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    HomePoliticsSpeaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at Brown University graduation 2022

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at Brown University graduation 2022

    In her call for national unity at Brown University commencement Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t shy away from hot-button politics.

    The California Democrat and first woman to become speaker 15 years ago warned of efforts to attack abortion rights, same sex marriage, voting rights and, from supporters of the Jan. 6 insurrection, democracy.

    “You are graduating into a vastly different world from the first time you proceeded through the Van Wickle Gates,” she said, first noting the ongoing war in Ukraine. “Indeed our own nation is no stranger to dark and anti-democratic forces. On January 6, 2021 an unprecedented insurrection unleased an unimaginable violence on the grounds and halls of the Capitol, a strike at the heart of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power.”

    She went on:

    “In the months since the insurrection we’ve seen further assaults on democracy, shameful campaigns of voter suppression, and election nullification, a Supreme Court poised to overturn a woman’s right to decide and threatening more privacy rights including marriage equality. We can’t let that happen.”  

    Pelosi was one of nine people to receive honorary Brown degrees this weekend from the Ivy League university and the only elected official.

    Brown doesn’t often choose politicians as commencement speakers.

    The late Democratic congressman John Lewis received an honorary degree and addressed graduates in 2018, but Brown staff could not immediately say who the last sitting elected official before Lewis was. 

    Pelosi gave shout-outs to Rhode Island’s all Democratic congressional delegation and former Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, who is now U.S. Commerce Secretary.

    Of the current government office holders, graduates gave the loudest applause for U.S. Treasury Secretary and Brown graduate Janet Yellen. 

    Pelosi has a connection to Rhode Island besides being honored by Brown.

    Her grandparents met in Pawtucket and one of her closest friends was Providence resident Martha Dodd Buonanno, mother of Rhode Island candidate for governor Helena Buonanno Foulkes.  

    The 82-year-old Pelosi mixed politics Sunday with more standard commencement fare, inviting newly minted graduates to use their premium Brown education to change the world.

    Former RI Health Department chief: Nicole Alexander-Scott speaks at Brown University

    “We have hope in America. We have hope in young people,” she said. “It’s your future. You must take responsibility for it.”

    She hailed arts and imagination in bringing people together through empathy.

    “I believe that there is hope in the arts because I believe they are unifying for our country,” Pelosi said. “When we experience the arts, we laugh together, we cry together, we are inspired together. We put away our differences. I do believe the arts are a path to unity in our country.”

    And she celebrated activism.

    “It is no secret that you graduate in a country deeply divided, socially, politically, culturally and there [are] even more dangerous factions that seek to dispense with democracy altogether,” she said. “When tragedy stuck in your time here you were undaunted. You sacrificed to keep your community safe from the virus. You embraced with open arms students from Afghanistan and Ukraine. In your generation we see leaders unafraid to take the torch, marching for our lives, demanding action on gun violence, sounding the alarm on climate crisis: science, science, science.”

    In addition to Pelosi, Brown awarded honorary degrees Sunday to former Rhode Island Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, public health leader Dr. Seth Berkley, economist Guido Imbens, filmmaker Stanley Nelson, reggae singer Shaggy, sociologist Zeynep Tüfekçi and donors Alice and Thomas Tisch.

    While Pelosi was in Rhode Island, her husband Paul Pelosi was arrested in Napa, California and charged with drunken driving, according to media reports.



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