Pre-Institute Training Speaker
Heather Booth is a leading strategist about progressive issues and electoral campaigns. She has been an organizer starting in the civil rights, anti-Vietnam war and women’s movements of the 1960s and continuing through today. She created JANE, an underground abortion service started before Roe. She Directed the Action Committee for Decent Childcare which helped lead the fight to win $1million for childcare in Chicago and revision of childcare licensing laws.
She was the founding Director and is now President of the Midwest Academy, training social change leaders and organizers (www.midwestacademy.com). She has been involved in and managed political campaigns including for Mayor Washington and Carol Mosely Braun, and was the Training Director of the Democratic National Committee. In 2000, she was the Director of the NAACP National Voter Fund, which helped to increase African American election turnout by nearly 2 million voters. She was the lead consultant, directing the founding of the Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2005.
In 2008, she was the director of the Health Care Campaign for the AFL-CIO. In 2009, she directed the campaign passing President Obama’s first budget. In 2010 she was the founding director of Americans for Financial Reform, fighting to regulate the financial industry. She was the national coordinator for the coalition around marriage equality and the 2013 Supreme Court decision. She was a strategic advisor to the Alliance for Citizenship (the largest coalition of the immigration reform campaign). She was Field Director for Americans for Tax Fairness to stop the tax cuts for millionaires that could lead to cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and education. She is now working on a project to lower prescription drug prices and confront the power of PhRMA.
Opening Dinner Speaker
Vanita Gupta is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. Before joining The Leadership Conference in June 2017, Gupta served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Appointed in October 2014 by President Barack Obama as the chief civil rights prosecutor for the United States, Gupta oversaw a wide range of criminal and civil enforcement efforts to ensure equal justice and protect the equal opportunity for all during one of the most consequential periods for the division. Under Gupta’s leadership, the division did critical work in a number of areas, including advancing constitutional policing and criminal justice reform; prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking; promoting disability rights; protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals; ensuring voting rights for all; and combating discrimination in education, housing, employment, lending, and religious exercise.
Prior to joining the Justice Department, Gupta served as Deputy Legal Director and the Director of the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she launched the Smart Justice Campaign to end mass incarceration. She joined the ACLU in 2006 as a staff attorney. Gupta began her legal career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she litigated a series of landmark wrongful drug conviction cases in Tulia, Texas. Gupta graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and received her law degree from New York University School of Law, where later she taught a civil rights litigation clinic for several years.
Opening Plenary Speakers
Alex Wind is 18 years old and was a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th, 2018. Since that day he has worked hard to encourage youth political involvement and advocated for gun violence protection legislation. He is a founder of March For Our Lives.
Samantha Deitsch, 16, was born and raised in Parkland, FL. Following the mass shooting that occurred at her school on her 15th birthday, she began finding her voice in the fight to save lives using this as a way to cope with her loss friends. Publishing a poem in the immediate aftermath that earned her a Time Magazine contribution credit, she began to step into the activism space.
Meet our Women Who Dared Honorees
Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates is a partner in King & Spalding’s Special Matters & Government Investigations practice. Sally’s deep experience, leadership, and wide-ranging background provide clients with seasoned judgment in difficult times. Her practice focuses on counseling clients in complex and sensitive matters, including government enforcement and regulatory matters, compliance, corporate governance, and crisis management. Drawing upon her nearly three decades at the Department of Justice, she specializes in internal and independent investigations for public and private organizations and boards.
As the second-highest ranking official at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and as Acting Attorney General, Sally was responsible for all of DOJ’s 113,000 employees including all prosecutorial, litigating, and national security components. She also was responsible for all U.S. Attorney’s offices and law enforcement agencies and the Bureau of Prisons. Sally oversaw DOJ’s most significant matters and was instrumental in setting DOJ’s enforcement priorities and initiatives.
Known for her lifelong, nonpartisan focus on public corruption, Sally is recognized worldwide for her integrity and credibility. An accomplished trial lawyer and Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, Sally has tried numerous high-profile case
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp served as the first female senator elected from North Dakota from
2013-2019. Senator Heitkamp courageously voted against Justice Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the
Supreme Court after hearing testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford
and Kavanaugh’s response testimony.
Throughout her time in public service, Senator Heitkamp has stood up for tribal communities
and worked to improve outcomes for Native American children, women, and families. The first
bill she introduced in the Senate, which became law in 2016, created a Commission on Native
Children. Her bill with former Senator John McCain became law to create Amber Alerts in Indian
Country. She introduced Savanna’s Act to help address the crisis of missing and murdered
indigenous women. And she worked to help address the detrimental impact exposure to trauma
can have on children and families – particularly those in Native communities.
Senator Heitkamp also worked to combat human trafficking across the country, and around the world. She helped write legislation, which was signed into law, to crack down on human trafficking online, which led to the closure of Backpage.com.
Senator Heitkamp has pushed to make health care more affordable and accessible. She fought back against efforts to repeal the health reform law and tried to make the law work better for families and businesses. She halted attempts to slash Medicaid and Medicare or privatize Social Security. Senator Heitkamp received a B.A. from the University of North Dakota and a law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School. She lives in Mandan, North Dakota with her husband, Dr. Darwin Lange, a family practitioner. They have two children, Ali and Nathan.
Meet our Social Action Awardee
Cecile Richards is a national leader for women’s rights and social and economic justice, and the author of New York Times bestseller Make Trouble. As President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund for 12 years, Richards worked to increase affordable access to reproductive health care and to build a healthier and safer world for women and young people. After starting her career as a labor organizer, working with women earning the minimum wage, she went on to start her own grassroots organizations and later served as Deputy Chief of Staff to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2011 and 2012, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Richards is a frequent speaker and commentator on politics and progressive issues. She and her husband, Kirk Adams, have three children and live in New York City and Maine.