Passionate drivers of political change and government insiders, former Senator Wendy Davis and political analyst Michael Steele turn a critical eye to the issues voters are focusing on today.
Former Texas State Senator and philanthropist Wendy Davis is renowned as a passionate advocate for women in social, economic, and political spheres. Davis emerged as a leader in the national conversation after a 13-hour filibuster in the Texas Senate to stop a legislative effort that would have dramatically reduced women’s access to healthcare. Through Davis’ work founding Deeds Not Words, she is shaping the next generation of leaders and directly working to foster diversity, inclusivity, and change at the highest levels of business and government. Davis combines the power of personal storytelling with her deep policy understanding to explain why equitable policies matter in the lives of women as well as the overall health and vibrancy of our economy.
Former Chair of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele brings an inside perspective to the challenges facing both parties in an age of deep political divide. Steele made history in 2003 as the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland, and again with his subsequent chairmanship of the RNC. A self-described "Lincoln Republican," he also served as Chairman of the GOPAC. Steele consistently gets rave reviews, such as: "He was phenomenal. What a perfectly brilliant evening...I felt refreshed and a renewed sense of ‘can do’ after listening to him speak. I’m grateful to have found myself also inspired." (Western Carolina University)
In a discussion considering both speakers’ political perspectives, Wendy Davis and Michael Steele take audiences behind the curtain to explore the mechanisms driving domestic politics today.
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Former Texas State Senator and Founder of the non-profit Deeds Not Words, Wendy Davis is renowned as a passionate advocate for women in social, economic and political spheres. After skyrocketing to near celebrity status through her historic 13-hour filibuster in the Texas Senate to stop a legislative effort that would have dramatically reduced women’s access to healthcare, Davis emerged as a leader in the national conversation surrounding women’s leadership and issues which threaten our individual opportunities. Long before she was a Texas State Senator and Texas’ Democratic nominee for Governor in 2014, Davis struggled with the same obstacles faced by women around the country. Determined to break the cycle of poverty she’d been born into, Davis fought to juggle school, career and single motherhood and uses those experiences to connect with others in order to shape perspective. Through Davis’ work at Deeds Not Words, for which she earned a spot on Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business,” she is shaping the next generation of leaders and directly working to foster diversity, inclusivity, and change at the highest levels of business and government.
At the podium, Davis combines the power of personal storytelling with her deep policy understanding to explain why equitable policies matter in the lives of women as well as the overall health and vibrancy of our economy, guiding organizations across industries toward a better understanding of the institutional value in creating diverse work environments, and key issues such as pay equity, family leave, and harassment policies. A living testament to the ability we each possess to rise above challenges and succeed, Davis demonstrates the power of each of our unique voices, and the value in raising them for what we believe in. Audiences are left inspired to utilize their individual strengths into meaningful contributions, and organizations are left with the tools and insights needed to advance positive change.
As former chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), Michael Steele was charged with revitalizing the Republican Party. He is an expert on political strategy, fund-raising, PACs, and election reform. Steele made history in 2003 as the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland, and again with his subsequent chairmanship of the RNC. A self-described "Lincoln Republican," he also served as Chairman of the GOPAC. Under Steele's leadership, the RNC broke fundraising records in the 2010 cycle by raising more than $192 million and Republicans won 63 House seats, the biggest pickup since 1938.
Wendy Davis is the founding director of Deeds Not Words, a non-profit that seeks to empower and activate the voices of young women. She is a former Texas State Senator, 2014 Texas Democratic Gubernatorial nominee, frequent public speaker, business owner and author. Davis gained national prominence in 2013 when she held a 13-hour filibuster to protect women’s reproductive freedoms in Texas. Her fight ultimately led to a successful and landmark decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, strengthening the landscape for abortion rights throughout the country.
Raised by a single mother with a ninth-grade education, Davis began working after school at age fourteen to contribute to the family finances. By the time she was nineteen, she was living in a trailer park with a baby daughter and holding down two jobs. Yet Davis became the first person in her family to attend and graduate from college, ultimately graduating first in her class at TCU and with honors from Harvard Law School.
She clerked and litgated before starting her own practice for federal and local government affairs, real estate, and contract compliance. Davis spent nine years on the Fort Worth City Council, focusing on neighborhood economic development.
She was elected to the Texas state senate in 2008. There she sponsored bills on everything from cancer prevention to payday lending to protecting victims of sexual assault to government transparency. In 2011, she lead the fight against a state budget that underfunded public schools by $5 billion, and two years later saw most of the funding replaced. This resulted in the Republican-led house to strip her of her position on the education committee. It was not the only effort to silence her. She narrowly won her 2012 election after federal courts threw out a Republican gerrymandering plan that affected only her district.
In 2016, Davis founded Deeds Not Words to give women the tools needed to make real progress – teaching the skills necessary for legislative victory, grassroots activism, and advocacy success.
Davis is frequently invited to appear on MSNBC and CNN, and contributes regularly to publications such as Time, Cosmo, Teen Vogue, The Hill and many more. In 2014, Davis released her autobiography Forgetting to Be Afraid.
Now, as a tireless and tenacious champion for women’s rights, Davis knows no change comes without walking the walk. From her 13-hour filibuster in the Texas State Senate to her legislative efforts to support the LGBT community, Davis has pushed for progress. Again and again. And she’s still pushing.
Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee, and former Lieutenant governor of Maryland, and the first African American elected to statewide office in Maryland. Until recently he was President and CEO of The Steele Group, a consulting firm working with institutional and individual clients to design overall business development, investor, networking, and communications strategies.
Mr. Steele is currently a political analyst for MSNBC. Mr. Steele’s ability as a communicator and analyst have long been showcased by his position as a contributor on the Fox News Channel and as a regular host for the Salem Radio Network’s nationally syndicated Morning in America Show. Additionally, Mr. Steele has been an entertaining and eloquent guest on cable political talk shows such as HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher and Comedy Central’s Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
As chairman of the RNC, Mr. Steele was charged with revitalizing the Republican Party. A self-described “Lincoln Republican,” under Steele’s leadership the RNC broke fundraising records (over $198 million raised during the 2010 Congressional cycle) and Republicans won 63 House seats, the biggest pickup since 1938. His commitment to grassroots organization and party building at the state and local levels produced 12 governorships and the greatest share of state legislative seats since 1928 (over 600 seats).
As Lt. Governor of Maryland, Mr. Steele’s priorities included reforming the state’s Minority Business Enterprise program, improving the quality of Maryland’s public education system (he championed the State’s historic Charter School law), expanding economic development in the state and fostering cooperation between government and faith-based organizations to help those in need.
Mr. Steele writes a regular column for The Root.com and BET.com and his writings on law, business and politics have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, Politico.com, Townhall.com, ,The Journal of International Security Affairs and Catholic University Law Review, among others. He is the recent author of Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda, which is a call to arms for grassroots America.
Born at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Mr. Steele was raised in Washington, DC. He spent three years in the Order of St. Augustine in preparation for the priesthood. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University (‘81’), Georgetown Law Center (’91), and an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership. Mr. Steele is a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Landover Hills, MD, where he attends mass regularly with his wife Andrea.