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Nancy Pelosi: Smith Graduates Have Power to Shape the Future
Addressing the first virtual commencement in Smith College history, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi urged members of the class of 2020 to “know your purpose; know your power.”
“The world urgently needs your leadership,” Pelosi said, in an address shared virtually on Sunday with hundreds of graduates—and thousands of others—located around the globe. “Recognize that you are the unique person you are, with your own special power to shape the future—for yourself and for our country.”
Pelosi—the first woman to hold the position of House speaker—acknowledged the unanticipated challenges this year’s graduates face in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. She also pointed out that the class of 2020 is graduating in the 100th anniversary year of U.S. women winning the right to vote.
“At Smith, you have made history and you have made progress,” Pelosi said. “Your diplomas are not simply recognition of completed coursework. They are the fruit of your faith in yourselves—testimony to your drive, your determination and your dreams to build a better tomorrow.”
The college awarded 721 degrees on Sunday: 671 undergraduate degrees, and 50 advanced degrees. Members of the class of 2020 came to Smith from 41 states and 29 countries.
Citing the “groundbreaking legacy” of Smith alums such as Otelia Cromwell, class of 1900, Gloria Steinem ’56 and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin ’84, Pelosi described this year’s graduates as similarly poised to become “history makers.”
In a time of extraordinary uncertainty, “one thing is certain,” Pelosi said. “You have the advantage of a Smith education—an education measured not only by GPA and test scores, but by the resilience, courage and perseverance you have honed these past four years.”
The theme of resilience was woven throughout Smith’s 142nd Commencement in a ceremony that combined traditional elements—including the pounding of a mace to start the proceedings—with virtual features, such as posting photographs of each graduate as their degrees were conferred, and congratulatory messages from family and friends in the chat section.
In her remarks to the Class of 2020, Smith President Kathleen McCartney praised students for maintaining their connections at a time of unprecedented isolation.
“I have come to believe that close friendships are a defining part of the Smith experience,” McCartney said. “You and your Smith friends will enrich one another’s lives. Over the years, you will hold one another up when you struggle with disappointment. You will share the stories that define your life lessons. And you will laugh together—I promise there will be lots of laughter, especially during reunions.”
“Smith College will always and forever be your home,” McCartney said.
Student Government Association President Rosalie Toupin ’20 emphasized that this year’s class—which entered Smith in a historic election year and is leaving during a global pandemic—“already has a strong legacy. It’s a legacy of passion, of dedication and of resilience.”
Toupin added that while she has loved being a Smith student, “I must say, I’m pretty excited to become a Smith alum. To go out into the world and proudly tell people I graduated from Smith College. To see what is in store for me, what you all accomplish. And to help lift the future generations of Smithies into forming their own legacy.”
Senior Class President Toula Sierros ’20 recalled that she “picked Smith for the community, but quickly grew to realize that it was so much more than that; it was a family.”
“Throughout these four years, I have been exposed to the most resilient, motivated and inspiring community I could have ever dreamed to be part of,” Sierros said. “As we enter this uncertain period of time filled with fear and changes we never expected, I am comforted knowing that Smith doesn’t end here.”