Pelosi delivered this address after being sworn in for her second term as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
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. They expect and deserve for us to try to find our common ground and we must try to do that—stand our ground where we can’t, but always extend the 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.
And congratulations to each and every one of you—new members of Congress, newly re-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 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 the 100th year of women having the right to vote, and that we all have the ability and the privilege to serve with over 100 women members of Congress – the largest number in history.
As Leader McCarthy said, each of comes to this chamber strengthened by the trust of our constituents and the love of our families. Let us congratulate and welcome all of the families who are here today. Thank you to our families.
Let me take the privilege of thanking my dear husband, Paul; and our five children Nancy, Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul, and Alexandra; and our nine grandchildren, Natalie and Alexandra, Liam, Sean and Ryan, Thomas and Paul, Bella and Octavio. We’re 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.
I’m also proud of my D’Alesandro family that’s here from Baltimore for us, too. In that spirit, my mother and father, 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, 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 during the time of World War II. He marched with Martin Luther King. He is a true American patriot. Thank you, Tony.
And again, I want to thank my constituents from 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 us thank our men and women in uniform, our veterans, and our military families and caregivers, whose service reminds us of our mission: to make a 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 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 to the judiciary.
They want a Congress that delivers results for the people, opening up opportunity and lifting up their lives.
When our new members take the oath, our Congress will be refreshed, and our democracy will be strengthened by the 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 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 cannot 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 of our 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 any of the other classes.”
We must fight for the middle class in a way 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.
That is why we have created the Select Committee on the 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 for clean air and clean water for our children’s health; it’s a decision for America’s global preeminence in green technology; it is 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 respect each other and we 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 divisions across our 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 – 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 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. Jeffries, our distinguished chairman said, we will follow our mandate for the people.
And I thank you for your kind remarks and accept those 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. I look forward to working with the President on that.
To pass HR 1 to restore integrity to government, so that people can have confidence that government works for the people, not the special interests. HR 1.
This House will take action on overdue legislation that has 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 protecting our patriotic, courageous Dreamers!
All three of those legislative initiatives have bipartisan support in this body.
When we’re 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’s a beautiful speech. He said, “If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership role in the world will soon be lost.” 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 all 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 Capital once more and he came this time 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 an important 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 – changing the mechanics of this podium.
In that spirit of equality and justice, let me announce that, this afternoon, the first Speaker Pro Tempore, whom I will yield to, 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 all, and God bless the United States of America.
Neither the Catt Center nor Iowa State University is affiliated with any individual in the Archives or any political party. Inclusion in the Archives is not an endorsement by the center or the university.