Pelosi Remarks at Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Ceremonial Swearing-In
“Good morning, everyone. I see the hearty souls here who weathered the storm. Thank you, Joy Ann, for your introduction. Thank you, my colleagues. I have come to join my colleagues in bearing witness to the fact that, for more than 40 years, the Congressional Black Caucus has served as the ‘Conscience of the Congress,’ championing an America of justice and opportunity for all.
“The Members of this historic Caucus have fought and won critical battles to make real the full promise of our country – for working people, for middle class families, for those who aspire to the middle class, for every person who dreams of a better life for themselves and their families. Reverend Barber, as I was coming over here, the walls of the Capitol were shaking from your prayer and from your invocation.
“All of you gathered here champion the equality, dignity and prosperity of all Americans. Today, as we convene the 114th Congress of the United States, the leadership and vision of the Congressional Black Caucus – that is as bold and as necessary as ever.
“Let's start with Marcia Fudge. Anyone who's ever wanted to know anything about Marcia Fudge – all they needed to do was to follow The Colbert Report.
“Stephen Colbert, very haughtily, did his research and found out that Marcia was a fencing champion in high school, and so he decided that he would suit up and challenge her. Now, mind you, she had not engaged in fencing for decades.
“I'm not going to say so how many – but for decades. But he learned with much practice and trying to take her by surprise when she came on his show – she got the first touch. And he learned what we all know: Marcia Fudge rules.
“Now Congressman Butterfield takes the helm of the CBC. We know the CBC will continue to be providing strong, outspoken and effective leadership for every man, woman and child in our country, bringing his judicious demeanor and southern courtesy to our work. Don't mistake that courtesy for anything other than strength. Congratulations and best wishes to you, Chairman Butterfield. Your success is the success of America.
“In the 114th Congress, Mr. Clyburn – Mr. Butterfield's friend – Mr. Clyburn will continue to serve as the third highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, and with great dignity and respect.
“Steny mentioned that CBC Members will serve as Ranking Members of seven Committees. I'm going to name names. Judiciary: John Conyers; Financial Services: Maxine Waters; Veterans Affairs: Corrine Brown; Science, Space & Technology, Eddie Bernice Johnson; Education and Workforce, Bobby Scott; Homeland Security, Bennie Thompson; Oversight and Government Reform, Elijah Cummings. Aren’t we proud?
“We also welcome the surge of CBC women freshman Members and are so honored that the 100th woman to serve in the Congress is Alma Adams, as a Member of the CBC. This is historic. I know that our distinguished Chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, takes special pride in that as well.
“Respect the past, and confront the future, and today Congressman John Conyers becomes the Dean of the House after a half century of service in the Congress – a half century of service.
“Those 50 years have seen historic progress for our nation. But it is clear there is more to do. We respect the past, we confront our future with the conviction that we can and we must continue to affect change. ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ As we mark the 50th anniversary this year of the Voting Rights Act, how proud we all are to have the tireless moral leadership of Congressman John Lewis on this matter serving with us in the House as we are now called to action.
“We are now called to action, to improve the quality of justice in every American community, to awaken our communities to the power of the vote. The vote destroys injustice and creates opportunity, and drives our new effort to increase voter participation.
“Today starts a new Congress. It starts a New Year. It also is the Feast of the Epiphany, the Feast of the Visitation of the Magi, as you know. I am hoping, and I will say to the Congress when we open in session later: let us have our own epiphany about what our responsibility is to the American people. Let us not say we shouldn't have disagreement. Of course we have our principles and our values and our beliefs, and that's what makes our country strong. We don't always agree with each other, and there are different schools of thought in the Congress.
“But a democracy is about debating those issues, finding solutions, having the humility to compromise and find a way forward. But it also is about fighting, fighting for what is right, fighting for Eleanor Holmes Norton to have the right to vote in the Congress of the United States and for the people of the District of Columbia.
“That's what we fight for. If you find that disagreeable, then just give Eleanor the vote, and then we can put that aside.
“So it is important for us, as we view how we manage our issues, our differences, that it all comes back to values, shared values where we should find our common ground. The CBC and the CBC Foundation, under the leadership of Congressman Chaka Fattah – thank you Chaka for your leadership, and Shuanise Washington – have long supported our values and goals.
“Together we will build an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and the well connected – for everyone. We have a moral obligation. Our values tell us we must do that. Together, we will restore confidence in American justice and American democracy. Together, we will create a future of prosperity and promise for every family. We will create a future worthy of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for our country.
“On this opening day, we thank all of you. We thank our leadership, here on the stage, for your leadership, your vision, your courage. It's about courage. It's about heart, and your commitment to this great country. Congratulations on your ceremonial swearing-in. I look forward to your actual swearing in by the Dean of the House of Representatives, John Conyers, in just a few hours.
“Congratulations to you all. Happy new year, and thank you for the opportunity to be with you. Thank you all very much.”