Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi Remarks to Episcopal High School

May 19, 2003

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered the Fourth Annual Allen C. Phillips "Integrity in Action" lecture this afternoon to the students of Episcopal High School. Below are her remarks:

"Thank you, Matthew [Berry], for your kind introduction. Headmaster [F. Robertson] Hershey, the Board of Trustees and faculty, present and past, including Allen Phillips; Family and friends of Episcopal High School.

"And most of all, the students. Congratulations to the seniors who will be graduating in a few weeks and beginning another great chapter in your lives. It is wonderful to see so many young, optimistic future leaders this afternoon.

"Thank you so much for the honor to be with you today.

"It is an official and personal privilege to be with you today for the Allen C. Phillips 'Integrity in Action' Lecture. As the House Democratic Leader, I welcome the opportunity to visit with students. All that we do in Congress must be viewed with an eye to the future—your future.

"As the mother of Paul Pelosi Jr., Class of ’87, I am personally delighted to be back at Episcopal, a school which played an important part in my son’s life. He sends all of you his regards.

"Episcopal is special because you have one of the oldest high school honor codes in the nation. Your excellent education includes class lessons in integrity and honor.

"As I thought about what to discuss with you today, I was reminded of one of my favorite phrases from ‘America the Beautiful’—‘Oh beautiful for patriot dreams that see beyond the years.’

"Indeed our country is beautiful because of our legacy to see beyond the years. Integrity and honor are certainly about honesty, but they are also about responsibility. America is great because we recognize that every generation has a responsibility to make the future better for the next generation, and every one of us has an individual responsibility to do our share.

"How we will make our contribution, how will we ‘see beyond the years,’ to a better future is an individual decision.

"Yesterday, I received an honorary degree at Brandeis University. In my remarks there, I quoted Justice Brandeis who said, 'If we would be guided by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.' The excellent education you are receiving and the critical thinking you are developing should give you the confidence to allow your minds to be bold.

"Have confidence to act intuitively, to think, to judge, to act. Your integrity and education enable you and others to trust your judgment.

"The poet Shelley once wrote that 'the greatest force for moral good is imagination.' As future leaders, you will need all of the imagination you can muster.

"Imagination to think in new ways. Imagination to put ourselves in other people's shoes and understand others. Imagination to create a society where everyone can reach his or her potential.

"We need ideas in our society. And the best source of fresh thinking is fresh eyes – your eyes, inspired by imagination.

"I love coming to high schools and colleges because one always learns something. A few years ago, I received an honorary degree in San Francisco. Another person received an award that day, a writer—Henry David Hwang, who wrote the play, M. Butterfly.

"Mr. Hwang said that when students ask him how it feels to be successful on Broadway, he said that failure can be a better teacher than success. He said that failure was quiet—no one calls or seeks you out. But success is noisy, the phone is always ringing—you are the center of attention and everyone wants to talk to you.

"But he said in all that noise it is sometimes hard to hear what is in your heart, what it is that got you to success in the first place.

"So my advice to you is: Listen to the truth within you. Recognize your passion for ideas that will drive your engine to success, be it personal or professional.

"Be true to yourself.

"So often we look for heroes on television or in the sports arena. But more often, the real heroes are in our own lives. Think of your parents, who work to give you the tremendous opportunity to live and study at Episcopal.

"Think of your teachers, people like Allen Phillips, whom you rightly honor with this lecture series. When he was only a little older than you, Allen Phillips stormed the beaches of Europe in World War II and literally helped to save civilization.

"He then dedicated his life to teaching. If you seek an example in life, just look to individuals of honor and integrity such as Allen Phillips.

"Another lesson you’ve learned at Episcopal is to cherish our differences. You have come here from across the country and around the world. What a wonderful opportunity to experience one another’s cultures.

"In the diversity of this school, you have learned to respect each other for who you are rather than judge each other for how you are different.

"America is the greatest country in history because it is blessed by magnificent diversity. As we say in California, the beauty is in the mix. Diversity is our pride. Diversity is our strength – it is the fabric of our culture that binds us together.

"A few years ago, I made a decision to take a huge leap and try to become the first woman in history in the top leadership in Congress.

"And when my colleagues elected me as Democratic Leader, we broke glass ceilings that no one thought we could break.

"It was such a joy when they put a woman’s name on the door in a suite of offices near the House Chamber – something that had never happened before.

"That spirit of hope and optimism was reflected in many of the calls, letters and e-mails I received after my election as Democratic Leader. I heard from people all over the country, including fathers telling me how thrilled they are to have yet another example for their daughters.

"One of those young girls wrote to me quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, 'The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.'

"Students of Episcopal—Know thy power.

"And as you go forward to make your mark on the world, do so in the confidence that Episcopal has given you an excellent education and the power to achieve the beauty of your dreams.

"It has been said that young people are our messengers to the future, a future we will never see. The message which you will take from Episcopal is one of values, knowledge and integrity. I hope that your companions along the way will be imagination and passion.

"Only then can we fulfill not only our dreams, but the patriot’s dream to see and act beyond the years.

"God bless you. God bless your future. God bless America.

"Thank you."


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