Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Remarks at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Commencement
Washington, D.C.

May 18, 2002


Thank you for that kind introduction, Professor Lieber.

Dean Gallucci, Members of the Faculty, Members of the Class of 2002, parents, other family members, friends and trustees of the university: It is an honor for me to join you this afternoon in celebrating the accomplishments of the 400 graduates being awarded diplomas here today.

You are so blessed to have Robert Gallucci as your Dean. Dean Gallucci, with your outstanding service to our country, you continue in a long line of distinguished Deans of the Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service, including such luminaries as Deans Walsh, Parr, Sebes and Krogh.

I am thrilled to receive an honorary degree from the School of Foreign Service.

This university is important to all of us because it is an outstanding institution of academic freedom. I have had a long appreciation of the contribution of the S.F.S. to knowledge and wisdom in our country.

It also personally important to me because my husband and three of my children are Hoyas. My daughter Christine is a graduate of SFS, Class of 1988.
In fact, I met my husband Paul here while we both took a summer school class at SFS called "The History of Africa, South of the Sahara," taught by the legendary Dr. Carroll Quigley.

John F. Kennedy was President then and it was an exciting time. We had an idealistic, young President who inspired many of us to go into public service, which he considered a noble calling.

As students, many of us stood in the freezing cold to hear his stirring inaugural address in which he said: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Everyone remembers that famous line, but less-well known is the very next one: "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."

As we did then, we now face a new frontier. You are the first graduating class after September 11.
In the post September 11 world, we all have to learn to live with uncertainty. As the new generation of leaders, you will not only address new realities, but also shape them. You are special graduates because you have a global perspective. You understand that our foreign policy must be based on multi-lateralism, and on respect and partnership. You understand that what happens in the rest of the world matters here at home.

We are the global superpower, and in our lives, we accrue many benefits from that position. To maintain our national and economic security, though, we must embrace the responsibilities that our position entails.

Too often, the United States has been perceived as imposing our own solutions, treating as secondary the concerns and experience of the people whose problems we hope to solve. Our challenge today is to bring new thinking and fresh eyes to 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 we can muster.

· Imagination to think in new ways, beyond the divide between right and left.
· Imagination to put ourselves in other people's shoes leading to better understanding.
· Imagination to create a society where every child in the world can reach his or her potential.

We need your best ideas, your energy, and your commitment to create a new partnership of nations and of people within those nations, which taps the best of solutions to global problems.

We need your imagination to create partnerships flexible enough to accommodate differences of opinion, and the willingness to work through those differences, rather than to walk away.

We need a new kind of global leadership, which focuses on conflict prevention and resolution, and is dedicated to the pursuit of peace. We need a new approach, which looks at problems from the perspective of each participant, and develops lasting solutions based on mutual respect and trust.

For, indeed, if parties to conflict are not able to develop respect for the other point of view, no solution can be permanent.

Among the major challenges we must address are the global AIDS pandemic, violence, raging poverty, lack of freedom, environmental degradation, and the growing number of refugees.

We need imagination and creativity to address the fury of despair that springs from having no economic options, no freedom and no hope.
These great challenges have economic, national security, as well as humanitarian implications and provide new opportunities for leadership. Addressing AIDS, for example, is providing a new model from which we, and others, must learn.

The most effective strategies to combat AIDS in the developing world have been based on intensive community participation combined with national leadership.

These strategies have respected and incorporated the views of all sectors of society in developing programs of prevention, treatment, and care, and they have been developed in conjunction with national leaders willing to take risks and to discuss what in many places has previously been unmentionable.

In Uganda, for instance, President Museveni concluded that public information was the answer and, proceeded to "shout" about AIDS at every opportunity in order to raise awareness. As a result of this and other initiatives, the rate of HIV infection in Uganda has dropped dramatically since 1993. This decline proves that real transformations are possible, and Uganda's success can serve as hope for other nations.

A new approach is also needed to address violence. Here, too, we have lessons to learn from other countries and other peoples. When we celebrate the birthday of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we validate and honor the power of his idea of non-violence, which originated with Mahatma Gandhi. And we are grateful to India for that spiritual gift to the world that has affected our country so directly.

You, as the new generation of leaders, must not tolerate a world that relies on violent resolution to conflict.

We must focus together on changing the global orientation from one of responding to situations that have spun out of control, to one of identifying sources of conflict early on, addressing the underlying problems, and remaining constant in implementing those solutions, all before the violent potential of any conflict has escalated to massive loss of life and order.

Respect for universal principles of human rights, and the will to uphold those principles, a commitment to act to halt the proliferation of weapons -- from landmines, through small arms, to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons technology -- are essential components of such an approach.

Environmental degradation is another critical area in which our entrepreneurial spirit can make enormous contributions to world stability. Close to half of the people in the developing world suffer from diseases caused by contaminated water or food. And pollution and disease know no boundaries.

In California, the entrepreneurial spirit is in the air we breathe and the water we drink. That spirit is essential to bringing new attitudes, because we must apply new technologies and real political will to respond to the state of the world's environment.

Imaginative solutions are not only about new ideas. These significant global problems will require passion. When I was elected House Democratic Whip last October, I received thousands of messages of congratulations and support, which have heartened and inspired me.

Several I cherish said: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

At another graduation, I was honored with the writer David Henry Hwang, who wrote the play "M. Butterfly."

In advising the students what it was like to be successful as a playwright, he said that you learn from your successes and your failures. Failure is very quiet. Very, very quiet.
Success is very noisy -- your phone rings constantly, everyone wants your attention. You're in great demand and success can be extremely loud.

The danger of that is that sometimes with all that noise you cannot hear your heart, which got you where you are in the first place. Your passion for your choices in life is part of who you are.

As you move into the greater world, which you will one day soon be leading, you are moving into a world that looks and feels vastly different from the one that existed when you entered this magnificent institution just four years ago.

If we learn one lesson from September 11, it must be that what happens in the rest of the world matters here at home.

You instinctively knew this when you entered this School of Foreign Service -- and I believe you will act on this as you move forward into bright careers -- in the public, non-profit, and private sector

One thing that I am certain you learned here at Georgetown is your responsibility to make the world a better place.

When I took that class at Georgetown so long ago, Professor Quigley taught us something I will never forget.

He said that America is the greatest country in the history of the world because our people have always believed in two things: that tomorrow can be better than today, and that every one of us has a personal, moral responsibility to make it so.

America is also the greatest country in history because it is blessed by magnificent diversity, which is one of our greatest strengths. We must respect each other and nations for what we can do and not.

Every one of you is endowed with the talent and opportunity to make a difference.

My advice to you as graduates is: Know thy power. The power that springs from the beauty of your dreams, the depth of your imagination, and the strength of your values.

Congratulations on your graduation today. As you go forward to make your mark on the world, please do so in the confidence that you have received an excellent education and the best possible orientation to learning faith and freedom here at Georgetown that will serve you and our country well the rest of your life.

Enjoy your day. Congratulations! God bless you.


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