House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday urged King Hall graduates to “strengthen our democracy” in the courts, through public service and in the day-to-day practice of law.
“That is what is needed now: the service and leadership of UC Davis law students prepared to lead our communities, our state and our country forward,” she said.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who as former House leader is the highest-ranking woman in American political history, told the more than 200 UCD School of Law graduates at the Mondavi Center that they were entering “a world shaped by enormous challenges, defined by extraordinary opportunity, requiring bold decisions.”
“Courage,” she told them, “is very, very important.”
With a nod to UCD’s Greek-born chancellor, Linda Katehi, Pelosi invoked the word “ananke,” derived from a noun meaning both destiny and necessity.
“In times of plenty, you can have many options. But in times of scarcity, you have to establish priorities,” Pelosi said, adding, “Our country has some important choices to make.”
Pelosi used her 13-minute speech to discuss challenges that she said are “on the front burner”:
* Closing a “gaping hole” in income between CEOs and their employees: “Our nation’s choices, our country’s destiny, our people’s success are rooted in the strength and security of the middle class,” she said.
* Eliminating disparities in education: “If you want to cut education or if you want to raise interest rates on student loans, you are not reducing the deficit, you are increasing the deficit — because nothing brings more money to the treasury than investing in education.”
* Enacting comprehensive immigration reform: “Every immigrant that comes to America with that hope and determination and optimism makes America more American.”
Here Pelosi praised the time given by students to UCD’s Immigration Law Clinic, for work on behalf of farmworkers and for counseling “those brave DREAMers on campus”: young adults brought to the country illegally as children, for whom the DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship.
The class of 2013 tallied more than 40,000 public service hours in those and other areas, Dean Kevin Johnson said during his remarks.
* Ridding laws of discrimination, in part by “(continuing) the progress of 12 states” in which gay marriage is legal — “to make marriage equality not simply a cause for one community but the law of the land.”
* Passing stricter gun laws: “All of us who do any public service of any kind takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and, therefore, the American people. We must, we must, we must pass effective gun-safety laws.”
Pelosi called it fitting that the school’s commencement fell on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1954 banning school segregation. She noted that the chief justice of that court, Californian Earl Warren, spoke at the law school’s groundbreaking ceremony 15 years later.
“There could be no finer symbol of justice at a law school than to have its house of learning bear the name of the gentle Martin Luther King,” he said.
Said Pelosi in her conclusion, “Dr. King and all he represents clearly define your responsibilities today … As graduates of King Hall, you know that you have the legal education and moral wherewithal to do the work of justice.”
Ceremonies marking the graduation about 8,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students will resume June 1 at the Mondavi Center with the School of Medicine’s commencement. For more information or to watch live or on-demand webcasts of each of the ceremonies, see http://commencementvideo.ucdavis.edu.