Nancy Pelosi Addresses NYU Wagner Graduates at 2016 Convocation

Graduate students

NYU Wagner enthusiastically honored 418 graduating students at the 2016 Convocation on May 17 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Resplendent in their academic attire amid a capacity audience of 2,000, the students—and their professors, faculty members, and friends—heartily cheered an inspirational keynote address delivered by Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

Introduced by honorary student speaker Quintin Haynes—who noted Leader Pelosi is the highest-ranking female politician in American history—Ms. Pelosi hailed the students for embarking upon and deepening their public service careers in all sectors, and exhorted them to steer clear of what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once summed up aptly as the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

“Your vision,” Leader Pelosi told the graduates, “must be bigger and bolder.” Saying that “persistence” and “imagination” are keys to success, she advised: “Know your power, and have the imagination to use your potential.”

Working in a career devoted to improving our world “is not for the faint of heart,” Ms. Pelosi said. Yet, she added, NYU Wagner graduates are positioned to cultivate the rewards of a public service career performed honorably and well, and to use “power, individuality, and uniqueness to do something unexpected, extraordinary.”


Hailing from more than a dozen different countries, the graduates raised the roof in appreciation of her words of edification and support.

NYU Wagner Dean Sherry Glied opened the ceremony with welcoming remarks, describing the defining roles Wagner students play across sectors, and telling these graduates that she is looking forward to hearing from them in the future about their “fence climbing and pole vaulting successes, all in the name of creating a better world.”

NYU Deputy Provost and Vice Chancellor (Europe) Katherine E. Fleming also delivered advice to the students, saying: “You should want to pursue what you want, not what you think other people want,” a feat she described as far easier to say than to do living in our "consumerist" society, but crucial all the same.

Taking the stage one by one, members of the graduating class proudly accepted one of the following degrees: Master of Public Administration, Master of Urban Planning, Executive Master of Public Administration, and Doctor of Philosophy. And as they did, their loved ones and friends stood and applauded their hallmark accomplishment in one of New York City's most iconic venues.

The Convocation drew media attention.