Rep. Jackie Speier addresses political concerns
February 14, 2017
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“Truth and Justice for All,” “Resist and Persist,” and “We Support Jackie” were just some of the signs carried into the auditorium of Lowell High School on Feb.11 at the “Conversation about America” event featuring Rep. Jackie Speier.
The event, organized by the Lowell PTSA, aimed to provide residents of California’s 14th House district with the opportunity to ask questions of their federal representative.
“We live in unsettled times and people in our community have concerns and fears,” said Stan Goldberg, President of the PTSA. “I felt that having a forum to ask questions and hear answers would benefit the community [to] understand what the situation is.”
As microphones were passed around the theater, dozens took the opportunity to propose questions to their government representative. One of the most commonly addressed topics was the mandate of newly-elected President Donald Trump.
One constituent expressed concern over the possibility of a “Trump-centered autocracy.”
Speier responded, “I think that’s a legitimate concern, but it’s really incumbent on us to make sure we don’t ever get there.”
This sentiment was reflected by many of the attendees. A request of Speier to “please lead us” received thunderous applause.
While many constituents asked the representative questions concerning rhetoric and electoral strategy, others asked about policy positions. With the controversy of Trump’s recent executive order, people questioned Speier about her position and recourse on the issue.
“I moved to this country about eight years back for my graduate degree at Stanford […] and I’m going to be dead before I get my green card,” said one resident, referring to the widely-criticized H1B immigration quota, which Trump has threatened to lower. “I wanted to request your leadership and cosponsorship.”
Speier shared her personal insights that proved to be valuable advice to many.
“If we go to the effort of encouraging foreign students to come here, be educated here, get advanced degrees here; why wouldn’t we want them to stay here?” Speier responded. “That’s something that I absolutely do support.”
Healthcare was another popular topic that arose. Amidst widespread republican congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by former President Barack Obama, controversy has arisen over whether or not the party has a replacement.
Speier said the best way to maintain the law is to “resist and persist.”
One of the most discussed issues of present times is the moral debate of Planned Parenthood and its jurisdiction on second-trimester abortion.
“I’ve had a second-trimester abortion in a tragic situation where I lost the fetus,” said Speier. “So I stood up on the [House] floor and talked about that. I said, ‘How can you speak about something you know nothing about?’”
The audience responded with a standing ovation.
“I’m really proud of her for speaking truth to power,” said Nancy Williams-Baron, a San Francisco resident who felt invigorated by Speier’s words. “I’m afraid I might have to start going to demonstrations. It isn’t my personal inclination, but it may be that duty calls.”
Others felt that solutions to problems lay in the hands of the community’s students and youth.
“I feel the only hope we have as a society is to teach our young to advocate,” Goldberg said. “That is why I have five students on my executive board.”
At Carlmont, some students advocate similar priorities. Michael Atkin, a sophomore, emphasizes the importance of civic engagement.
“While individual actions, like attending town halls and contacting congressmen, may seem minuscule, in aggregate they cause the general population to be better informed about politics,” Atkin said.
Despite the efforts of Speier to address the fears of her constituency, some were still critical of her leadership.
“It’s like we’re on the Titanic, and we’re talking about we need to have better running water in the rooms, but the Titanic is sinking,” said one attendee.
A full recording of the event can be found here.