Pelosi Calls for Civic Engagement

Alex Smith • The Student Life

In a visit to Scripps College on Feb. 18, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi reiterated early and often the necessity of diversity in politics, telling her audience at Garrison Theater that “nothing has a more wholesome effect on politics and government than the increased involvement of women. And I say that about minorities as well.”

The event, “Women in Politics: A Conversation with Nancy Pelosi,” was hosted by Scripps Presents, the newly founded speaker series that, in addition to hosting Pelosi, has attracted major public figures such as activist Angela Davis.

“Scripps College provides such an amazing and very unusual space and opportunity to immerse yourself in ideas, think critically about current affairs, and to be inspired,” wrote Corrina Lesser, Scripps’ director of Public Events and Community Programs, in an email to TSL. “It’s a way to provide a forum for the Consortium and the Greater Los Angeles community to come together to hear from the very writers, scholars, artists, public officials, and musicians, who fuel that kind of discovery.”

Pelosi engaged in conversation with Vanessa Tyson, Scripps assistant professor of politics, who teaches a course on women in public policy and has written a book about minority representation in the House of Representatives.

Representing San Francisco in Congress since 1987, Pelosi ascended to the upper echelons of American politics in 2007 when she became Speaker of the House, the first woman to hold that position and the highest-ranking female politician in America history. Pelosi served as Speaker during the ratification of the Affordable Care Act, a hallmark of President Obama’s agenda, and played an instrumental role in the bill’s eventual passage through Congress.

Bumped out of the Speaker’s Office amidst the Tea Party wave of the 2010 midterm elections, Pelosi remains the House’s top Democrat, leading a Democratic caucus that, for the first time, is comprised of a majority of women and people of color.

During the talk, Pelosi outlined many progressive policy positions geared at helping women. 

“When women succeed, America succeeds,” she said, speaking of the “four legs to the stool” to help propel women in America: higher minimum wages, national paid sick leave, quality affordable child care, and caregivers for senior citizens.

When the occasion arose, Pelosi took the opportunity to chastise her Republican colleagues for what she said was their willingness to ignore the basic duties of governance in Congress.

“If you don’t believe in science and evidence, if you don’t believe in governance, and you don’t believe in Barack Obama, you have a trifecta for [obstructionism],” she said.

A group of protesters from the organization The Remembrance Project objected to Pelosi’s visit from outside Garrison Theater, holding signs that read “End Sanctuary Cities Now!”.

“We oppose sanctuary cities, we think that people here illegally should be repatriated to their home countries,” Robin Hvidston, the organization’s California coordinator, said in an interview. “We think that cities like San Francisco, they don’t recognize a person’s residency status. We want to be here together to send the message to Nancy Pelosi that citizens want our cities to be safe and protected and to end the sanctuary policy.”

In July 2015, Kathryn Steinle, a constituent of Pelosi’s, was murdered by an undocumented immigrant who had previously been deported five times. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has used Steinle as a symbol to campaign for harsher border control laws.

The concept of sanctuary cities “was developed by religious and faith communities,” Pelosi said when asked about the protestors.

The idea of the sanctuary “was not to give any comfort to felons or any of that. It was about protecting families. And that is what we are committed to doing," Pelosi said.

Sergio Rodriguez PO ‘16 rushed to confront the protesters after hearing about them on social media, and said that they repeatedly told him to “go back to [his] country.”

“They were trying to provoke us. I think they were hoping that way we would be violent with them,” Rodriguez said.

“If one person messes up in our community, the entire community has messed up,” he added, using a more colorful verb. “So we weren’t treated as individuals.”

Pelosi has not endorsed a Democratic presidential hopeful, and refused to speak ill of either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. While Clinton, Pelosi said, “would be better prepared with more experience” than any President in recent memory, Sanders “has really done a service for the country by attracting people. This is an attraction business.”

Sanders supporters in the audience—and gauging by their cheers, there were many—erupted when Pelosi condemned superdelegates in the Democratic primary, which have contributed to CIinton’s enormous lead in the total delegate count, even though the Vermont Senator won the New Hampshire primary and virtually tied Clinton in Iowa.

Outlining the small sliver of room for bipartisan legislation in the House, Pelosi said that she was most optimistic about a bill addressing juvenile justice reform. Tyson said, “I’m keeping my fingers crossed; knock on wood."

“Knock on doors,” responded Pelosi wryly, with a smile.