Pelosi Remarks Upon Accepting the Gavel as Speaker of the House
January 3, 2019
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks during the opening session of the 116th Congress immediately following her election as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Below are her remarks as delivered:
Thank you very much, Leader McCarthy. I look forward to working with you in a bipartisan way for the good of our country, respecting our constituents, every one of you, I respect you and the constituents who sent each and every one of us here and deserve for us to find our common ground, and we must try to do that: stand our ground when we can’t, but always extend a hand of friendship.
Thank you, Kevin McCarthy, for your leadership. I look forward to working with you. Congratulations on being the Leader of the party.
To each and every one of you, new Members of Congress, newly-elected Members of Congress, thank you for your courage to run for office and to serve in this distinguished body.
Every two years, we gather in this Chamber for a sacred ritual. Under the dome of this temple of our democracy, the Capitol of the United States, we renew the great American experiment.
I am particularly proud to be the woman Speaker of the House of this Congress, which marks 100 years of women having the right to vote. And that we all have the ability and privilege to serve with more than 100 women in Congress – the largest number in history.
As Leader McCarthy said, each of us comes to this Chamber strengthened by the trust of our constituents and the love of our families. Let us congratulate and welcome all your families who are with us today. Thank you to our families.
Let me take the privilege of thanking dear husband Paul and our five children. Our five children: Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul and Alexandra. And our nine grandchildren: Madeleine, Alexander, Liam, Sean, Ryan, Thomas and Paul, Bella and Octavio. We are so proud of all our grandchildren, and we’re proud of everyone’s grandchildren and children who are here today. We’ll see more of them today.
I am also proud of my D’Alesandro family that is here from Baltimore too.
In that spirit, my mother and father and my brother Tommy, who was also Mayor of Baltimore, taught us through their example that public service is a noble calling, that we should serve with our hearts full of love – and that America’s heart is full of love.
Singing that to us last night, my comrade as an Italian-American, with all that pride, I want to acknowledge Tony Bennett who is here with us today as well. Thank you Tony. He helped free the concentration camps in World War II. He marched with Martin Luther King. He is a true American patriot. Thank you, Tony.
And again, I want thank my constituents in San Francisco, who have entrusted me to represent them in Congress in the spirit of Saint Francis, the patron saint of San Francisco – and his song of Saint Francis is our anthem: ’Make me a channel of thy peace.’ We heard that in church this morning but it is our mission.
And let me thank our men and women in uniform, our veterans, and our military families and caregivers, whose service reminds us of our mission: to make the future worthy of their sacrifice. To our men and women in uniform.
We enter this new Congress with a sense of great hope and confidence for the future, and deep humility and prayerfulness in the face of the challenges ahead.
Our nation is at an historic moment. Two months ago, the American people spoke, and demanded a new dawn.
They called upon the beauty of our Constitution: our system of checks and balances that protects our democracy, remembering that the legislative branch is Article I: the first branch of government, co-equal to the presidency and judiciary.
They want a Congress that delivers results for the people, opening up opportunity and lifting up their lives.
[Sound of child crying]
We are hearing the voice of the future there. Beautiful.
When our new Members take the oath, our Congress will be refreshed, and our democracy will be strengthened by their optimism, idealism and patriotism of this transformative Freshman class. Congratulations to all of you in the Freshman class.
Working together, we will redeem the promise of the American Dream for every family, advancing progress for every community.
We must be pioneers of the future.
This Congress must accelerate a future that advances America’s preeminence in the world, and opens up opportunities for all – building an economy that gives all Americans the tools they need to succeed in the 21st Century: public education, workforce development, good-paying jobs and secure pensions.
We have heard from too many families who wonder, in this time of innovation and globalization, if they have a place in the economy of the future. We must remove all doubt that they do, and say to them individually: we will have an economy that works for you.
Let us declare that we will call upon the bold thinking to address the disparity of income in America – which is at the root of the crisis of confidence felt by so many Americans.
As Justice Brandeis said, ‘We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’
We must end that injustice and restore the public’s faith in a better future for themselves and their children.
We must be champions of the middle class, and all those who aspire to it – because the middle class is the backbone of our democracy. It has been since the birth – it has been since the birth of democracy.
Aristotle said, ‘It is manifest that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class…in which the middle class is large and stronger than all of the other classes.’
We must fight for the middle class that is fair and fiscally sound – protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
We must also face the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis – a crisis manifested in natural disasters of epic proportions.
The American people understand the urgency. The people are ahead of the Congress. The Congress must join them.
And that is why we have created the Select Committee on Climate Crisis. The entire Congress must work to put an end to the inaction and denial of science that threaten the planet and the future.
This is a public health decision about clean air, clean water for our children’s health, it’s a decision for America’s global preeminence in green technologies, a security decision to keep us safe, and a moral decision to be good stewards of God’s creation.
We have no illusions that our work will be easy and that all of us in this chamber will always agree. But let each of us pledge that when we disagree, we will respect each other and we will respect the truth.
We will debate and advance good ideas no matter where they come from. And in that spirit, Democrats will be offering the Senate Republican appropriations legislation to re-open government later today. We will do so to meet the needs of the American people, to protect our borders and to respect our workers.
And I pledge that this Congress will be transparent, bipartisan and unifying; that we will seek to reach across the aisle in this Chamber and across the divisions across our great nation.
In the past two years, the American people have spoken. Tens of thousands of public events were held. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out. Millions of calls were made. Countless families – even sick little children, our Little Lobbyists, our Little Lobbyists – bravely came forward to tell their stories. And they made a big difference.
Now, the Floor of this House must be America’s Town Hall: where the people will see our debates, and where their voices will be heard and affect our decisions. Transparency will be the order of the day.
And as Mr. [Hakeem] Jeffries, our distinguished Chairman, said, we will follow our mandate, For The People! And I thank you for the nomination and I accept those kind remarks on behalf of the entire House Democratic Caucus who made all of those victories possible, some of them in a bipartisan way.
Empower our mandate, For The People: To lower health care costs and prescription drug prices, and protect people with pre-existing medical conditions. To increase paychecks by rebuilding America with green and modern infrastructure – from sea to shining sea. We look forward to working with the President on that. To pass H.R. 1 to restore integrity to government, so that people can have confidence that government works for the people, not the special interests, H.R. 1.
This House will take overdue legislation that has bipartisan support, bipartisan support, in the Congress and across the Country. We will make our communities safer and keep our sacred promise to the victims, survivors and families of gun violence by passing commonsense, bipartisan background check legislation. We will make America fairer by passing the Equality Act to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community. And we will make America more American by passing – protecting our patriotic, courageous Dreamers!
All three of those legislative initiatives have bipartisan support in this body.
And when we are talking about the Dreamers, let us remember what President Reagan said in his last speech as President of the United States. I urge you all to read it. It is a beautiful speech. He said, ‘If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership role in the world would soon be lost.’ Ronald Reagan. You’re applauding for Ronald Reagan!
Our common cause is to find and forge a way forward for our country. Let us stand for the people – to promote liberty and justice for all as we pledge every day. And always, always keep our nation safe from threats old and new, from terrorism and cyberwarfare, overseas and here at home to protect and defend, that is the oath we all take to serve in this body. That is the oath we take: to protect and defend.
I close by remembering a cherished former Member of this body, who rose to become a beloved President of the United States, and who, last month, returned to the Capitol once more to lie in state. That week, we honored President George Herbert Walker Bush with eulogies, tributes and tears. Today, I single out one of his great achievements: working with both Democrats and Republicans to write the Americans With Disabilities Act into the laws of our land. Thank you Steny Hoyer for being such a big part of that.
In 2010, we marked the 20th anniversary of the Act by making it possible for our colleagues with disabilities to preside over the House by changing the mechanics of this podium. In that same spirit of equality and justice, let me announce that, this afternoon, the first Speaker Pro Tempore, whom I will yield, of the 116th Congress will be: Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island.
As we take the oath of office today, we accept responsibility as daunting and demanding as any that previous generations of leadership have faced. Guided by the vision and values of our Founders, the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and the aspirations that we have for our children, let us meet that responsibility with wisdom, with courage and with grace.
Together, we will let it be known: that this House will truly be the People’s House!
Let us pray that God may bless our work, and crown our good with brotherhood – and sisterhood – from sea to shining sea.
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.