Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau: Author News
Homeland Security Starts at Home: A Conversation with Juliette Kayyem


Mar 15, 2017

Adrienne M. Penta
March 8, 2017

In this interview, homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem shares her insights on how to foster resiliency and how to keep your home and your family safe, as well as practical tips on preparedness.
Juliette Kayyem is among the top experts on homeland security in the United States. The CNN analyst, author of Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland and Your Home, Belfer Lecturer in International Security at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, founder of Kayyem Solutions, LLC and assistant secretary of former President Barack Obama’s Homeland Security team has handled some of the country’s largest disasters of the 21st century. Women & Wealth Magazine recently sat down with Kayyem to discuss her road to a career in national security, preparedness and resiliency in an unpredictable world, what we can do to keep ourselves and each other strong and safe and how to speak with our children about security, among other topics.

How did you begin your career in national security?
I started working in the late 1990s at the Department of Justice as a lawyer focused on civil rights issues. I worked on a few national security cases because national security affects civil rights. When 9/11 happened, my career took a turn. There were so few people in national security and counterterrorism at the time that those of us with subject matter expertise in the field – mine being in law – became known as experts. That led to various academic, corporate and government positions over the course of my career. I don’t think of myself as a counterterrorism expert, even though I started that way. The field is changing, and there is more focus on the wider range of issues that can happen beyond terrorism – cybersecurity breaches, climate change, active shooters and so forth. My goal is to prepare people for a world in which there is vulnerability.

Where were you on 9/11?
We were living in Boston, and I had a trip planned that day to New York City with my five-week-old baby. While my husband was dropping us off at the train station, we heard about the first plane hitting the tower. The thought of terrorism didn’t cross my mind, despite all of the warnings of a catastrophic attack. I got on the train, and not too long after we left, my husband called me to tell me the second tower had been hit. Still, the train continued heading to New York City – there were no protocols.
I started getting phone calls because I was considered knowledgeable about this field, but while rumors were circulating, no one knew what was actually going on. At one point, the young woman next to me who had overheard my conversations turned and said in tears, “I just want to go home. I don’t know what’s going on. What should we do?” It hit me then that it was my responsibility both as an expert and a mother to take action. I told her we didn’t know what was happening in New York and that we needed to get off the train. That message started spreading throughout the car. Eventually, I stood up on a bench and told everyone to get off, and the train evacuated in New Haven, Connecticut. It wasn’t until we were in the station that I saw the images of the towers going down and got in touch with my husband to pick me up.

As an expert in the field, what did that experience teach you about preparedness and trusting your gut?
Two things. One was that when people are given information, they will behave and follow protocols. People can take a certain amount of responsibility. The other thing is that family unification is the guiding force for everyone. Knowing that your kids, spouse or parents are safe goes a long way toward resiliency. So that is how I have spent my career. I like to prepare people, communities and businesses to respond to unexpected events in the most effective manner because we cannot get rid of vulnerability, no matter how hard we try.

Continue reading interview here.