Pelosi Commencement Address at San José State University

May 23, 2015
San José – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered the commencement address to the 2015 graduates of San José State University today.  Below is a transcript of the Leader’s remarks:

“Good morning, everyone.  I know you're out there.  Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your introduction, but more importantly, for your great leadership of San José State University.  Let's applaud your great President.


“Congratulations to the coach, to Coach Ladouceur, on your honorary degree – what an incredible record, and what abiding dedication you have to the success of our children.  Mr. Coach – a legendary coach and teacher, and what a wonderful, wonderful statement you made this morning.  Thank you, Coach.


“To all the distinguished award recipients recognized today, congratulations and best wishes.  Congratulations also to the California State University system – graduating your 3 millionth student this year!


“And, thank you to the students, faculty, and leaders of San José State for your invitation for me to participate in this special gathering.  It is an honor for me to share in your celebration.

“Let us all acknowledge once again, as the President did so beautifully earlier, the families and friends of the graduates – parents and partners, siblings and spouses, grandparents and children; all those whose love and encouragement have helped make this day a reality for today’s graduates.


“And above all, to the graduates: as the President said, this is your day, your success, your achievement.  The degrees you receive today have been written in the tools of hard work, late nights, juggled responsibilities.  Your diplomas are not simply a recognition of completed coursework, they are the fruit of your faith in yourselves – testimonies to your drive, your determination, your grit, your dreams to build a better tomorrow for yourself, your families, your communities, and our country.

“On behalf of the Congress of the United States, I am proud to bring deepest congratulations to you, the San José State University Class of 2015!


“Let me salute my colleagues: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, who represents you in Congress, Congressman Mike Honda, a proud San José State Spartan himself, and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, one of your strong advocates.  Each of them exemplifies what's best of America, the American Dream.  Each of them are tireless champions of yours, and each of them are deeply invested in ensuring you are able to achieve the American Dream.

“As you graduate today, leave here knowing that you are graduating from one of the most vibrant universities in our nation.  You are entering the ranks of more than 150 years of distinguished San José State Spartans, and they are powering the future.  Now, Class of 2015, you are powering the future, you will make your own mark.

“And as you begin your journey, here is my message to you: have confidence; be proud; be ready.  Have confidence in your education, and be proud of your experience here.  You are one of the most diverse  classes anywhere in America – and, I might add, 50 percent women.


“Have confidence in the strength of that diversity.  As I say with pride of the city of San Francisco, which I represent in Congress, the beauty is in the mix.  It's true of San Francisco; it's true of this graduating class.  Trust in the value of diverse and different perspectives, as represented by your fellow graduates – respect and cherish the diversity you have been blessed with here at San José State.

“Our Founders had confidence in a principle that they knew had to guide our nation: E Pluribus Unum – from many, one.  The Founders could never have imagined how vast our country would become, or how diverse the many we would be – ethnicities, nationalities, gender identities, beliefs and priorities.  They had a sense, though, that immigration would invigorate our nation.  That's why we must pass a comprehensive immigration bill, and soon, and Zoe Lofgren is in the lead on that.


“And they knew that we would have to be from many, one.  Our Founders’ wish is our command.  Every day, in classrooms and public events across the country, we pledge allegiance to ‘One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’  Liberty and justice for all is the beauty of America; this is the ideal that our brave men and women in uniform risk and give their lives to defend every day.  On this Memorial Day weekend, let us once again recognize the sacrifice and the service of our veterans, our men and women in uniform, and their families.


“And, for all of our differences of identities and ideas, we are committed to being one nation.  Class of 2015, each of you, indeed all of us, has a role to play in honoring our diversity; in carrying out the vision and the values of ‘from many, one’ into the next generation.  To do so, you should draw from the values that define your community and your university.  You have a very special responsibility.  Because you have had special opportunity.

“San José State sits at the confluence of two great, diverse American legacies: the humanity of Cesar Chavez, and the ingenuity of Silicon Valley.  It was not far from this stadium, in East San José, that Cesar Chavez started his own education.

“As Chavez wrote in his ‘Autobiography of La Causa,’ it was here that he first encountered the ideas and learned the skills that he and Dolores Huerta would use to ignite the farmworkers’ rights movement, and to do so in a non-violent way.  It was here that he started thinking about social justice; started to organize the community; started reading about the life of St. Francis of Assisi, and the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.

“Today, the wisdom of his own legacy is written into the great Cesar Chavez Monument that graces this campus: which says, ‘The end of all education should surely be service to others.’


“Chavez understood also that public service often requires inventiveness and creativity.  And you remember too: you have been studying and living in the cradle of innovation of the future; amidst California’s great engine of entrepreneurship and ingenuity: Silicon Valley.  You haven't just been living here and going to school here.  This University has contributed to the success of Silicon Valley in a very important way.  Hundreds of graduates in engineering today will enter the workforce in Silicon Valley.  And here we see, with Cesar Chavez and all of the social studies graduates here, as well as with engineering, and the rest, the sciences, the coming together.

“My favorite story, though, about the engineers and math is: a student was in class, and the teacher said – it was like first grade – 'What is one and one?'  And he said: 'Two.'  And she said: 'Well what is two and two?'  And he said: 'Four.'  She said: 'Good.'  He said: 'Not good, perfect.'  Perfect.  And that's what you all are about: achieving what is best and perfect and balanced and makes sense.

“You should have confidence that this University has prepared you for not only what the Coach talked about, which was so beautiful, about knowledge and skills – but he also talked about learning how to think.  You have been prepared academically and challenged to think entrepreneurially.  And that is very special to San José State. Entrepreneurial thinking is essential to every aspect of our society.

“As the poet Percy Shelley once said, ‘The great instrument for moral good is the imagination.’  What Cesar Chavez and Silicon Valley have in common is imagination.  And you do too.  The imagination to create, to invent, to discover new ways of making progress for humanity – that takes courage and it takes confidence.  And success depends on working together in collaboration, our engineers know that; our social studies folks know that as well.

“So have confidence in San José State's heritage – the imperative of ingenuity, the legacy of service to community.  Most importantly, as you leave here, have confidence that you are ready; know that you have been empowered by the strength of your values, the excellence of your education, and the love of your families.

“Today, you all may not know what opportunities await you.  You cannot perhaps foresee what new and exciting challenges lay ahead.  But when you encounter your opportunities, be ready.  After I graduated from college, my husband and I married and we had five children.  For the next 15 years, I raised those children.  And although I had been active in the community and in the Democratic Party, I could not have ever imagined that one day I would go from the kitchen to the Congress, from being a homemaker to being the House Speaker.


“So when the opportunity presented itself, I had to take inventory, to be sure that I was ready.  But I had one more child of the five who was going to be a senior in high school.  And I didn't want to – I thought one more year would be better.  But I went to her, and I said: 'Alexandra, Mommy has a chance to go to Congress, to run for Congress.  I don't know if I will win, but I don't want to leave you for that one last year' – it's really only three days a week in Washington, but nonetheless, 'leave you in senior year of high school.  So whatever answer you give me is okay with me.  I'm happy to stay home with you, and I'll be happy to run for Congress.  But any answer is a good one.'  She looked back at me, and she said: 'Mother' – I knew I was in trouble right then and there –  'Mother, get a life.'


“What teenage girl would not want her mother gone three nights a week?  But in any event, I did get a life, because I was ready.  I had confidence in my values, confidence in my experiences as a mom, and as a community person, and I had a drive as a mom to address the challenge our country faces.  Because 1 in 5 children in America lives in poverty.  So that was my urgency; that was my motivation.

“So when the moment came, when the opportunity came, I was ready.  I knew my power.  And my prayer for you, Class of 2015 of San José State, my prayer for you is that you know your power.  Take pride in the road that has led you to this graduation ceremony.  Take strength from the education, the values, and the heritage you have received here and from your families. Take courage from the cry of your alma mater: ‘Forward we go! We will not fail!’  Be ready to go forward together.  Remember E Pluribus Unum – from many, one – together, collaboration.  Support each other, and know that there is room for all of you to succeed.

“Have confidence in what you have achieved.  Be ready to shape a future equal to your dreams.  And remember to have fun along the way.  Now, I see that some of the fun has started, with beach balls and a wave.  We're just waiting for the sun to come out to make it complete.


“Have confidence, again.

“Congratulations to you, to your families, to San José State University.  May God bless the memories of our fallen heroes, whom we commemorate this Memorial Day weekend.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Enjoy this day.

“Thank you.  Go Spartans!"