Ever since she was a teenager, Jane Harman knew she wanted to go into politics.
In high school, she went to see John F. Kennedy speak at the Democratic convention, where he said the famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Hearing those words transformed her, Harman says, and she knew immediately that she wanted to be a politician. She went on to study government at Smith College, and then law at Harvard University.
In 1992, she ran for Congress — one of the few primaries at that time, which featured two women — and won. Harman’s teenage dream came true.
“You have to find your own way,” she said. “And if you don’t try, and if you don’t dream big, you won’t have an interesting life.”
“LA Stories” host Giselle Fernandez sat down with Harman, who opened up about her nine terms in Congress. During this time, she became a leading voice on national security and aerospace.
Harman wrote a book about what she learned, titled “Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Makes Us Less Safe,” where she dissects America’s security status and discusses the missteps and failures.
She includes her vote to invade Iraq after the 9/11 terrorist attacks as one of her missteps, saying the intelligence she had was inaccurate.
“These are the issues that I lived,” she said. “And I got some right, and I got some wrong.”
After Congress, Harman became the first female president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. Today, she is chair of the Commission on the National Defense Strategy and sits on the NASA Advisory Council.
As a woman in often male-dominated spaces, Harman says she tapped into her self-confidence and let her work speak for itself.
“My theory is just be excellent,” she said. “Do what you are passionate about, do it as well as you can, and that stands out.”
Watch "LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez" at 9 p.m. every Monday on Spectrum News 1.