Nancy Pelosi talks political career, experiences


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), former speaker of the House, spoke at the Douglass Campus Center.


Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) raised five children before deciding to run for Congress.

“I went from housewife to House speaker, … from kitchen to Congress,” she said.

Pelosi, minority leader of the United States House of Represetatives, described her empowerment and struggles as the highest-ranked elected woman in the American government yesterday at the Douglass Campus Center.

Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi welcomed Pelosi to campus, saying she has served 26 years as representative to San Francisco, Calif. and served as speaker from 2007 to 2011.

“She has been an incredibly strong advocate for higher education. … Including the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which expanded Federal Pell Grants,” he said.

Pelosi said her accomplishments reflected the strides of feminist and suffragist leaders and political figures. She recounted the story of her first meeting with then-President George W. Bush and Republican administrators.

As she sat down to begin her discussion, she felt the tremendous weight of past women like Sojourner Truth pressing on her. She said they seemed to be rejoicing.

“At last we have a seat at the table,” she said.

Women could not only provide important insight on gender-related issues, but they could also contribute their skills and knowledge to areas such as national security and the economy, Pelosi said.

She said women had an attitude of consensus building and better time management from balancing work and home life. In the 2013 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, female congressional members organized to prevent the reduction of protection for Native Americans, immigrants and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

Pelosi outlined the priorities of the women she has encountered and her party has studied. Two large concerns were pay equity, and raising the minimum wage.

More than 60 percent of minimum wage workers are female, she said.

She also desires more paid sick leave to allow women time to take care of their children and affordable child care while women are working.

“Women entrepreneurs have to have confidence their child is in good hands,” she said.

Among her most significant accomplishments while speaker was the passing of the Affordable Care Act, she said. The legislation reformed reproductive care for women.

Many Congresswomen collaborated to improve women’s health through the ACA, she said.

Pelosi was the first Italian-American speaker of the House, but her family instilled a political interest in her at a young age. With her father and brother both serving as mayors of Baltimore, Md., Pelosi knew a good deal about civic duty, she said.

Nevertheless, she took a while to consider running for office. Pelosi had five children in six years, many of whom were near-adults when she was first elected. They taught her diplomacy and planning skills.

“I explained to the kids that I had the opportunity to run for Congress, [and] I would be home only three nights a week,” she said. “My teenage daughter said, ‘Mother, get a life.’ She wanted weekends without her mom around.”

Pelosi said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a strong candidate for the first female president and one of the most qualified candidates overall.

Clinton’s election would boost morale among women around the world, she said.

She advised the aspiring women politicians in the audience to choose a passion and become knowledgeable about it.

“When you express your opinion, people will see that you have good judgment,” she said.

Students should be dreamers, but have a plan, she said.

The Eagleton Institute of Politics and the Center for American Women and Politics co-hosted the event.

Kathy Kleeman, senior communications officer of Eagleton, said the two organizations try to use speakers to connect the study of politics with the practice of it.

“We like to bring in political practitioners who can report from the field,” she said.


By Erin Petenko

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