By Peter White

NASHVILLE, TN — Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Michael Curb, a record producer and philanthropist, spoke May 1 at the Fisk University graduation ceremony in the Temple Church in Bordeaux. Pelosi and Curb received honorary degrees.

“Now you know you have a friend and a classmate in the leader’s office,” Pelosi told the 2017 graduates. The church was packed with faculty, friends, family, and former Fisk graduates with standing room only at the back.

Fisk President Frank Sims introduced Pelosi as the first woman to hold the powerful post as Speaker of the House. She said that happened almost by accident. Pelosi had five children in the first six years of her marriage and never intended to go into politics.

When the opportunity arose to run for Congress, she was ready but needed a little nudge from her teenage daughter who told her to “get a life”.  She never looked back. Being ready to fight for justice and equality was the theme of Pelosi’s speech, which was thoughtful, at times personal and informal.

Pelosi spoke about the importance of black colleges and universities and she challenged the graduates to fulfill Fisk’s historic legacy in the next chapters of their lives.

“As graduates the Fisk legacy is as important now as it ever has been before… so draw on the strength of the education you have achieved and insist on your right to every opportunity. Insist on the truth that we must make good on the promise of our democracy. Insist on the truth that black lives matter.

She was interrupted with loud applause.

“With your degree you have both the opportunity and the responsibility to lead. At this hour of challenge our country needs more of Fisk’s vision, values, and bravery. Your leadership is indispensible in the fight for justice and equality.”

“Now it is your turn to answer the call written in the verses of your alma mater: to the north, to the east, to the south, to the west, by loyal children make their way to execute thy finest behest to turn the darkness into day.”

Two Fisk graduates shared the honor as valedictorians. Nigerian Oreoluwa Onalolu and Lorado Senzeni Mhonda from Zimbabwe each majored in biology and both had a 4.0 grade point average. They each addressed the crowd to loud applause.

The Fisk University choir performed “Witness” by Jack Halloran. And the Fisk Jubilee singers performed “Hallelujah” from Messiah by George Handel and “The Gold and Blue” by John Work.