BY ALLYSON HUNTOON ’19
Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 114th Congress, will be speaking at Mount Holyoke College’s 181st commencement on Sunday, May 20.
Leader Pelosi has represented California’s 12th District in Congress for 30 years, and she was the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House, a position she held from 2007 to 2011. She has also acted as House minority whip and chair of the California Democratic Party.
Liz Brown ’20, Student Government Association Senate chair and an active member of Mount Holyoke Democrats, said, “I am so thrilled and excited to have Nancy Pelosi speaking at commencement — talk about a woman who has broken glass ceilings! She’s a trail blazer.”
An inductee of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Pelosi has been an outspoken proponent of the women’s rights movement. “Nothing is more wholesome for our country than the increased participation of women in government, business and the academic world and the leadership of our country,” Pelosi said in 2011 while accepting an award at the Women: Inspiration and Enterprise Symposium, according to the Huffington Post.
During the Obama administration, Speaker Pelosi was instrumental in the passage of major legislation, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Wall Street reforms, health care policy and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She also oversaw the success of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which aims to ensure that women and workers have the ability to fight pay discrimination in court, helping to decrease unfair wage disparity.
A women’s college alumna, Pelosi has a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity College, now Trinity Washington University.
President of Mount Holyoke Republicans Kassy Dillon ’18 has mixed feelings about the announcement of Pelosi’s presence at commencement. Dillon nominated Elaine Chao ’75 to speak at the ceremony, saying, “[Elaine Chao] is the most powerful Mount Holyoke alum out there right now.” Chao graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1975 and currently serves the Trump administration as Secretary of Transportation. “Even though I disagree with Nancy Pelosi on quite a lot,” Dillon added, “I’m happy to have a big name coming to graduation. It’s quite the goodbye.”
Pelosi was announced alongside two other honorary degree candidates, Dr. Sonia Nieto and Dr. Shirley J. Wilcher ’73. Both Nieto and Wilcher have been influential figures in social justice as they devoted their careers to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Sarah McCool ’18 is excited to hear Pelosi speak at the ceremony. McCool, an international relations major, said of Pelosi, “She has had a long and distinguished career in the House of Representatives, and I’m sure that whatever she chooses to say will be a worthwhile addition to our campus conversation.”