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Nancy Pelosi Triumphs

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the floor of the House on November 17, 2022.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the floor of the House on November 17, 2022.

 

Nancy Pelosi triumphs again but not for the last time. After becoming the most effective and beloved Speaker of the House in history, Nancy Pelosi announced that she was not leaving Congress but would step down from the leadership. That it was time for the most capable next generation to take charge. Her speech was inspiring, personal, and historic. She returned the political speech to the eloquent tradition of great leaders of our democracy.

Madam Speaker, as we gather here, we stand on sacred ground: the chamber of the United States House of Representatives, the heart of American democracy.

I will never forget the first time I saw the Capitol. It was on a cold January day when I was six years old. My father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., was about to be sworn in for his fifth term in Congress — representing our beloved hometown of Baltimore.

I was riding in the car with my brothers, and they were thrilled and jumping up and down and saying to me, “Nancy, look, there’s— the Capitol.” And I keep — every time I’d say: “I don’t see any capital. Is it a capital A, a capital B, or a capital C?”

And finally, I saw it. A stunning white building with a magnificent dome.

I believed then, as I believe today, this is the most beautiful building in the world because of what it represents.

The Capitol is a temple of our democracy, of our Constitution, of our highest ideals.

On that day — on that day, I stood with my father on this floor as he took the sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

All of us who have served in this House have taken the hallowed oath of office. And it is the oath that stitches us together in a long and storied heritage.

Colleagues who served before us are all our colleagues. Colleagues like Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, Shirley Chisholm, Patsy Mink, and our beloved John Lewis.

Nancy Pelosi and Vladimir Zelsinski entering Congress, 1922

Nancy Pelosi and Vladimir Zelinski entering Congress, 2022.

Personally, it binds me as a colleague to my father, a proud New Deal congressman and one of the earliest Italian Americans to serve in the Congress. And this is an oath we are duty-bound to keep, and it links us with the highest aspirations of the ages.

Colleagues who served before us are all our colleagues. Colleagues like Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, Shirley Chisholm, Patsy Mink, and our beloved John Lewis.

In this room, our colleagues across history have abolished slavery; granted women the right to vote; established Social Security and Medicare; offered a hand to the weak, care to the sick, education to the young, and hope to the many.

Indeed, it is here, under the gaze of our patriarch, George Washington, in the people’s House, that we have done the people’s work.

My colleagues, I stand before you as speaker of the House, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a devout Catholic, a proud Democrat, and a patriotic American, a citizen of the greatest republic in the history of the world — which President Lincoln called the last best hope on Earth.

Indeed, in the words attributed to another of our colleagues, the legendary Daniel Webster, he said: “Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution of your country and the government established under it. Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in 6,000 years cannot be expected to happen often.”

Indeed, American democracy is majestic. But it is fragile. Many of us here have witnessed its fragility firsthand — tragically, in this chamber. And so democracy must be forever defended from forces that wish it harm.

I stand before you as speaker of the House, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a devout Catholic, a proud Democrat, and a patriotic American, a citizen of the greatest republic in the history of the world — which President Lincoln called the last best hope on Earth.

Last week, the American people spoke, and their voices were raised in defense of liberty, of the rule of law, and of democracy itself.

With these elections, the people stood in the breach and repelled the assault on democracy. They resoundingly rejected violence and insurrection, and in doing so gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

And now we owe to the American people our very best, to deliver on their faith. To forever reach for the more perfect union — the glorious horizon that our founders promised.

The questions before this Congress and at this moment are urgent. Questions about the ideals that this House is charged by the Constitution to preserve and protect. Establish justice. Ensure domestic tranquillity. Provide for the common defense. Promote the general welfare. And secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. Our posterity. Our children. Babies born today will live into the next century. And our decisions will determine their future for generations to come.

While we will have our disagreements on policy, we must remain fully committed to our shared fundamental mission, to hold strong to our most treasured democratic ideals, to cherish the spark of divinity in each and every one of us, and to always put our country first.

In their infinite wisdom, our founders gave us their guidance: e Pluribus Unum. From the many, one. They could not have imagined how large our country would become or how different we would be from one another. But they knew we had to be united as one.

We the people. One country. One destiny.

It’s been with great pride in my 35 years in the House I have seen this body grow more reflective of our great nation, our beautiful nation.

When I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now there are over 90. And we want more.

The new members of our Democratic caucus will be about 75 percent women, people of color, and LGBTQ. And we have brought more voices to the decision-making table. When I entered leadership in 2002, there were eight of us. Today, there are 17 members of the leadership.

When I first came to the floor at 6 years old, never would I have thought that someday I would go from homemaker to House speaker.

In fact, I never intended to run for public office.

Mommy and Daddy taught us through their example that public service is a noble calling and that we all have a responsibility to help others. In our family, my brother Tommy then became mayor of Baltimore also. But it’s been my privilege to play a part in forging extraordinary progress for the American people.

It’s been with great pride in my 35 years in the House I have seen this body grow more reflective of our great nation, our beautiful nation. When I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now there are over 90. And we want more.

I have enjoyed working with three presidents, achieving:

Historic investments in clean energy with President George Bush.

Transformative health care reform with President Barack Obama.

And forging the future — from infrastructure to health care to climate action — with President Joe Biden.

Now we must move boldly into the future, grounded by the principles that have propelled us this far and open to fresh possibilities for the future.

Scripture teaches us that for everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.

My friends, no matter what title you all, my colleagues, have bestowed upon me — speaker, leader, whip — there is no greater official honor for me than to stand on this floor and to speak for the people of San Francisco. This I will continue to do as a member of the House, speaking for the people of San Francisco, serving the great state of California, and defending our Constitution.

And with great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I am grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.

Madam Speaker, standing here today, I’m endlessly grateful for all of life’s blessings, for my Democratic colleagues, whose courage and commitment, with the support of your families, have made many of these accomplishments possible. In fact, could not have been done without you.

For my dear husband, Paul, who has been my beloved partner in life and my pillar of support, thank you. We’re all grateful for all the prayers and well wishes as he continues his recovery. Thank you so much.

For our darling children, Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul, and Alexandra, and our grandchildren, Alexander and Madeleine; Liam, Sean, and Ryan; Paul and Thomas; Bella and Octavio. They are the joys of our lives for whom we — and we are so very, very proud of them and a comfort to us at this time.

And for my brilliant, dedicated, and patriotic staff, under the leadership of Terri McCullough, together, working together, the finest group of public servants the House has ever known. Thank you all so much.

And again, for those who sent me here, for the people of San Francisco, for entrusting me with the high honor of being their voice in Congress. In this continued work, I will strive to honor the call of the patron saint of our city, St. Francis. Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

In this House, we begin each day with a prayer and a pledge to the flag. And every day I am in awe of the majestic miracle that is American democracy.

As we participate in a hallmark of our republic — the peaceful, orderly transition from one Congress to the next — let us consider the words of, again, President Lincoln, spoken during one of America’s darkest hours. He called upon us to come together, to swell the chorus of the Union when once again touched as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature. That again is the task at hand.

President Lincoln, during one of America’s darkest hours, called upon us to come together, when once again touched by the better angels of our nature. That again is the task at hand.

A new day is dawning on the horizon, and I look forward, always forward, to the unfolding story of our nation, a story of light and love, of patriotism and progress, of many becoming one. And always an unfinished mission to make the dreams of today the reality of tomorrow.

Thank you all — may God bless you and your families, and may God bless — continue to bless our veterans and the United States of America. Thank you all so much.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi opening a congressional session.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi opening a congressional session.

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