Congressional expert Norman Ornstein has called her “one of the most savvy political leaders around.” Congressional Quarterly
has stated that “over the past half-century, Democrats in the House have never been more unified”
than they have been under her remarkable leadership. These are only a few ways in which Nancy Pelosi is changing the face of Congress. During nineteen years representing San Francisco
in the House of Representatives, she has worked her way up the ladder in Congress, and was overwhelmingly elected as Minority Leader in Congress in 2002, making her the first woman in American history to be the leader of a major party in Congress. She has used her position of power to promote equal opportunity in education, human rights, AIDS research and respect for social security, and has drafted a New Direction for America
, which will be enacted within the first 100 hours if the next election permits her to become the Speaker of the House. She has accomplished all of these things in addition to being a devoted wife, and raising a family of five. Her generosity of spirit, her dedication to public service, and her well-rounded character have led me to believe that conferring the 2007 Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
would display to the world the high standards and ethics held by the University of Southern California.
The first line of the University of Southern California
’s Code of Ethics
says that "At the University of Southern California, ethical behavior is predicated on two main pillars: a commitment to discharging our obligations to others in a fair and honest manner, and a commitment to respecting the rights and dignity of all persons." Nancy Pelosi, the current pillar of the Democratic Party, embodies the description of ethical behavior that is written here. She earned her position on merit and skill alone, working her way up to her leadership position from the very bottom. Though her father and her brother, Thomas D’Alesandro II and III
, both served as the Mayor of Baltimore, where she was born, she did not enter the world of politics until after her five children were in sc
hool. She married Paul Pelosi
, a native of San Francisco
, where she lived and raised her family after their union. She began her political career
as a volunteer for the Democratic Party. After proving herself as a dedicated and efficient Democrat, she became the State and Northern Chair of the Democratic Party, Chair of the 1984 Democratic Convention Host Committee, and the finance chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. After her children had grown up, she ran and was elected as a Democrat to the One Hundredth Congress to fill the vacancy that was made after the death of United States Representative Sala Burton in 1987. Since then, Nancy Pelosi has been re-elected to nine Congresses, resulting in nineteen years of extraordinary service to the House of Representatives. Before being elected as Minority Leader in 2002, she served as the Minority Whip.
Nancy Pelosi is also unafraid
to fight for the issues that she believes to be important, even if they are ideas that might be unpopular among many of her colleagues. According to James Freedman in his book, Liberal Education and the Public Interest
, the conferral of honorary degrees is “an opportunity to emphasize an institution’s values…a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most” (117). Awarding an Honorary Degree to Nancy Pelosi would be a perfect opportunity for the University of Southern California
to prove its support for an increase in human rights worldwide. In her New Direction For America
book, Nancy Pelosi suggests a remarkable idea; the prohibition of a Congressional pay raise until the nation’s minimum wage is raised. Pelosi is willing to prevent any further personal financial gain until the means to improve a standard of living for the rest of Americans is provided through the increase of the nation-wide minimum wage requirement. Her New Direction For America
also includes a section entitled, "Six for '06", which are all things that she is urging Congress to achieve before this year is done. These six items include transforming failed U.S. foreign policies that have been implemented around the world, raising the nation's minimum wage, making college tuition tax deductible, decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil through the use of alternative fuels, negotiating lower drug prices for seniors with Medicare, and stopping any plans to privatize social security.
In Mike Martin’s book, Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics
, he describes the worldview of Albert Schweitzer pertaining to professional work: “Schweitzer regarded his work as worthwhile beyond the paycheck it provided, as meaningful in terms of his ideals of caring for clients, colleagues, and the wider community” (16). Martin also says that “a life is more than outward events, as we understand persons only when we grasp the value commitments embedded in their motives, character and worldview” (16). Nancy Pelosi fulfills these concepts in both her intentions for improvements in the realm of human rights, and in the progress that she has already accomplished in the field. She has demonstrated incredible dedication to increasing care for those suffering from AIDS, being as one of her first legislative victories was the creation of the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program
. She is an avid advocate of the development of an HIV vaccine, of expanding Medicaid for those living with the virus, and increasing funding for the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative
. These measures add to her numerous qualifications as a candidate for an Honorary Degree
from USC, being as one of the purposes of the Honorary Degree system is to "to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and/or on the national or world scene".
At great risk to her political popularity, she has been vocal about improving China’s human rights
is a key player in the U.S.
global trade strategy, and is a very large buyer of U.S.
goods; China-U.S. trade
rose to $231 billion in 2004, making China
the third-largest U.S.
trading partner. In Mike Martin's book, he quotes Adam Smith, who proclaimed that "The wise and virtuous (w0)man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of hi
s (her) own particular order or society" (13). Despite the fact that it would be in America
’s self-interest to leave trade with China
as it is, Nancy Pelosi is attempting to tie trade with an increased human rights standard in order to improve the quality of life within our global society. In addition, she has spoken out against the suppression of minority voting rights, inequality in the workplace for disabled persons, and the most recent signing of the Military Commissions Act by President Bush, stating that the bill would “weaken the international legal standards that have protected our troops for decades”.
She has no qualms about using her authority to speak out against any U.S.
measure or activity that she feels would cause harm to any member of the global community. Her colleagues, however, recognize that she has many challenges in front of her. Though she has announced many plans to try and make policy improvements, her colleagues have expressed some concerns. According to an article in The Washington Post by E.J. Dionne
, some hurdles that lay before her include uniting the Young Turks, keeping all efforts to improve policy bi-partisan, and uniting the older and younger members of Congress. Though she has made lots of plans, there are still a number of issues that Pelosi will have to address in the near future.
In the University of Southern California
’s Code of Ethics
, it is written that “We have a familial duty as well as a fiduciary duty to one another”. I believe that this statement refers to all future generations, as well as those of us living in the present. Nancy Pelosi is doing her part to ensure the well being of future generations by being a vocal environmentalist. She recognizes that the environmental damages that we inflict upon our world today may not be hazardous to us now, but they might prove to be harmful for those born in the future. Case in point: global warming. In her New Direction For America
, she proposes an idea that would both free the United States
from dependence on foreign oil, while simultaneously cutting down on dangerous emissions into the atmosphere by increasing research for energy-efficient technolog
ies, and ending tax breaks to Big Oil companies. Her advocacy of a cleaner environment, and therefore a safer environment for the future, does not stop at the domestic front. Nancy Pelosi secured the passage of the International Development and Finance Act of 1989
, which requires the World Bank and all regional development banks to review the potential environmental consequences of all development projects that they decide to fund, and to make these findings public. This piece of legislature is now called “The Pelosi Amendment”. Furthering her fight for a better world for future generations is her proposal to make college tuition tax-deductible
, cut student loan interest rates, and expand Pell Grants. She wants to ensure a higher level of education to more students, so that fewer young people are hindered in their ability to succeed due to a lack of a college degree. She exemplifies the qualities that Freedman looks for in an honorary degree candidate; "...Intellectual distinction and public service...to celebrate distinguished and sublime achievement" (118). "Fear is not a word that is in my vocabulary or my mentality," says the incoming Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi is working to help everyone, taking into account the impacts of our actions today on those who will feel them in the future.
It is easily understood that conferring an Honorary Degree
to someone so obviously partial to a political party might be considered controversial, especially since last year’s recipient, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
, is also a Democrat. John O. Freedman, for example, makes mention in his book some controversy regarding Brandeis University’s awarding of honorary degrees to every Israeli Prime Minister elected to the Labor Party, but none to the Likud(120). Republican Congressmembers fear that Pelosi is excessively liberal, according to a Fox News election article
; "Pelosi is a liberal who represents one of the most left-leaning districts of San Francisco. Republicans had tried to use that against her. In races around the country, GOP partisans said the possibility of a"Speaker Pelosi"was reason enough to keep the House in Republican hands". Outspoken conservatives such as Bill O'Reilly associate Pelosi with what he calls "San Francisco Values
", which, according to him, are anti-military and anti-Christian.
However, despite Nancy Pelosi’s very public status as a Democrat and a liberal, she is a role model for every student at USC, regardless of political preference. For women, she is making history. I had the honor of meeting her, as I volunteered at a campaign event for her during the month of October this year. She recalled her first meeting with President George W. Bush as Minority Leader, and said that she remembers realizing that not only was this her first meeting as Minority Leader, but that she was the first woman to ever meet with the President as the leader of a major party in Congress. She conveyed to all the women in the audience that they could have it all: be a wife, a mother, and an incredibly accomplished political leader.
The conferral of Honorary Degrees
by the University of Southern California is meant to "to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public". Nancy Pelosi, most likely the new Speaker of the House, has certainly distinguished herself within the political arena. She, along with the other remarkable female politicians in the House and Senate, is doing away with all stereotypes pertaining to the existence of a weaker sex. She is living proof to all that hard work can pay off, being as she worked for twenty-six years to gain her political authority, starting as a volunteer and eventually leading the Democrats in the House of Representatives. For
all aspiring leaders, men and women, she is an ideal role model. Under her leadership, the Democrats have voted together 88% percent of the time
. This is a record-breaking statistic, and an accomplishment that she achieved through the “restoration of integrity, civility, and fiscal soundness to the House of Representatives while using commonsense principles to address the aspirations and fulfill the hopes and dreams of all Americans”
. As the probable new Speaker of the House, Pelosi states that "Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern, and looking forward to working in a bipartisan way with the Republicans in Congress and with the president of the United States
". According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle written by Marc Sandalow
, "Many Republicans grudgingly admit that Pelosi has been far more pragmatic than they first imagined, keeping her liberalism from becoming a central issue and staying away from conservative districts where her presence might have been used against Democratic candidates." These, contrary to the opinions of many of her critics, are the San Francisco Values that Nancy Pelosi has brought to the table.
Freedman states that "Public officials who have a moral dimension to their character are especially prized because they are thought likely to use the occasion of being a commencement speaker to make an important public pronouncement" (126). I could guarantee that she would be an animated, profound and inspirational speaker. I have cause to believe that she would speak about the importance of balance in one's life, accentuating the possibility of having both a family and a successful career. More importantly, she would discuss the importance of working hard to gain what one wants, while still having faith in idealism. She has managed to be a successful politician, and has maintained her popularity through her promotion of equality, human rights, and environmental improvement, which are all subjects that many Congressmembers do not mention. She would say that one does not have to sacrifice morals and ideals in order to be successful, a message that would ring loud and true being as she has managed to keep her own idealism throughout her political career.
Nancy Pelosi is thoroughly qualified to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of California because of her exhibition of character. In Martin's book, he states that "even though personal ideals are focused outwardly on public goods, the allude to ideals of character. Sincere commitment to improving community safety, alleviating suffering, pursuing justice, or promoting informed citizenry implies implies affirming the virtues of caring, compassion, justice and rationality" (21). Nancy Pelosi’s exceptional person
ality traits translate universally. Her integrity, honesty, and courage are admirable not only to aspiring politicians or women, but are characteristics that everyone should strive for. By acknowledging a leader who has successfully achieved her position of power through twenty-six years of honest hard work, the University of Southern California
would be expressing its advocacy of those who do not cheat their way to the top. By honoring an individual who always fights for what she believes in, efficiently leads a group to record-breaking unity, and makes enormous progress on ideas that would work to benefit the future and those who are presently in need, the University of Southern California would be saying to the world that it upholds and admires all of these characteristics, and wishes to instill them in the members of the Trojan Family.