WASHINGTON (February 28, 2019) – U. S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed a range of political topics at Howard University during a moderated conversation with political strategist and author Donna Brazile for the 2018-2019 Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy Lecture Series on Feb. 27. The topics included net neutrality, climate change, Venezuela, and criminal justice reform.
President Wayne A. I. Frederick welcomed Speaker Pelosi back to Howard and thanked her for her continued service in Congress.
“We’d like to extend our congratulations to you on your re-election as Speaker of the House for the 116th Congress. You previously visited Howard in 2007, which was also a historic moment for us as well,” said Frederick. “The King Lecture Series has certainly become a landmark event at the University and special thanks to Ms. Donna Brazile, the 7th holder of the King chair, who has been extremely active on campus and dedicated to this role.”
During the lively conversation, Speaker Pelosi pointed to her own early foundation in politics as a way to encourage student participation in politics and public service.
“When you want to be involved in public service, you have to know your ‘why’,” Pelosi said. “I went from kitchen to Congress, housewife to House Speaker. My ‘why’ is that one in five children live in poverty.”
Pelosi recalled attending the 1963 March on Washington and addressed how the Civil Rights Movement and its leaders inspired her generation. She expressed pride that the House now has a statue of Rosa Parks in the U.S. capitol building.
Listing priorities for the new Congress, Pelosi said Democrats have introduced legislation to repair the Voting Rights Act of 1965, parts of which have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Pelosi said the House would pass new legislation in “a very short period of time,” adding the the action was “long overdue, but now possible.”
Brazille asked Pelosi about proposed solutions to the student loan debt crisis, citing data that millennial are facing over $1 trillion in student loan debt. “Of course it is unsustainable that an entire generation of Americans will have to deal with this debt for their entire careers and lives,” Brazille said.
Pelosi said Democrats had made progress in easing debt burdens for students under the Obama administration, but those efforts had since been rolled back. She said Democrats would pursue legislation that lowers the rising cost of college—the Aim Higher Act, which boosts investments in federal student aid and funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. The bill also expands federal programs that make student loans cheaper and easier to repay.
On criminal justice, Pelosi acknowledged that 1990s criminal reform laws contained unfair provisions, including sentencing disparities related to crack cocaine. Pelosi said such provisions were based on “a formula that was not healthy for young Black men.” She added, “We have to reverse that.”
On reparations, Pelosi said she supports legislation introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to study the issue. To help other House members understand the legacy of exploitation of African people, Pelosi said she had recently given several colleagues the book “King Leopold’s Ghost.” Pelosi said House Democrats will continue to push their For The People agenda to address racial disparities in income, education, and affordable health care.
Asked by a student about recent developments in Venezuela, Pelosi responded that the United States shouldn’t intervene in the country. But Pelosi also pushed back against positive characterizations of the country’s president. Speaking on net neutrality, Pelosi said Democrats in Congress would soon unveil new legislation on the issue. She said on net neutrality, “Many companies want to be guardians of the gate, but we don’t need guardians of the gate.”
On climate change, Pelosi pointed to her leadership on the issue as Speaker previously and Democrats’ enactment of the House Select Committee on Climate. She added that Democrats will seek evidence-based policies that encourage the creation of new Green jobs. She also highlighted climate change as a moral issue.
“We all know we have a moral responsibility to pass the planet on in the healthiest way possible to the next generation,” Pelosi said.Photo credit: Pictured left to right: Mrs. Simone Frederick, Donna Brazile, President Wayne A. I. Frederick, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Colbert I. King and Gwendolyn S. King.
Photo credit: Pictured left to right: Mrs. Simone Frederick, Donna Brazile, President Wayne A. I. Frederick, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Colbert I. King and Gwendolyn S. King.
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ABOUT HOWARD UNIVERSITY
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, two Marshall Scholars, one Schwarzman Scholar, over 70 Fulbright Scholars and 22 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University visit www.howard.edu.