Pelosi tells SF State's Class of 2019 to embrace optimism, boldness

Nancy Pelosi in black robe and cap facing the camera with several others in background

“Now your optimism, courage and activism are needed. Not just for yourselves, but for our country and our future — a future that belongs to you.” —Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

The Speaker of the House addressed a crowd of thousands at Oracle Park May 28

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi congratulated graduates at San Francisco State University’s 118th Commencement May 28, but she had a challenge for them, too. Pelosi encouraged the Class of 2019 to embrace the idealistic, hopeful spirit of the nation’s founders and take bold action to ensure the future of the country and democracy.

“This class is America. You’re America because of your diversity and because you subscribe to that special quality of our nation, which our founders embodied: optimism,” Pelosi told the 8,700 undergraduate and graduate students receiving their degrees — the largest graduating class in the University’s 120-year history. “Our founders were optimistic as they established our country for the ages because they believed two things: that every generation will take the responsibility to make the future better for the next generation, and that every person will take responsibility to make that future better.”

As the keynote speaker for this year’s Commencement, Pelosi was also addressing the approximately 30,000 family members and guests at the ceremony, which was held at San Francisco’s Oracle Park Tuesday, May 28. Other speakers included Maria Jose Lozano Sanabria, an international relations graduate who spoke on behalf of those receiving bachelor’s degrees, and Alexis “Lexi” Adsit, a master’s in ethnic studies recipient who represented graduate students. Sanabria, who moved to the U.S. from Colombia at the age of 14, expressed gratitude for the San Francisco State professors and students who accepted and celebrated her immigrant background.

“For the first time in my academic career, the majority of my professors were women who mentored me and empowered me every day,” she said. “For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to work alongside immigrant women like myself in research projects.”

Adsit encouraged her fellow graduates to fight for the ideals they believe in — and even run for office.

“Nancy Pelosi is the only woman to ever be Speaker of the House,” she said. “But she doesn’t have to be.”

In addition to the undergraduate and graduate degrees conferred during the ceremony, the President’s Medal was bestowed upon two SF State alumni: businessman and philanthropist Allam El Qadah (B.A., ’94) and the late educator and author Dr. Joseph L. White (A.B., ’54; M.S., ’58), “the father of black psychology.” Novelist, feminist and University of California, Berkeley Professor Emerita of English Maxine Hong Kingston also received an honorary doctorate of fine arts.

“There are people in the world who, in their work and life, not only transform the lives of others but who also transform society,” said SF State President Leslie E. Wong. “Dr. Joseph White was one of those people.”

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