Meredith College welcomed Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), the United States’ first female Speaker of the House, on Friday, Nov. 2, 2007.
Pelosi, the first woman in American history to lead a major party in the U.S. Congress, delivered a public address as part of Meredith’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Presidential Lecture Series. The series’ theme for 2007-08 is “Ethical Leadership.”
“The biggest ethical issue facing our country is the war in Iraq,” Pelosi said. “We are working in Congress trying to bring a redeployment of our troops out of Iraq in a way that is honorable and that is soon.”
Pelosi spoke of meeting young people during her travels abroad and around the U.S., saying that “the impatience of youth” gives her hope for the future.
Since 1987, Pelosi has represented California's Eighth District in the House of Representatives. On January 4, 2007, Pelosi was elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
As the 110th Congress nears its one year anniversary, Pelosi’s remarks focused on congressional action in the areas of education, innovation and energy security that she said was of special importance to young Americans. These included the largest college aid expansion since the GI Bill in 1944, which Pelosi said cut in half the student loan interest rate and broadened Pell Grants, and the first increase to the minimum wage in a decade.
The Speaker of the House also took questions from the audience. The questions were presented by Meredith Professor of Political Science Clyde Frazier, and three Meredith students. The questions were selected from those submitted by Meredith students and the audience.
Many of the audience members had submitted questions about why Congress had not cut off funding for the war in Iraq as a way to end the war.
“Our troops have performed honorably. We owe them better than to have a policy of war without end,” Pelosi said. “I’m as disappointed as anyone that we have not been able to [end the war]…we will not rest until we bring this war to an honorable end.”
Pelosi was also asked what her “breaking of the marble ceiling” to serve as Speaker of the House meant for other women.
“It gave people the belief that anything could happen for women now in our country, not just in politics but in people’s personal lives,” Pelosi said.
“Breaking that ceiling signaled change because of the culmination of what women had been doing over time…generations of work got us to this point. Now we want women to take advantage of that.”
Pelosi also offered a piece of advice for the Meredith students and other young women in the audience.
“It is important for all young women who aspire to success in whatever field to…know your power, follow your dreams, have confidence in your education, have a plan and other people will follow you.”