About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
October 29, 2019

Good evening, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives.

I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for tonight’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we hear from Congresswoman Jackie Speier, I’d like to tell you about two forthcoming programs in the McGowan Theater.

Tomorrow night at 7 p.m., we will host “Women in Leadership: The Impact of Women on the U.S. Congress.” Guests––including Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Representative Brenda Lawrence, and Representative Debra Lesko––will share their insights. This program is part of our series of events connected to the exhibit Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

And on Friday, November 1, at noon, historian H. W. Brands will tell us about his new book, Dreams of El Dorado: A History of the American West. A book signing will follow the program.

To keep informed about events throughout the year, check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to receive email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Check out their website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about them and join online.

November 1978 was a harrowing month for residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. In the middle of the month, news broke of an incomprehensible massacre in Guyana. And less than two weeks later, the area reeled from the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in City Hall.

Tonight’s guest, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, was part of Congressman Leo Ryan’s delegation to Jonestown, Guyana, which visited the settlement led by Jim Jones to investigate concerns expressed by family members back in California. As they were about to depart, gunmen opened fire. Jackie Speier opens her book with the chilling words, “I was dying.”

Her survival on that horrific day, she wrote, guided her “into the life [she] was meant to live.” For the past 40 years she has pursued a life of public service and now serves in the United States Congress.

In these months leading up to the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, we remember the women who stood up for their rights and beliefs in order to secure women’s right to vote. We also honor the women of the present day who continue to speak up for rights and serve the greater public.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier represents California’s 14th Congressional District in the United States Congress.

She serves on the House Armed Services Committee;  

Chair of the Military Personnel Subcommittee;

the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence;

and the Committee on Oversight and Reform, where she serves on the Subcommittees on Environment and Government Operations.

Speier is also co-chair of the Democratic Women's Caucus, the Congressional Armenian Caucus, the Bipartisan Task Force To End Sexual Violence, and the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

She was named to Newsweek’s list of 150 “Fearless Women” in the world and one of the “Politico 50” most influential people in American politics for bringing the Me Too reckoning to Congress.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Congresswoman Jackie Speier.