By Keely Savoie
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will deliver the keynote speech at Mount Holyoke College’s 181st Commencement.
The ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 20, at 10:30 a.m. in the Gettell Amphitheater. During the ceremony, Pelosi, who is accustomed to standing up for her ideals, will stand up to address Mount Holyoke’s graduating seniors as they prepare to take flight.
A graduate of both an all-girls high school and Trinity College (now Trinity Washington University), a women’s college in Washington, D.C., Pelosi is a testament to the power of women’s education, a woman who has wielded her power to effect change in the world.
“Nancy embodies the power of a women’s education in developing leaders,” said Rahael Rawson ’18, senior class president. “No one is going to give us power or leadership.”
Pelosi has held a seat in the House of Representatives for more than 30 years. While the seat itself has shifted from minority to majority and back again over the course of her tenure, one thing has remained steady: Pelosi’s dogged commitment to the business of implementing democratic (not just Democratic) ideals.
A champion of the people, Pelosi was instrumental in helping President Barack Obama pass the first major piece of legislation in his presidency: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She also led the charge to repeal the U.S. military’s anti-LGBT “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and to enact the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which implemented key rules to safeguard clean energy and combat climate change. Under Pelosi’s leadership, the House also passed sweeping ethics reform legislation to hold politicians to a higher standard.
Pelosi embodies the Mount Holyoke spirit as a ground-breaker, a warrior and a world-changer. In 2001 she became the first-ever female minority whip. In 2007, she became the first-ever woman Speaker of the House. In 2013, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, where America’s first women’s rights convention was held.
Now the Democratic leader of the House, Pelosi focuses her efforts on holding back the wave of anti-women, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT legislation, and promoting legislation to improve lives and expand jobs and opportunities, especially in more vulnerable populations.
At Mount Holyoke’s Commencement ceremony, Pelosi will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from Mount Holyoke. She will be joined by Sonia Nieto and Shirley Wilcher ’73.
Nieto will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for her work in diversity, equity, and social justice and education. She is professor emerita of language, culture and teaching in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; and Wilcher, who is executive director of the American Association for Access Equity and Diversity, will be awarded a Doctor of Laws for her lifetime’s work on equal opportunity and diversity policy.