NORTHAMPTON – It didn’t take long for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call herself a Smithie on Wednesday night, much to the delight of Smith College students who had come to hear her speak .
After receiving an honorary degree from Smith President Kathleen McCartney, the two sat opposite each other on stage at John M. Greene Hall as Pelosi answered McCartney’s questions on a wide range of topics, the first in the college’s presidential symposium series.
Like many things, this was supposed to happen in May of last year at the start of Smith. But that was hushed up by Covid-19, which also played a role on Wednesday night – audiences were limited exclusively to Smith’s students, faculty and staff via a lottery.
Pelosi, 81, an 18-term California congressman and first woman to serve as president, was the highest elected woman in U.S. government history until Vice President Kamala Harris was elected last fall. Pelosi is also the second presidential candidate after Harris and has been instrumental in many landmark Obama administration bills, including the Affordable Care Act.
Asked about the removal of voters, following the defeat of former President Trump in 2020, Pelosi spoke of the “sanctity of the vote,” citing the late Congressman John Lewis who said, “If you remove the vote, you suppress democracy.
“When you put barriers to participation, the poorest neighborhoods with extremely long lines to vote… we can try to overcome that, but the barriers in many states can now be overwhelming,” Pelosi said. “In Georgia, there is talk of cancellation. Martin Luther King spoke about it in his “I have a dream” speech. It didn’t get the attention that other parts (of the speech) did – there were so many beautiful passages – but you can see it happening in the South. These are the Jim Crow laws.
To the Republican Party, which Pelosi considers responsible for suppressing voters, she said, “Republicans, be proud and take back your party, which has done so much for this country. “
Pelosi, casually dressed in a colorful jacket and black pants, spoke of her early days in politics, deeply involved in issues while raising five children at home. Although approached by Democratic leaders to run for Congress, she initially pushed them away.
“I was basically a shy person,” she said, making the crowd laugh as she sang, “It was a long time ago.”
“But I had no interest in running for Congress, I had kids in school,” she added.
But party leaders continued to court her until her youngest was 16. “I said, ‘Alexandra, I have a chance to run to Congress. I would have to be away three evenings a week. She said, “Mother, take a life! I had never heard that expression before. Then she said, ‘What teenager wouldn’t want his mother to come out of the house three nights a week?’ “
And Pelosi’s political career began. “I did it for the kids,” she said, “with one in five living in poverty, and as a mother of five, that should be my goal.”
When asked if she is held to higher standards than her male counterparts, Pelosi laughed, “When you get the hammer, it’s all over! “
“But,” she continued, “The reason I was thrilled to become a Smithie is because of Smith’s commitment to all of you. This country needs you. I encourage you to know your power. . There is no contribution that anyone can make that is like yours. If one of your accomplishments is being a stay-at-home mom for a while, put a gold star next to it. an accomplishment, says the housewife who became Speaker of the House.
More information on Nancy Pelosi’s lecture at Smith College will be published in the print edition of The Gazette on Friday.