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The Ithaca Journal: Pelosi calls on Cornell University graduates to 'build a new prosperity'

By Liz Lawyer

Cornell University's convocation speaker, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, has high hopes for the Class of 2010.

'All of you will now begin to build your reputations in your chosen fields,' she said Saturday afternoon to a crowd of thousands in Cornell's Schoellkopf Stadium. 'We need all of you to build a new prosperity for the 21st century.'

Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco and the first woman to serve as speaker of the House, spoke to the 142nd class to graduate from the university and addressed the challenges facing the rising generation.

'Young people are weary of war,' she said. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and violence in Darfur and other parts of the world have left them disinterested in conflict, she said.

Instead, they want to pursue solutions to problems from global warming to energy access.

'Young people, especially graduates, want jobs and opportunity,' she said.

Pelosi said recent legislation, much of it under her leadership, will help new grads on their way.

The health care reform bill will create jobs and allow Americans to be more competitive, she said: 'It will free you to change jobs, start a business, or be a musician, artist or writer' without worrying about affording health care.

'Now health care is a right, not a privilege,' she said.

A boost to college aid -- 'the largest investment of college aid in U.S. history' -- will increase access to higher education, she said.

Ahead is energy reform, an issue of environment, economics, ethics, culture and health, she said.

Speaking before the convocation address of the need for federal drilling regulations in places like the Marcellus Shale in light of the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Pelosi said it's clear that a full evaluation of techniques and technology being used is needed.

The federal government should have a role in this, she said.

'Local decisions are important, and we defer to locality, but we do have to have federal standards. The government has been persuaded and convinced that the technology is there to be very precise and sophisticated about how you drill,' she said.

'But at the moment there is no (suitable technology to address errors and accidents) ... Golf balls, hair cuts -- that can't be the technology of the future,' she said referring to attempts to plug the broken pipeline in the Gulf with golf balls and soak up oil with mats of hair.

Referring to the tea party movement, Pelosi said she has common ground with the group's ideals.

'In (the) respects of reducing the deficit, reducing the influence of special interests in Washington, D. C., I think all Americans share that view,' she said.

Democrats will retain their majority, despite an apparent anti-establishment sentiment knocking incumbents from their seats across the country, she said.

'Let me declare that the Democrats will be in the majority after the mid-term elections,' she said.

She said the open seat left by Eric Massa is a lower priority for her to win than supporting incumbents Maurice Hinchey and Mike Arcuri.

Co-presidents of the 2010 alumni class Darin Lamar Jones and Stephanie Rigione announced that the senior class gift campaign exceeded $81,000 and involved 54 percent of the class. The donation will be used to create a Class of 2010 Scholarship Fund to benefit incoming freshmen who would not be able to attend the university without the support of the scholarship.