Texas Tribune Festival: ‘One on One with Nancy Pelosi’

Victoria Cavazos

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Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi advocated for more stringent campus gun control in a one-on-one conversation held Saturday at the 5th annual Texas Tribune Festival.

The exchange, which was titled “One on One with Nancy Pelosi” was moderated by the Tribune’s Bureau Chief, Abby Livingston, who has reported for several news outlets, including NBC and CNN among others, and is currently covering Washington D.C..

The discussion was hosted at the Hogg Memorial Auditorium at the University of Texas at Austin, and was open to Tribune Festival badge holders.

The former speaker of the house said that campus-carry legislation would not affect her feelings towards her grandchildren’s potential enrollment in the University of Texas, but that the new legislation provided “all the more reason to have background checks.”

“Ninety percent of the public supports the background checks,” said Pelosi later in a response to an audience member’s question.

Referring to the recent campus carry legislation, Pelosi said, “I am interested in what an overwhelming number of faculty members here have said. It’s a remarkable and courageous stand that so many people at UT Austin have spoken out against the legislation.”

Pelosi talked about Texas’ potential, her ascension to the position of democratic leader and even her grand kids, who live in Texas and have plans to attend UT Austin.

Pelosi, the youngest of seven children and the only girl in the household, said that she never planned on running for office.

“I wanted a normal life. We were raised in a very lovely atmosphere of public service,” Pelosi said, “I was basically a very shy person and I didn’t see myself going in front of an audience or putting myself on the line; that came later.”

As the democratic leader, she stressed the importance of both parties working together to keep the government running.

“To reach across for common ground… that’s our responsibility,” Pelosi said.

She expressed her concern for a potential government shutdown in December and former house speaker John Boehner’s decision to step down as a reflection of the poor state of bipartisanship within the government.

“The speaker stepping aside because he refused to shut down government is a very big deal,” Pelosi said. “I wish he had not. We don’t agree on many issues, but we do agree on the governance of our country.”

Pelosi enforced her support of bipartisan cooperation by adding, “I almost don’t care if people vote democratic or republican. As long as they make their voices heard about what is important to them.”

“It isn’t about Democrats or Republicans, it’s about our country,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi expressed concern over voter turnout and admitted that the role of big money in politics plays a big part in discouraging people from getting to the polls. She said that it was a system that “we absolutely, positively must overturn; Citizens United is a must.”

“A third of the electorate voted,” said Pelosi, and repeated, “a third of the electorate voted.”

Pelosi talked about how valuable the vote was to our ancestors and how we are supposed to have “a government of the many, not a government of the money.”

“There can be endless undisclosed dark special interest money suffocating the airways during elections, not necessarily representing the facts,” Pelosi said, “Part of our challenge is to overcome the oppressive nature of big money in politics.”

“We must change that — but we can’t agonize, we have to organize,” Pelosi said.

In addition to her urging constituents to vote, Pelosi also had some inspiring advice for young women: When opportunities present themselves, “Be ready.”

“I went from the kitchen to the Congress. From housewife to house speaker,” Pelosi said, “Just know what you believe in, what motivates you. What is your purpose? Know your purpose. People respect your judgement if they see your knowledge on the subject.”

Pelosi continued: “The most important advice is to totally be yourself. We all wanna be Ann Richards, right? But that’s not what it’s about. Be your authentic, sincere self. Authenticity is what people respond to the most.”

Despite some of the challenges she outlined in her conversation with Livingston, Pelosi said that she maintains a high level of optimism and is driven by the problems faced by American citizens and their children.

“I’m always optimistic,” Pelosi said, “You have to be.”