Congresswoman Barbara Lee came home to Mills to a rousing reception on Monday.
Mills students and community members filled the concert hall to hear Lee (D-Oakland) speak on campus for the first time since she cast the single dissenting vote on a resolution temporally suspending the War Powers Act in the House of Representatives.
Cheering students stood to honor the congresswoman after her introduction from college president Janet Holmgren.
Lee, class of 73, said that it was good to be home. “It is times like these when you see the good and the bad in people,” Lee said. “In all Mills women I’ve seen a lot of the beauty in the world.”
Lee said that there she has received 45,000 e-mails, telephone calls and faxes about the vote, and that 95 percent of those from the Bay Area were supportive of her decision. She has reportedly received some threats and arrived on campus with six bodyguards.
“There are those out there that think if you dissent you are being un-American,” Lee said. “It is very, very patriotic to up-hold the constitution in times of crisis. That is the American way.”
The campus community was a safe haven for the congresswoman, during the question and answer period of her speech a student asked how she could help in Lee’s next elections bid.
Lee’s district was altered in the redistricting process this year. It now includes the city of Castro Valley and no longer encompasses the city of Alameda.
Audience members, lead by the Threshold Chorus, sang about Lee’s vote as they waited for her to arrive.
“Members of the community in favor of justice and peace are proud of you,” Holmgren said.
Lee said during her speech that conservative members of congress had told her that they appreciated her vote and her right to dissent, but also said that it was good to be supported by Mills students.
The congresswoman explained her position. “At time of national crisis you do not suspend democracy,” Lee said. “You do not suspend constitution and you do not disenfranchise the American people.”
Many students and faculty brought their children with them to listen to the congresswoman speak. Lee said that with out the support of the Mills community she would not have been able to attend college while raising her own two boys.
She also noted the impact of the terrorist attacks on children. “How we deal with this is instructional to our children,” Lee said, “As to how they should deal with adversity in their own lives.”
According to Holmgren many people had been asking if Lee could speak on campus about her decision to vote no on the resolution. “Mills has always stood for the values of peace and justice,” Holmgren said.
First-year student Evelyn Krampf said, “It was good that she had so much pride in Mills and Mills women returned it.”
Lee noted that it is important time for women to become active in politics and that women’s education is a part of that.
“Women must surface in terms of our voice,” Lee said. “I want to thank the women of Mills for ensuring that our voices are out there. You have done a phenomenal job.”
Holmgren said that she was proud to the president of the college that Lee graduated from.
Junior Hannah Freed agreed. “She (Lee) makes me proud to go to this school,” Freed said. “She makes me feel like I could really do something with my life.”