Nancy Pelosi

Commencement Address at San Francisco State University – May 28, 2019

Nancy Pelosi
May 28, 2019— San Francisco, California
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Good evening, San Francisco State Class of 2019! Are there any Gators in the house?


I thought so!

Thank you, President Leslie Wong, for your kind words, and for your great leadership of this legendary university.

The campus and the country are grateful for your leadership and service, and we wish you and your wonderful wife Phyllis well in the next chapter of your lives.

And thank you for paving the way for a woman to follow in your footsteps! We are all thrilled that President Lynn Mahoney will be making history as the first woman President of San Francisco State! Thank you, President Wong.

Joyous graduates, distinguished trustees, eminent faculty, honored alumni, let us join and together applaud the parents, spouses and partners, families and friends, siblings and supporters sharing in this celebration, whose love, support and encouragement have made today possible. Let us thank the families who have made this possible!

How happy I am to be with you, in this beautiful stadium of our home team, the San Francisco Giants and we thank them for their hospitality!

And what a joy it is to be at home in the city of Saint Francis, whose song is our anthem: ‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.’

It is a privilege for all of us to share this day with the distinguished awardees, who have dedicated their lives to bringing hope where there is despair, light where there is darkness and joy where there is sadness. Maxine Hong Kingston, a strong and courageous voice for Asian American women; Allam El Qadah, who is opening the doors of opportunity to young people, so they can pursue their American Dreams; and the late Dr. Joseph White, a champion of equality in education and science.

Graduates: this is your day, your success, your achievement!

The degrees you receive today have been written in the ink of hard work, late nights, juggled responsibilities, some of which Nate [Jones] spelled out earlier in his beautiful gift.

Your diplomas are not simply recognition of completed coursework, they are the fruit of your faith in yourselves – testimonies to your drive, your determination, your dreams to build a better tomorrow for yourselves, your families, and for our communities.

Let us in particular acknowledge Maria Jose Sanabria and Lexi Adsit as they speak for the outstanding graduates honored as hood recipients, and challenge us to further greatness. Thank you so much.

Class of 2019: I thank you all for the immense privilege of addressing you at the 118th Commencement Exercises of this historic institution. This is the third time I have been a speaker at the San Francisco State graduation, my first time as Speaker of the House.


It is my great honor as Speaker of the House to bring to you the congratulations of the United States Congress – now the most diverse Congress in history!

House Democrats are more than 60 percent women, people of color and LGBTQ community members – and they all send you their love and congratulations!

And in this Congress, we will celebrate 100 years since the suffragists won the right to vote – and we celebrate with more than 100 women being Members of Congress!

Our Congress is a testament to a powerful truth that we see on this campus and in our community: that the beauty is in the mix.

We are proud, as President Wong mentioned earlier, that veterans are such a beautiful and important thread in the diverse tapestry of this university.

On Memorial Day, and on all days, we thank those who have donned the uniform, their families and caregivers. Their service reminds us of our mission: to make a future worthy of their sacrifice.

To that end, America knows San Francisco State as one of the most vibrant universities in our nation – home to a proud tradition of activism and advocacy, and a powerful commitment to social justice that reflects the spirit of our city.

We are all proud that, fifty years ago, your College of Ethnic Studies was created, which fundamentally and forever transformed the education agenda – not just on this campus, but on every campus.

On this Memorial Day Week of patriotism, as I look around this stadium, I’m happy to observe that this class is America.

You are America because of your diversity and because you subscribe to that special quality of our nation, which our Founders embraced: optimism.

Our Founders were optimistic as they established our country for the ages because they believed in two things. That every generation would take responsibility to make the future better for the next generation, and that every person would take responsibility to make that future better.

Our Founders were successful not only because they were optimistic, but because they had courage.

Courage is in the DNA of America and in the DNA of the Class of 2019. From the courage of our Founders to declare independence, and declare not only a new nation but one that was founded on the courage of all people. From the courage of generations of immigrants who crossed the seas to take a chance on America and the pioneers who crossed the continent to take a chance on California.

To the courage of heroes who protect our communities and country: our nurses, teachers, parents, and our men and women in uniform and first responders, their families and caregivers.

And to each and every one of you to have the courage and optimism that you have, graduating class, to reach this day.

Our Founders – and every generation since – have been successful because of their courage to act boldly.

At the time our country was established, in the dark days of revolution, Thomas Paine wrote, ‘the times have found us.’

The times had found them to succeed in founding our democracy. And the times have found us now to save and strengthen our democracy. And we must be bold to do that.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned in his I Have a Dream speech, when he spoke of the fierce urgency of now, he said, ‘This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. We must take bold action.’

We do not put ourselves in the same category of our Founders, but we must recognize the urgency of our times now, and the need for boldness and courage to save and strengthen America.


What is America? America is our Constitution, our system of checks and balances, and our freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights – much of which is under assault today.

What is America? America is a nation of immigrants, unless you were blessed to be born Native American, and that is indeed a blessing.

I’m going to dwell for a moment on immigration, because America is a nation of immigrations. That’s who we are largely as people.

Immigrants are the constant reinvigoration of America; of hope, determination, optimism and courage to make the future better.

And now I’m going to quote a President you might not suspect I’d quote here, President Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan said in his last speech as President of the United States, he said this, ‘Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation.’

President Reagan went on to say, ‘If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.’

That is we must pass comprehensive immigration reform. But that is also why next week, we will pass legislation to protect Dreamers and TPS and DED recipients.

Any Dreamers in the house?

[Applause and Cheers]

What is America? America is the beautiful gift God has given us from sea to shining sea and beyond. And we must protect it, we must protect it, as we build the infrastructure of America, we must do so in a way that addresses the climate crisis, which is the existential threat to our planet, and we must do so in a way, as we fight those who deny science.

What is America? America is our values, our values that are contained in what we put forward in our policy, we believe that our federal budget must be a statement of our national values. And it should reflect what is important to us as a nation. Investment in our children, their education, the health of America.

And investments in our arts, which bring us together, and do not divide America. I know that San Francisco State has a strong commitment to the creative arts, that is a strong unifying factor. Thank you.

We must invest – as we build the infrastructure of America – we must invest in our human infrastructure as we build the physical infrastructure of our Country – recognizing the danger that the growing disparity of income in our Country presents.

As we debate these issues, we should heed the guidance of our Founders – they gave us.

They disagreed, we disagree. But they said, ‘E Pluribus Unum.’ From many one. They couldn’t imagine how many we would be or how different we would be from each other but they knew that we had to remember that we are one as country. So we must engage in our debate with respect for the vision of our Founders, the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, the vision of our children, inspirations of all Americans, to the best that we can.

All of this will take courage: the courage of all Americans, and the courage of this Class, your Class which is the future of America.

The times have found you, the times have found you Class of 2019.

You have demonstrated courage on this campus: the courage to work hard and study, the courage to follow your dreams.

Now, your optimism, courage and activism are needed not just for yourselves but for our community, our country and our future – which belongs to you.

As you go forward to make your mark in the world, please do so with the confidence that you have received an excellent education here at San Francisco State that will serve you and the world well.

My advice to you – I know you are ready – my advice to you: know your power, the power that springs from being yourself; from the quality of your education, the depth of your passion, the extent of your imagination, the strength of your values deepened here at San Francisco State University.

Congratulations, San Francisco State Class of 2019! Enjoy your evening.

God bless you, and God bless America.

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