Pelosi to give commencement address at Mount Holyoke

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday. AP PHOTO

Published: 4/12/2018 9:48:48 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be the 2018 commencement speaker at Mount Holyoke College this May.

According to an announcement on the college’s website, “Pelosi embodies the Mount Holyoke spirit as a ground-breaker, a warrior and a world-changer.”

Pelosi, a Democrat, has represented California’s 12th District, which encompasses most of San Francisco, in Congress for 30 years. An inductee to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, she became the first female minority whip in 2001 and the first female speaker of the House in 2007.

“Nancy Pelosi holds an exceptional record of leadership in public service,” said Sonya Stephens, the college’s acting president. “She represents what women can do, and serves as a role model for those wanting to lead at the highest level in any sector. She is, therefore, an ideal commencement speaker; one who will inspire our graduates to accomplish great things in their own careers.”

The college’s announcement said Pelosi is a “testament to the power of women’s education, a woman who has wielded her power to effect change in the world,” and singled out Pelosi’s work with the Obama administration on the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and enacting the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

“Nancy embodies the power of a women’s education in developing leaders,” senior class president Rahael Rawson said in the announcement. “No one is going to give us power or leadership.”

Pelosi is a graduate of Trinity College, now named Trinity Washington University, a women’s college in Washington, D.C.

Kassy Dillon, president of Mount Holyoke Republicans, said she would have preferred that Secretary of Transportation and Mount Holyoke alum Elaine Chao had been selected, but said she is happy to have a high-profile speaker nonetheless.

“I certainly disagree with Nancy Pelosi on most issues,” Dillon said. “As someone who has been a very vocal conservative on campus, and often ostracized by my peers, I see this as an interesting goodbye, almost humorous.”

Lenore Reilly, senior adviser to the president at Mount Holyoke, said the college is delighted to welcome Pelosi to campus to deliver the commencement address and said that all candidates for honorary degrees are selected based on a life and work of excellence, distinction and achievement that is characterized by integrity and commitment to Mount Holyoke humanitarian values.

Pelosi will receive an honorary doctorate of laws at the ceremony. Sonia Nieto will be awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters for her work in diversity, equity, and social justice and education, and 1973 alumna Shirley Wilcher will be awarded a doctor of laws degree for her lifetime’s work on equal opportunity and diversity policy, according to the announcement.

The ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 20, at 10:30 a.m. in the Gettell Amphitheater at Mount Holyoke College.

M.J. Tidwell can be reached at
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