Speaking to a crowd of thousands in a warm Schoellkopf Stadium on Saturday, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said that she wants to create a “new prosperity” for America, and Cornell’s graduating seniors are needed to help build the prosperity.
Before Pelosi’s address, which was the focal point of the University’s Senior Convocation, Darin Lamar Jones ’10, Class of 2010 alumni co-president, announced that the senior class raised $81,000 to give to the University. Although the total is less than the $85,000 raised last year, two anonymous trustees matched this year’s student gifts. The trustees’ donations brought the senior class’ total donation to the University to $166,051.11, a record high gift.
Stephanie Rigione ’10, Class of 2010 alumni co-president, said that it was important to give back to the University. “Being a Cornellian means being generous with our time, talent and treasure,” she said.
Both Rigione and Heather Levy ’10, Senior Convocation chair, emphasized that students should maintain their ties with the University after graduation. “Graduation is only the first step in expanding and developing our sense of community at Cornell,” Levy said.
Jeff Katz ’10, senior class president, also looked to the future in his convocation speech.
Cornell prepares students for “whatever challenges we may face,” Katz said. Looking out over the graduates, “I see smart, determined people, drained from senior week, who are ready to take the reins of our generation,” he said.
Pelosi echoed Katz’s suggestion that graduates are positioned to change the county.
“Now you join a proud tradition of Cornellians who have helped ensure a better future for America,” she told the graduating seniors. “We need all of you — all of you — to build a new prosperity.”
She said the prosperity “will be rooted in four words: science, science, science, science.”
More money is needed for college aid, she said, and the nation’s prosperity is also improved through the recently passed healthcare reform legislation. The new jobs created by the law and the increased access to healthcare will improve people’s lives, she said.
“Now, healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi, who is the first female Speaker of the House and the second person in the presidential line of succession, following Vice President Joe Biden, discussed several other policy initiatives during her speech and argued that they all contribute to her vision of a “new prosperity.”
“When we see the environmental, economic and cultural impact of the tragedy on the Gulf Coast, we know that we need a new energy policy,” she said, referring to the ongoing oil spill. “A new energy policy is a moral issue. If you believe as I do that this planet is God’s creation, we have a moral obligation to care for it … And a new energy policy is an opportunity to ensure our new prosperity.”
“Affordable health care, quality education and establishing a new energy policy: these are the pillars of our new prosperity,” she said.
Groups of protestors and supporters gathered on the Warren Road exit of the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport Saturday morning to voice their opinions regarding Pelosi’s policies when she left the airport. However, the Speaker took a different road out of the airport.
Members of several Tea Party organizations protested Pelosi’s policies, while a group of the Speaker’s supporters, organized through the Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America, said they wanted to welcome the Speaker to Ithaca.
“People wanted an opportunity to thank her,” said Andrea Audi, who publicized the “welcome rally for Speaker Pelosi” through the website of Organizing for America.
The organizer of the protest, Kelly Kheel, who heads the group TEA of Cortland/Tompkins County, said the protest was “not really about [Pelosi] personally, but about the policies” she has advocated and implemented.
“There [have] been a lot of unconstitutional laws passed … and freedoms have been taken away since [Pelosi] took office,” Kheel said.
Kheel said between 200 and 300 people attended the protest and only about 20 Pelosi supporters were present. Audi could not be reached Saturday afternoon for her assessment of the event.
The protestors and supporters remained civil, Kheel said, and a few members of each group even debated one another.
In a discussion with members of the press on Saturday morning, Pelosi predicted that, contrary to the expectations of some pundits, Democrats will maintain their majority in the House of Representatives after the November elections.
“Let me declare: the Democrats will be in the majority” because Democrats are interested in “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs,” Pelosi said.
Saturday morning, Pelosi was also given a jersey signed by members of the Cornell varsity men’s basketball team, which advanced to the Sweet 16 during the NCAA playoffs this year.
“I immediately tweeted a picture of [the jersey] to the world,” Pelosi said.
The Speaker concluded her speech Saturday afternoon with a friendly gesture.
“Class of 2010: because of the honor you have given me of being your convocation speaker, always remember, you have a friend in the Speaker’s office,” she said.
The University’s 142nd Commencement Ceremony, in which the Class of 2010 will officially graduate, will take place on Sunday at Schoellkopf Stadium from 11 a.m. to noon.
Original Author: Michael Linhorst