Roots in Life"

Former Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D- CA) spent nearly 15 years in Congress passionately advocating for gun safety, women’s equality, LGBTQ rights and strengthening American security and targeting military waste. In many cases, life begot laws. She first ran for Congress in 1979, after Rep Leo J. Ryan, for whom she worked as a legislative counsel, was shot to death at the Jonestown cult of the People’s Temple in Guyana. Speier traveled with Ryan on that trip in 1978 in an attempt to rescue some of the cult’s 900 members; she was shot five times at point blank range and left to die on the airport tarmac. In 2011, during an intense, late-night debate over abortion, Speier surprised colleagues and herself by revealing her own abortion experience. In 2017, she brought the MeToo movement to Congress by sharing her own experience of workplace misconduct when she was a Congressional aide and led landmark legislation to reduce sexual violence within the military. Speier will discuss how dissent, perseverance and passion come together to give purpose to a life in public service.

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