House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on UC Davis' law graduates to "pursue the work of justice."
This year's graduates of the Martin Luther King School of Law enter a "world faced with enormous challenges," Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in addressing the school's more than 200 graduates and their families Friday at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.
She said the challenges range from income disparity to immigration reform to repairing and rebuilding Americans' faith in the political system.
"It's a time when public service is not only commendable, it's essential," said Pelosi, the first woman to hold the gavel as speaker of the House.
"What is needed now is a commitment to the public good (and) the courage to make decisions about our future."
Pelosi, warmly received at Mondavi's Jackson Hall, sounded familiar themes in her commencement address: restoring the nation's middle class and addressing disparities in income and education, calling the gap between rich and poor "a gaping hole," while urging more investment in education.
Government, she said, must be a "government of the many not a government of the money."
On immigration, Pelosi called on graduates to help "meet the challenges of comprehensive immigration reform," referencing King School of Law students' work on behalf of immigrants in the Central Valley.
The law school's commencement ceremony was the first of 12 at UC Davis from Friday to June 16, involving more than 8,000 graduates, officials said.
Friday's ceremony, Pelosi also remarked, fell on the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, declaring "separate-but-equal" public schools unconstitutional.
The decision, and the struggles for civil rights that followed, Pelosi said, is a lesson for today's King School of Law graduates.
"The challenge is to make that legacy of Martin Luther King your own, and pursue the work of justice."
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