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Nancy Pelosi to speak at Smith College commencement

  • U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi will speak at the Smith College commencement ceremony in May. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SMITH COLLEGE

Staff Writer
Published: 2/20/2020 5:39:40 PM
Modified: 2/20/2020 5:39:26 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, will address the Smith College class of 2020 during May’s commencement ceremony, the college announced Thursday.

“Well, class of 2020, I hope you’re happy — I’m sure happy,” Smith College President Kathleen McCartney said in announcing Pelosi as the commencement speaker. “We’re going to have a great commencement.”

McCartney was greeted by loud cheers, a standing ovation, and chants of “Nancy” just after the announcement, though reception on social media was mixed. Some expressed excitement over Pelosi’s selection while others criticized her for her stance on issues such as the Patriot Act and health care policies.

McCartney made the announcement at the college’s annual Rally Day, where Smith honors distinguished alumnae and invites seniors to wear their graduation gown for the first time.

In its announcement, the college recognized Pelosi for a “long and distinguished career in public service that has helped shape and define women’s leadership.” Pelosi was first elected speaker of the House in 2007, making her the first woman to serve in the role and the highest-ranking elected woman in the U.S. government’s history. She served two terms before Republicans took control of the House in 2011. Now in her third term as speaker, Pelosi is second-in-line to the U.S. presidency after Vice President Mike Pence.

Pelosi will also be awarded an honorary degree at the ceremony. She is not a stranger to the Five Colleges, having spoken at the Mount Holyoke College’s commencement in 2018.

The commencement ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 17, in the Smith College quadrangle, with the Indoor Track and Tennis Facility serving as a backup location in the event of inclement weather. Seating is limited to graduates and their families due to capacity restrictions.

Alongside Pelosi, Smith will also award honorary degrees to Gwen Agna, longtime principal of Jackson Street School; Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; United Way executive director and co-founder Cristina Jiménez; the Rev. Gloria Elaine White-Hammond of Harvard Divinity School and Boston’s Bethel AME Church; and author, editor and Smith alumna Hanya Yanagihara.

Gazette intern Jemma Stephenson contributed to this report.Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at

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