Pelosi Recalls Baltimore Roots in Speech

By Timothy B. Wheeler
Baltimore Sun Reporter
Friday, May 22, 2009

Calling climate change "the greatest challenge of our day," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi credited young voters yesterday with pressuring Congress to finally craft a national response, and she predicted that the United States would join other countries this year in an international pact to reduce planet-warming pollution.

Pelosi, speaking at the commencement for the Johns Hopkins University's arts and sciences and engineering graduates, called climate change a national security, economic, environmental health and moral issue.

"Thanks to your voices, votes and values, America has awakened to the crisis after years of delay and is now moving in a new direction," she said.

She noted that even as she was in Baltimore speaking, House members were working on climate legislation that would commit the nation to reducing carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050. The House Energy and Commerce Committee was reportedly nearing a vote to send a bill to the full House after rejecting Republican efforts to weaken it.

While Pelosi was away, Democratic House members also turned back a bid by GOP members to launch an investigation of Pelosi's claims that the Central Intelligence Agency misled her in 2002 about whether waterboarding had been used against terrorism suspects. CIA Director Leon Panetta, who was scheduled to speak last night at the commencement for the University of Maryland, College Park, has said agency records show she was present for a briefing outlining interrogation, although he later acknowledged that those records might not be completely accurate.

Pelosi didn't mention the controversy, and there were no protests or catcalls about it from the students, their families and friends, who almost filled Hopkins' Homewood Field stadium.

Indeed, the first female speaker of the House devoted much of her 14-minute speech not to public affairs, but to recalling her Baltimore roots and to lauding Hopkins.

Though she has represented San Francisco in Congress since 1987, Pelosi grew up in the city. Her late father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., was Baltimore's mayor for 12 years and represented the city in Congress. And her brother, Thomas D'Alesandro III, who was in the commencement audience, also served as mayor.

"This city is where I first learned the importance of public service from my mother and from my father," she said.

The university awarded an honorary doctorate to Pelosi and to its former president, William R. Brody, who left in February after 12 years at the helm to become president of the Salk Institute for biological studies in California. He was succeeded in March by Ronald J. Daniels, who had been provost at the University of Pennsylvania.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company