Nancy Pelosi, Speaker for the US House of Representatives, will be the Commencement speaker for this spring’s graduating class, according to President Janet Holmgren. Pelosi has been a potential graduation speaker for years and will be visiting Mills College for the first time.
“We have been inviting her for several years when she became Speaker of the House,” said Holmgren. “We were interested in having her speak about being the highest ranking woman, at least in the United States government.”
Some students were not surprised to hear Pelosi would speak.
“I am not surprised because she has been invited before,” said senior Zoe Byrne. “It sounds like it will be more exciting than what I’ve seen of the speakers in the past.”
After back and forth discussions, Pelosi’s office contacted the school Feb. 4 when it knew the congresswoman would available to speak at the May 15 ceremony. Holmgren released a campus-wide announcement that afternoon.
Pelosi spoke in the 2007 Commencement for the University of San Francisco. Holmgren said she also considered Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer, but was told she would be busy during her first year in office.
“I think we’re always excited to have women who demonstrated the traits our students and community to emulate,” she said. “She is a compassionate and strong leader and a leader of social change.”
Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hamill released a statement to The Campanil regarding Pelosi’s speaking engagement.
“The Speaker is honored to accept the invitation to address the 2010 Mills graduates in May and looks forward to discussing the critical priorities that lay ahead for our nation’s next generation of leaders,” he wrote.
Holmgren said she was also excited to have Pelosi come to the College because she has met her several times in the past. She will be traveling to Washington D.C. in March to help Pelosi with her upcoming speech.
“I’d like her to bring a message of strength and hope, a message that she has cracked the glass ceiling,” said Holmgren, who also offered to have student input in what they would like to hear. “A message on how she has used her education and life experience to make the world a better place. We hope lots of students follow in her footsteps.”
Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House in January 2007 and serves the 8th congressional district of San Francisco. Born in Baltimore, Md. she has been involved in politics since the 1970s when she was elected chairwomen of the California Democratic Party in 1977. Pelosi was first voted into the House in 1987.
“I think it’s exciting in particular the reactions I heard from students,” said Dean of Students Joi Lewis. “They seem to be really excited and the position she holds as the first woman Speaker of the House.”
Junior Alex Martinez was also excited to hear about Pelosi’s visit to the College.
“I think that’s an amazing accomplishment. I feel having her here would be more of an empowering thing our campus,” she said. “It’s great she’s coming here to inspire the campus.”
Although Pelosi has been under fire this past summer with her knowledge of the CIA’s waterboarding techniques on detainees and her struggle for health care reform, she is considered an important asset by many at Mills.
“I see her as a trailblazer of one of the most important debates of our time,” said Lewis. “It is definitely important for students to pay attention too.”
According to Holmgren, the event will only be open to members of the Mills community who have tickets to the event (graduating students, their families, faculty and staff). This is in contrast to initial reports that the event would be open to the public.
Nicole Vermeer and Alixandra Greenman contributed to this story.