Pelosi tells Mount Holyoke grads to make lists, be ready to lead

  • Sonia Nieto receives an honorary doctor of humane letters during the Mount Holyoke College commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sonia Nieto speaks after receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters during the Mount Holyoke College commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shirley J. Wilcher speaks after receiving an honorary doctor of laws during the Mount Holyoke College commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, listens as she is introduced by Mount Holyoke College Acting President and President-Elect Sonya Stephens during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, listens as she is introduced by Mount Holyoke College Acting President and President-Elect Sonya Stephens during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduates applaud during a speech by Shirley J. Wilcher during the commencement Sunday. Wilcher received an honorary doctor of laws. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, speaks during the Mount Holyoke College commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, listens as she is introduced by Mount Holyoke College Acting President and President-Elect Sonya Stephens during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, receives an honorary doctor of laws during the Mount Holyoke College commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during the Mount Holyoke College commencement Sunday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, speaks during the Mount Holyoke College commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, speaks during the Mount Holyoke College commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, speaks during the Mount Holyoke College commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduates applaud as the conferring of degrees begins during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Sarah Amy Bowen Byrne walks off the stage after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Shanza Noeen walks off the stage after receiving her diploma during commencement Sunday at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex in South Hadley. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Mary Flanagan Libbey walks off the stage after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Rochelle Alexandra Malter walks off the stage after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Alondra Reyes celebrates after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Epyana Yvonne Smith walks off the stage after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Mika Tai Huan Becker McKinney walks off the stage after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Amelia Elizabeth Quimby celebrates after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Sara Jane Angell Frances Therrien walks off the stage after receiving her diploma during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduate Umama Zillur receives her diploma from Sonya Stephens, acting president and president-elect, during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mount Holyoke College graduates move their mortar board tassels after receiving their diplomas during commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018 at Kendall Sports and Dance Complex. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Families and friends gather outside Kendall Sports and Dance Complex after the Mount Holyoke College commencement, Sunday, May 20, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 5/20/2018 9:54:34 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — “Nothing is more wholesome for government and politics than the increased participation of women,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the graduating class of Mount Holyoke College on Sunday morning, eliciting a sustained roar of applause.

The featured speaker at Mount Holyoke’s 181st commencement, Pelosi is the first woman to ever become speaker of the House, serving from 2007 to 2011.

In doing so, she attained the highest political office ever held by any female politician in American history to date.

“It is my great honor to bring congratulations to the Mount Holyoke College class of 2018 from the United States Congress,” she said.

In her address, she told the graduates to make a list of goals and to move forward with courage and confidence in achieving those goals, as her personal hero and Mount Holyoke alumna, Frances Perkins, had done before them.

“Frances Perkins upended the ways of the past and created a new path to the future,” she said, noting that Perkins’ list of goals became realities when she tirelessly fought for a 40-hour workweek, minimum wage, a ban on child labor and social security.

“She was the first woman to serve in a U.S. Cabinet, she came prepared, and she had a list,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said she never thought 30 years ago that she would go from the kitchen to the Congress, or from being a homemaker to being the House speaker, but when called to do so, she had her own list that she brought to the table.

“It was about children, their health, education, the economic safety of their families, and having a beautiful, safe environment in which they can thrive, be safe, succeed and achieve their aspirations,” she said.

Pelosi referenced women and young people marching throughout the nation for issues like Black Lives Matter, women’s health, education, science, disability rights, veterans issues, social justice, and ending gun violence.

“They are marching to save our democracy,” she said.

Pelosi said this was a historic moment in time, one that the graduates must help shape.

“You are empowered by your own authenticity,” she said. “Know your power, and use it, and make a list, because we need you to be ready. You are our future and you are critical to making change at this unprecedented point in America.”

Aiza Amjad Malik, a biochemistry major from Pakistan, gave the student address, also emphasizing the courage and power of her classmates as well as their responsibilities to the world at large.

“Today we emerge as activists, artists, scientists, critical thinkers and we also emerge as something more — we emerge as global citizens,” she said.

Encouraging her fellow students to embrace their innate strength, Malik quoted the writer Alice Walker in saying, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

“We have been taught to never fear backslash change,” she said referencing a Mount Holyoke campaign, “never fear/change,” that honors the school’s history while challenging the college and community to be self-aware, future focused, and optimistic.

Malik said the notion of Mount Holyoke being a “bubble” unlike the real world was something that she would dispute, challenging her classmates to bring the full breadth and depth of what they have learned, and who they have become, into the world.

“Be intentional, and be compassionate. Class of 2018, let’s begin,” she said.

After graduation, Malik plans to work on issues of human health and wellness.

Parents, family and friends beamed with pride as the graduates entered Kendal Field House where the ceremony was held due to the threat of rain.

Adil Khalil and his wife, Arshiya Shahab, of Sarasota, Florida, said they couldn’t be more proud of their daughter Miral Khalil, who graduated with a degree in computer science.

“Her personality grew and she became very confident after coming to Mount Holyoke,” Adil Khalil said. “This isn’t just about education and getting a good job. She has also become a very strong person — that is what this college is all about.”

Stacey Collins of Cumberland, Maine, mother of graduate Rowan Olivia Collins, wept and jumped excitedly as her own mother, Mary Beth Teas, held her in her arms, both women watching with tears streaming down their faces as Rowan, an environmental studies major, passed by in the procession.

Leslie and Leonard Martin of Orchard Lake, Michigan, could barely contain their smiles when talking about their daughter Cymone Martin, a sociology and pre-law major.

“This was a wonderful place for her and she has really spread her wings here, and learned to become a real leader,” Leonard Martin said, noting that Cymone also spent four years on the field hockey team.

“This is everything that a parent can hope for,” Leslie Martin said, adding that Cymone is heading to UMass for graduate school in the fall.

Having received an honorary doctor of laws degree, Pelosi ask the graduates not to forget their classmate in Congress, and some may take her up on that.

Sadikshyra Bhattarai, of Nepal, who received a degree in international relations, is moving to Washington for an internship at the World Resource Institute.

“I feel excited and overwhelmed,” she said. “I keep flashing back to four years ago, and I am no longer that child that came here back then. I feel very prepared.”

Also receiving honorary degrees were Sonia Nieto, and Shirley J. Wilcher, class of ’73.

Nieto is a professor emerita of language, culture and teaching at the University of Massachusetts, where she taught from 1980 to 2006. Her research focuses on multicultural education, teacher education, and the education of students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Wilcher is a leading authority on equal opportunity and diversity policy and is currently executive director of the American Association for Access Equity and Diversity (AAAED).

Over 600 students graduated on Sunday, representing 39 states and 36 nations.




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