Pelosi Remarks Upon Accepting the Gavel as Speaker of the House

January 3, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks during the opening session of the 117th Congress immediately following her re-election as Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, my friends.  Members of Congress, families, friends: welcome all.

As Speaker of the House, it is my great honor to preside over this sacred ritual of renewal, as we gather under the dome of this temple of Democracy to begin the 117th Congress.

[Applause]

Thank you, Leader McCarthy.  Congratulations on your election as Leader.  I look forward to working with you to meet the needs of the American people during this great moment of challenge.  

As the Leader knows, usually on this day, the day of our swearing-in, there is a bipartisan church service that we all attend, where we pray together for America.  Until that is possible again, let us all pray personally: pray that there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with us.  That is our recurring theme.  And our prayers, as we all know, are very needed now.

As we are sworn in today, we accept a responsibility as daunting and demanding as any previous generation of leadership have ever faced.  We begin this new Congress during a time of extraordinary difficulty.  Each of our communities has been drastically, drastically affected by the pandemic and it’s economic crisis: 350,000 tragic deaths, we sadly carry them in our hearts; over 20 million infections; millions without jobs – a toll beyond comprehension. 

To our new Members, [whom] we will be welcoming soon to swear them in, welcome and congratulations on your election to the United States House of Representatives. 

[Applause]

As our Founders intended, our Democracy will be reinvigorated by the vibrancy and dynamism of the communities that you represent.  And to our returning Members, congratulations to you and your families on your re-election.

As we open the new Congress, we grieve the passing of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow.  We send our deepest sympathy to his wife, Julia, and their children and are praying for them at this sad time.  We carry the symbol of Louisiana in a bipartisan way in his honor.

Our Congress also suffered another sad loss this week with the passing of Jamie and Sarah Raskin’s son Tommy.  Our hearts are broken for them, and I hope it is a comfort to them that so many, many mourn their loss.

Each of us comes to this Chamber, of course, strengthened by our constituents, but with the love of our families.  Thank you to the families of our Members for sharing your loved ones with the Congress and with the Country.  It is a sacrifice, we know. 

Personally, I want to thank my husband, Paul; our five children, Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul and Alexandra; our nine grandchildren; and my D’Alesandro family from Baltimore, Maryland.  With me in spirit are my mother and father, and my brother, Tommy.  My parents taught us through their example that public service is a noble calling and that we all have a responsibility to help others.   Italian-American, proud of our Italian heritage, fiercely patriotic Americans, devoutly Catholic and staunchly Democratic.  We saw that as connected.

In that spirit, I thank my constituents in San Francisco, San Francisco, California, who have entrusted me to represent them in the spirit of Saint Francis, the patron saint of our city, whose anthem, the song of St. Francis, is our anthem of our city: ‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.’

I thank my Democratic colleagues in the Congress for the confidence you have placed in me in electing me Speaker, and will endeavor to meet the moment with courage, unity and grace.  And especially thank our distinguished Chair of the Caucus, Mr. Jeffries, Chairman Jeffries, for his very generous nomination.  Thank you, Mr. Jeffries.

[Applause]

It gives me great pride to serve as Speaker of the most diverse House in the history of our country – with a record-shattering 122 women. 

[Applause]

One hundred and twenty two women.  You can applaud that: 122 women, 100 years after women won the right to vote.

Now let us all take a moment to give thanks to our courageous servicemembers in uniform, our veterans and their families and caregivers, whose service makes us the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

[Applause]

Our promise to them is that Congress will continue to work in a bipartisan way to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

As we look forward to the new Congress, let us take a moment to remember three champions of democracy we lost during the 116th Congress – each honored by a lying-in-state ceremony in the United States Capitol.

In the fall of last year, we said goodbye to Mr. Chairman Elijah Cummings, our North Star – who said, ‘When we’re dancing with the angels, a question will be asked, what did you do to be sure we kept our democracy intact?’  He is dancing with the angels, now.

This past spring, we said goodbye to our beloved colleague John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress, who would say, ‘When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you must speak up’ – and who would remind us to ‘make good trouble.’  ‘Good trouble.’

And in the fall, we memorialized Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the most brilliant legal minds in our history and a champion for equality, who once said right here in the Capitol – some of you were there, perhaps, in the Statuary Hall – she once said, right here in the Capitol, about women: ‘Once the door is open, there is no stopping us!’

[Applause]

Each of their memories is a source of strength and inspiration to us, as we approach the challenges ahead.

Scripture tells us that to everything, there is a time, a season: a time for every purpose under the heavens; a time to build, a time to sow, a time to heal.  Now is a – certainly a time for our nation to heal.

[Applause]

Our most urgent priority – our most urgent priority will continue to be defeating the coronavirus.  And defeat it, we will.  Defeat it, we will. 

[Applause]

Two weeks ago, we passed an emergency relief package to crush the virus and put money in the pockets of workers and families, which is now the law.

But we must do more to recognize our heroes.  Let us thank our heroes: our health care workers; our first responders, our police and fire, whom we have denied support by denying help to state and local government; our transportation, sanitation, food and social workers; and our teachers, our teachers, our teachers.  They make our lives possible at the state and local level, and will facilitate the distribution of the vaccine in a fair and equitable manner.  We owe them more.

[Applause]

Many of our essential workers are from communities of color and low-wealth – which have been devastatingly and disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.  They have been there for us, we must be there for them.

[Applause]

With President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, who were elected two months ago from today –

[Applause]

The House will continue our work to save lives and livelihoods, to Build Back Better in a way that advances justice in America.

Indeed, the pandemic has pulled back the curtain on and shown even worsened disparities in our economy and our society.  We must pursue justice: economic justice, justice in health, racial justice, environmental and climate justice.  The list goes on.

Every morning in this Chamber, we take the pledge: ‘One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’  ‘Liberty and justice for all.’  Every day, this Congress must live up to that pledge. 

To advance justice, I am establishing a bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, to combat the disparities of income and wealth that undermine faith in America’s promise for a better future for our children.  Working with the Committees of Jurisdiction, the Select Committee will recommend proposals that power fair economic growth to make our economy work for everyone.

In all that we do, let us be For The People – recognizing the beautiful diversity of America, so that no one is left out and no one is left behind.  We do so, guided by the vision of our Founders, the sacrifice of our military and their families, and the aspiration that we all have For The Children.

To do so, we need God’s blessing.  May God bless all of us, God bless all of you, God bless our men and women in uniform and their families – their servicemembers and their families – our veterans and may God bless America.

Thank you all very much.  It’s my honor.  Thank you.

[Applause]