You are here

Pelosi Delivers Commencement Address at Webster University

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered the commencement address this morning at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.  Below are her remarks as prepared:

'Thank you, President Meyers and Chairman Hill for the great privilege of receiving this honorary degree from WebsterUniversity.  I will share it with my family and my colleagues in Congress with great pride.

'And thank you Governor Holden for the invitation to be here today.  You have served Missouri and our nation with distinction, and you now bring your experience and wisdom to bear in the classroom here at Webster.

'I want to recognize my two House colleagues - each of whom comes from a family with a proud and distinguished record of public service and who are both now making their own marks in the Congress - Congressman William Lacy Clay and Congressman Russ Carnahan.  They represent Saint Louis with pride and bring the great Midwestern values of Missouri to the Congress. 

'President Meyers, Members of Missouri's official family, trustees, faculty, staff, family and friends of the graduates, and especially to the graduates themselves: it is an honor to join you today to celebrate WebsterUniversity's Class of 2007.

'I am confident that the Class of 2007 will contribute greatly to the world you are about to enter because Webster has prepared you for a world that grows more interconnected and interdependent each day.

'You have had the wonderful opportunity to attend a university with students enrolled from 125 countries and with 12 campuses and teaching sites outside the United States.  Webster has provided you with an international orientation at a time when international cooperation will be critical to solving the world's most pressing problems.

'Essential to meeting these challenges is achieving a world at peace.  With campuses on 44 military bases, Webster is tied closely to our military families.

'Let us salute our men and women in uniform, for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifice they and their families are making.  They, and our veterans, are our heroes. 

'Because of them, America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.  We must work together to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

'And speaking of families, let us salute the parents and friends of the graduates who helped to make today possible for you.

'All parents want to broaden opportunity for their children.  Our country was founded on the idea that each generation has a responsibility to make the future better for the next.

'One of our Founders, President John Adams, explained this generational responsibility best when he wrote to his wife, Abigail: 'I must study politics and war so that our children have the liberty to study medicine, law and science... so that their children may study painting... poetry... art and music.'

'All of these pursuits are important to the Community that is America.

'When I was young, I heard another great American president talk about our responsibility to one another.

'As a student, I attended the inauguration of President Kennedy.  It was a freezing cold day in January - so cold you could see Robert Frost's breath as he recited a poem for the new President.

'We were all stirred by President Kennedy's unforgettable call to service when he said: 'My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.'

'Everyone knows that line, but the line that followed was equally remarkable: 'My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of mankind.'

'With this statement, President Kennedy signaled that our foreign policy would be distinguished by cooperation and respect for other nations.  And the world responded to American leadership.

'Today, the world still looks to America for leadership and hope.  We must respond with respect and cooperation, not disregard and condescension.  Only then can we engage in the diplomatic alliances needed to promote peace and avoid war.  And avoid war we must.

'The philosopher Hannah Arendt once observed that nations are driven by the endless flywheel of violence believing that one last, one final violent gesture will bring peace.  But, each time they sow the seeds for more violence.  Words, not weaponry, are the tools of a new civilization.

'The university is where words should reign.  The college campus is preeminently the place where argument, debate, research, and articulate speech are and should be prized and maintained.

'WebsterUniversity has given you these tools to understand the world, to clarify your values, and to enter into dialogue with others so that you can help promote better understanding, freedom, and peace.

'In my recent travels as Speaker, I have met with presidents, prime ministers, and kings.  But what impressed and inspired me the most were my encounters with young people.

'At a time when some world leaders question the value of constructive dialogue with our adversaries, young people are engaged in their own international dialogue, on campuses and through e-mail, instant messaging and blogs.  They are talking about their hopes for a brighter future - of their desire for peace and prosperity.

'The young people I met in my travels are weary of war.  They want an end to violence whether in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the genocide in Darfur.  They want to know if their leaders have the political courage to make the decisions necessary for peace.  They want a future and want to know if their leaders can produce economic opportunity, health care, and education for a better future.  They want to end global warming and preserve the planet - God's beautiful creation.

'That's what I heard in the Middle East, and that is what I hear from young people here at home.

'That unwillingness to accept the world as it now is - the impatience of youth - is why I have such faith in the future and in the Class of 2007.

'My message to you today is this: Know thy power and follow your passion.  The power and passion that springs from the beauty of your dreams, the depth of your imagination, and the strength of your values.  Realize the promise that you have shown here at Webster, continue to embrace its international mission whatever your endeavors, and honor your responsibility to the future.

'Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this important occasion.  Since I am also receiving a degree today I have a special bond with the Webster University Class of 2007.  So remember that you have a classmate and a friend in the Speaker's office.

'Enjoy your day. Congratulations! And God bless you.'