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Highest-Ranking Woman in Congressional History to be Simmons Commencement Speaker

Nancy Pelosi Speaks at Simmons Graduation May 16 in Boston

BOSTON (April 2, 2004) — Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who as Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives is the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States Congress, will be the Simmons College commencement speaker Sunday, May 16.

Pelosi will speak at Simmons at 10:00 a.m. May 16 before more than 1,400 newly minted graduates. The ceremony will take place behind the Main College Building at 300 The Fenway in Boston.

Pelosi has represented California's Eighth District in the House of Representatives since 1987. A leading advocate for education and promoting health care, including women's health, Pelosi is the first woman in American history to lead a major party in the U.S. Congress. She is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, fighting for America's families, passing legislation for nonprofits to create affordable housing, and creating the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program. To that end, she has worked to accelerate development of an HIV vaccine, expand access to Medicaid for people with HIV, and increased funding for a number of HIV/AIDS programs.

A 10-year member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Pelosi has urged greater attention to threats to international security. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, she led congressional reviews of U.S. intelligence and security agencies and authored legislation to create an independent national commission to assess the overall performance of the federal government before, during, and after the attacks.

Pelosi, a leader for human and environmental rights, has fought to improve China's human rights record, and has worked on efforts to free the people of Tibet. She secured passage of a provision in the International Development and Finance Act of 1989 which requires the World Bank and all the regional multilateral development banks to review the potential environmental impacts of development projects for which they provide funding and to make these assessments publicly known.

Pelosi graduated from Trinity College, a women's institution, in 1962, and married Paul Pelosi. Pelosi was a full time mother to their five children, but never lost interest in Democratic politics. As the children grew, Pelosi remained active and assisted in San Francisco Rep. Phil Burton. In 1976, she was tapped by then-California Gov. Jerry Brown to manage his Maryland presidential primary bid. He won, and Pelosi was elected chair of the California Democratic Party. She has, according to the Almanac of American Politics, "a capacity for keeping all parts of her party happy." Her 2001 election as House Minority Whip demonstrated her popularity with her colleagues and made her the highest-ranking woman in Congressional history.

During the Simmons ceremony, Simmons President Daniel S. Cheever Jr. and Trustee Chair Anne Lincoln Bryant will award honorary degrees to Pelosi and Anne Garrels, National Public Radio foreign correspondent; Ngina Lythcott, Vice Dean of Students, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University; and Lewis (Harry) Spence, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. i