Nancy Pelosi to give keynote address at 2014 commencement

Nancy Pelosi/Creative Commons

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U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will give the keynote address at UC Berkeley’s 2014 general commencement ceremony, the campus announced Wednesday.

Pelosi, a Democrat who has represented San Francisco in the House of Representatives since 1987, is the first woman to lead a major party in Congress and the first female speaker of the House. She will be speaking to graduating students, faculty, administrators and other guests at California Memorial Stadium on May 17.

“We are honored to welcome Nancy Pelosi to deliver the keynote address at our 2014 commencement,” said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in a statement. “Leader Pelosi’s groundbreaking career represents the very best in public service for our state, our country and the world.”

While the 2014 commencement keynote speaker was announced later than before — last year’s was announced in February — the timing varies depending on student selection, invitation and confirmation from the invitees, according to Andy Pino, campus director of communications and media relations. Pelosi also has agreed to deliver the commencement speech to the graduating class at Bard College in New York on May 24.

Pelosi has been minority leader since her term as speaker of the House, which lasted four years, ended in 2011. Over the past few years, she has advocated passing the Affordable Care Act, increasing the federal minimum wage and reforming immigration policies.

“As a student of UC Berkeley and an intern for Leader Pelosi’s district office, I am very proud to see the congresswoman give the keynote speech for the graduating class of 2014,” said UC Berkeley senior Ruben Munoz. “Her outstanding leadership for over 25 years is quite remarkable, especially the fact that she is the first woman to be speaker of the House.”

Pelosi, however, has also gained a reputation for being one of the most polarizing leaders in the House due to her unyielding policy views. According to a Gallup poll from April 2013, 48 percent of Americans viewed Pelosi unfavorably, compared with 41 percent of Americans for Republican and current House Speaker John Boehner.

“While I personally do not speak for the club, I feel that the choice of a commencement speaker should take into account the interests of all graduating students and should be able to speak to a diverse group of people,” said Brendan Pinder, president of Berkeley College Republicans. “Pelosi is controversial and divisive. While indeed famous, I feel this was a bizarre and uninspired decision.”

Previous commencement speakers include Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and chief scientist at Fusion-io, for the class of 2013 and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, for the class of 2012. The speakers are chosen and invited every year by the Californians, a student group on campus.

Contact Alison Fu and Taryn Smith at [email protected].