Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi Remarks at Brandeis University

May 18, 2003

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke this morning to a group of Brandeis University Fellows prior to graduation. Below are her remarks:

"Brandeis’ first president, Abram Sachar, imagined that this university would 'combine most felicitously the prophetic ideal of moral principle and the American tradition of political and economic liberalism.' Brandeis has achieved the vision of its founders.

"That’s a tribute to Leaders like President Reinharz and the trustees; world-renowned faculty and accomplished students; and friends like you who have supported Brandeis over so many years.

"It’s a pleasure for me be here in Massachusetts, home to so many great leaders. As Democratic Leader in the House, I am honored that my new office in the Capitol is the one used Tip O’Neill when he was Speaker. Of course, I hope to return it to the option of being the Speaker’s office again soon.

"This university infuses in its students Justice Brandeis’ passion for social justice and social action.

"At no time in recent history has the need for social and economic justice, equality and opportunity – has been as great as it is today.

"May the country learn from Justice Brandeis, who said: 'If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.'

"The challenge today is to bring new, fresh thinking and fresh eyes onto all that we do.

"The poet Shelley once wrote that 'the greatest force for moral good is imagination.' With the extraordinary challenges ahead, we will need all of the imagination that we can muster.

"Imagination enables us to think in new ways. Imagination enables us to put ourselves in other people's shoes, for our country to put itself in other countries' places, leading to better understanding.

"Imagination enables us to create a society where every child in the world can reach his or her potential. We have an obligation to all of our children and grandchildren to make the world a better place, because they are the messengers to a future that we will never see.

"They are the heirs to the country that we are working to build.

"Our children deserve a safe and prosperous America – a safe America free from terrorism.

"As a leader in our Congress, my priority is to ensure that our children are safe, and that we have a prosperous America where our children’s parents have good jobs with good wages, equal pay for equal work, quality health care, and a secure retirement.

"Our children deserve the best education, including the keys to a life of learning – Head Start, good teachers, modern classrooms, and smaller class sizes.

"Our children deserve a fair start, including the health care that gives them the opportunity to succeed in life.

"And our children deserve a safe start, including an environment with clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. Every child has a right to be born into a safe and clean environment.

"The strength of our nation is measured not only in the might of our military. It is measured in the health and well being of our people, especially our children.

"Just as we must decide what kind of country we want to be at home, we must decide what kind of nation we want to be in the world.

"As a college student standing on the grounds of the Capitol on a freezing cold day, I listened to President Kennedy’s enduring challenge, which is familiar to every person here: 'And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.'

"Less-well known – but equally important -- is the line that followed: 'My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of mankind.'

"Throughout our history, our international standing has rested in part on our democratic values. As we define our role today, we must be clear about why we engage with the world.

"We must engage because we believe the ideals that we cherish—freedom, democracy, human rights and respect for people as individuals - can make countries plagued by conflict better places to live, and better partners in creating a safer world.

"We have a choice between a unilateral foreign policy that angers our allies and inflames our enemies, and a responsible foreign policy that acknowledges both our military strength and our moral greatness – of the ideals and values and principles we represent in the world.

"Our future – a world of freedom, human rights, and peace – rests on principles that must continue to guide our nation in its affairs with the world.

"The first principle is that America is strongest when we work with allies and friends to confront common threats.

"American ideas and freedom are the envy of the world. Our economy is the engine of the world. Our military is the best led, best equipped, best trained force in the world.

"The paradox of American power is that never before have we had so much power, yet never has our security and prosperity been so reliant on other nations.

"Common dangers that threaten all nations – terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, AIDS and the fury of despair of those with little hope for their future – demand common solutions that involve all nations.

"The second principle that guides our foreign policy: America must use its power to promote long-term peace and security.

"At the end of World War II, the Marshall Plan in Europe helped turn dictatorships into democracies and foes into friends.

"Whether the war in Iraq brings that country freedom and security, whether Iraq becomes a model for the Arab world, depends on what happens next.

"The situation in Iraq remains dangerous and precarious. The Administration does not like to use the term 'nation building.' But that is exactly what we, and the international community, must do. The United States should not do it alone.

"And if we want to ensure the long-term legitimacy and success of our efforts, we cannot do it alone.

"A final principle is that America must engage with those who aspire to democratic values. Throughout history, our international standing has rested in large measure on our democratic values.

"When we adhere to our principles, we earn the cooperation of the world. When we stray from our ideals, we invite suspicion and hostility.

"As we define our role in the world today, and as we help rebuild Iraq, we must uphold freedom, democracy, and human rights.

"In Iraq, America has shown its strength. Now we must show our greatness. We must never accept the false choice between American interests and American ideals. We can – and we must – promote both.

"Never before has a single nation had so much potential to work with other nations to shape the future and build a safer, more secure world. Freedom and political pluralism are recognized as the indispensable ingredients to peaceful, prosperous, tolerant societies. In our interdependent world, American leadership is more important than ever. "Justice Brandeis once remarked: 'The most important political office is that of citizen.'

"By raising your voices, you can help remind leaders in Washington that we will not move forward as a society by leaving behind our working families. We will not grow stronger by ignoring the most vulnerable among us. We will not invest in a better tomorrow for our children by indebting them today.

"We can and we must build the safe and prosperous America – and the truly just society – our children deserve.

"Thank you for the opportunity to join you today.

"Thank you for making this one of our nation’s great centers of learning and social action."


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