Pelosi Remarks at United Negro College Fund’s 2020 National Gala

Mar 6, 2020
Press Release

Contact: Speaker’s Press Office,
202-226-7616

 
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined educators, administrators and HBCU graduates at the United Negro College Fund’s 2020 National ‘A Mind Is…’ Gala to honor Majority Whip James Clyburn and Congressman John Lewis with the Patterson Award, in recognition of their leadership for HBCUs.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
 
Speaker Pelosi.  Good evening, everyone.  Good evening.  It is an honor to join all of you at the United Negro College Fund’s 2020 National Gala. 
 
Thank you, Dr. Michael Lomax, for all you do to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the students that they serve.  Under your stewardship, UNCF remains an indispensable partner in our work to lift up America’s students, our most important responsibility. 
 
It is a privilege to be here with so many educators, administrators, Presidents – President, President – and HBCU graduates who are strengthening our nation through its young people.
 
While we gather here to recognize tonight’s inspiring honorees, I also want to acknowledge UNCF’s decades of extraordinary leadership. 
 
Since 1944, UNCF has helped more than 500,000 students of color access a quality education – 60 percent of whom are the first in their families to go to college. 
 
[Applause]
 
Through grants, scholarships and strong support networks, you empower students to pursue their dreams and build a brighter future for themselves and for their communities.
 
As UNCF knows, education is the key to success, no matter what race you are, who you are, where you live. 
 
Since the first HBCUs were founded well-over a century ago, they have been engines of opportunity, nurturing, encouraging and training the leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of the future.   
 
At a time when education was also, often denied to black Americans, HBCUs began to provide an educational foundation for new generations of black men and women who were stepping into their new freedom and new status in America.
 
This weekend, I will be joining Members of Congress – Andre Carson is here.  We will be – other than that we will be joined by Members of Congress and Civil Rights heroes on a pilgrimage to Selma, Alabama – Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama to mark 55 years since the famous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
 
[Applause]
 
On that hallowed ground, we will honor the brave Americans who stood strong against systemic injustice and inequality to help secure the blessings of liberty enshrined in our Constitution.  
 
We will also celebrate 60 years since the founding of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. 
 
Through sit-ins and marches, SNCC brought people from every community together, giving voice to countless young black Americans, inspiring a nation to act and changing the world forever.
 
Many of SNCC’s young leaders, who we are humbled to be joined by this evening, were nurtured at HBCUs, where they learned to harness their power to demand their rightful place in our society. 
 
Tonight, it is fitting that UNCF will present its distinguished Patterson Award to two HBCU alumni and founding members of – founding members of SNCC, Majority Whip James Clyburn and our conscience in Congress, John Lewis. 
 
[Applause]
 
You know, as a friend you want to describe someone, but you know them so well.  But, I want to say that we compliment them for being icons, but before they were icons, they probably were troublemakers.  As John Lewis would say, trouble – making trouble for good.  And I think that applies to Mr. Clyburn and Mr. Lewis. 
 
As our esteemed Whip, a brilliant educator and a tireless champion for justice and progress, Jim Clyburn has been an essential, central force in delivering results that make a difference in people’s lives. 
 
John Lewis is the conscience of the Congress and a true hero of our history.  His wisdom, his strength and moral courage inspire us to get into ‘good trouble,’ as I said, to advance freedom for all Americans.
 
But long before they were leaders in the halls of the Capitol, Jim and John were students leading marches across the country toward equality, toward justice and toward a quality education for all.
 
Today, Jim Clyburn and John Lewis continue to march toward a brighter future, advancing policies to open doors of opportunity for communities of color and all Americans.  
 
Guided by their persistent leadership and the unwavering activism of so many who are here tonight, House Democrats continue to fight to expand educational opportunities for students of color: increased the maximum Pell Grant award – we did it twice; increased funding in all of UNCF’s priorities since our Majority began – from Strengthening Institutions to TRIO to Federal Work Study and beyond; advanced the College Affordability Act to lower the cost of college and strengthen Minority Serving Institutions with increased financial resources; and to make these resources permanent, we passed H.R. 2486 the FUTURE ACT – twice.
 
[Applause] 
 
In the fight to pass this pivotal piece of legislation and secure the resources that HBCUs and your students deserve, UNCF’s outside mobilizing made all the difference.  
 
Outside mobilization made all the difference.  We can maneuver to the extent possible inside the institution, but the outside mobilization is what makes it happen.  There’s nothing more eloquent to a Member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituents.  Thank you for your role in making this happen. 
 
In the words of the trailblazing civil rights activist and one of SNCC’s early women leaders – let’s hear it for the women leaders – 
 
[Applause] 
 
Diane Nash, ‘There is a source of power in each of us that we don’t realize until we take responsibility.’  In that spirit, I want to also acknowledge some of the other honorees tonight in addition to Jim Clyburn and John Lewis.  Thank you, David Taylor, who you just heard from, the leadership of Proctor and Gamble – what they’ve done to advance the quality of education for all, especially HBCUs, and getting the Corporation of the Year award.  Congratulations and thank you. 
 
Chairman Clay at Lilly Endowment, getting the Foundation of the Year Award.  Sharon Beard, president, Top Ladies of Distinction, the President’s Award.  Congratulations all of you for the roles that you played.   
 
The most important work I think we have to do is give more opportunity to our young people.  They are all our future, our nation’s future, and as your slogan says, ‘A Mind Is…’.  A mind is everything.  Of course a terrible thing to waste, but beyond that, the minds of these children, young people – children, young people is such an incredible, enormous resource – change for the future, better for all Americans.  
 
As leaders, educators and public servants, it is all our responsibility to help our young people harness their power, talent and imagination to fulfill their dreams and strengthen our nation. 
 
On behalf of the U.S. Congress, thank you, UNCF and all our HBCU partners, for leading us into the future and ensuring every child has the resources and support they need to thrive.
 
And, once again, I’ll say a special congratulations to my colleagues, with whom I have the privilege to serve, and an honor to call friends, Jim Clyburn – his daughter is here, Mignon Clyburn –  and John Lewis and his friend, Andre Carson is here for him.  Let’s salute them for their well-deserved recognition as HBCU graduates.
 
Thank you all very much.
 
[Applause]
 
Thank you so much for the opportunity to be with you all tonight. 

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