MIAMI – Nancy Pelosi (D- California), the U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, had a lot to say during her visit to South Florida this week.
But as chairwoman of the upcoming Democratic National Convention, she was silent on the presidential nomination battle between senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Nevertheless, Pelosi, the second person in line to the presidency, stepped to the podium and delivered an inspiring and gracious speech during the 2008 commencement exercise for Miami Dade College’s North Campus on May 3.
“I come carrying the hopes of our nation,” said Pelosi, the highest-ranking elected woman in American history.
“We are the land of the free and the home of the brave,” she boasted to the 1,100 graduates in black caps and gowns at the James L. Knight Center in Miami.
“Some of you are newcomers,” she said, “but understand this, that is what makes America more American. Newcomers bring their hopes, their dreams and their aspirations.”
Students attending Miami Dade College hail from 181 different countries and all walks of life. The college, now in its fourth year of offering bachelor’s degrees, with its enrollment of 165,000 students, is the nation’s largest institution of higher learning.
Words of wisdom
Proud loved ones and excited graduate candidates sat attentively as the 20-year veteran legislator gave emphasis to three principles she deemed most worthy.
She encouraged graduates to recognize and be ready for opportunity. She urged students to follow their passion, and to have faith in the future.
“You go forward with the confidence that Miami Dade College gave you,” she said. “The education will serve you well.”
Poised and polished, Pelosi imparted words of knowledge and praised students for their accomplishments. She also took time to reflect upon her achievement.
“The role that I’m most proud of is my role as a mother of five kids and seven grandkids,” she said. “When I was packing my kids’ lunch, I never dreamed I’d be the Speaker of the House.”
Beaming with pride
Pelosi inspired students like 18-year old Shatavia Blue, a high school senior who graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Elementary Education.
Blue participated in the Dual Enrollment program at the School for Advanced Studies, which allows high school students to earn college credit towards an Associate’s degree.
“I’m going to transfer to Florida Atlantic University and major in Elementary Education because I want to be a teacher,” Blue said. “I am going to also get a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration so I can open up my own daycare center.”
Blue, whose mother beamed with pride, had just returned from Tampa, where her oldest daughter received a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of South Florida.
“These are the proudest days of my life,” said Delseia Blue, 40. “Yesterday, we rushed to Tampa just in time to see my oldest child, Shantaun, graduate. She called us on her cell phone to tell us to hurry. She was sitting in the front, but she moved to the back of the line so we could see her walk across the stage.
“We left Tampa at 3 a.m. to get to Miami in enough time to see my youngest daughter, Shatavia, graduate from Miami Dade. I’m extremely exhausted, but extremely overjoyed,” she said.
Parents were not the only ones who glowed with pride.
Shawntira Johnson, 25, her twin sisters, Jonvonya and Jonvonie Miller, 17, and brother, Johnny Miller, 16, entered the James L. Knight Center, bouquet in hand, for their graduating mother, Natalie Johnson, 47. Johnson’s siblings were also on hand to share in the joy, and expressed their admiration for the family matriarch.
“She’s a single mother and has been since I was two years old,” said Shawntira Johnson. “I’m proud of her and she deserves it. She’s a hard worker. She never gave up even though she had some challenges in math class.”
Shawntira’s mother was awarded an Associates degree in Social Work and plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree at Barry University or Florida International University.
Areas of Study
With eight campuses and outreach centers, Miami Dade College offers more than 200 distinct degree programs.
The Miami Dade College system on May 3 graduated 9,000 students in seven ceremonies. Students received Associates in Arts or Science degrees in many fields, including Aviation, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Engineering, Fire and Environmental Science, Funeral Service Education, and Nursing.
For the first time in the college’s history, students received a four-year degree from the School of Criminal Justice. Forty-three students earned a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Public Safety Management.
Caliber of speakers
Pelosi’s keynote address continued the college’s tradition of hosting esteemed orators. Past speakers include U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, retired U.S. Florida Senator Bob Graham, the late Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, retired U.S. Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek, First Lady Laura Bush, and President George W. Bush.
“I believe that we are able to attract this caliber of speakers because they are impressed with the quality of education that we provide to a diverse group of students,” said Malou Harrison, dean of students for Miami Dade College. “That is our signature and we are very proud of that.”
At the graduation ceremony’s close, Miami Dade College president Dr. Eduardo Padron conferred upon Pelosi an honorary Bachelor of Science degree in Education.
“We are now classmates,” said Pelosi, speaking to the graduating class of 2008. “We now have a bond. So remember, you have a friend in the Speaker’s Office.”
Photo: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi