Thursday, January 04, 2007

"We have made history. Now, let us make progress..."

Every year we see the President stand where she stood today. We see him thank his handsome family, who stand glowing with pride in the gallery as the cameras pan to them and the Congressmen all stand and applaud. He recognises other special guests in the gallery. He thanks the loyal opposition and makes conciliatory remarks toward them. Then he settles into his vision for America: its foreign policies, energy and environmental proposals, economic ideas, organizational plans... We see the packed House stand with ovations time and again, sometimes both sides of the aisle, sometimes only one side and a few mavericks on the other.

Today I watched with my daughter as Nancy Pelosi gave the inspiring speech. It was very easy to imagine the day when it will be a female President there making such a speech. The images broadcast yesterday cannot help but hasten that day.

I am so glad that I was off work today to watch Speaker Pelosi deliver her inaugural speech as the highest ranking woman in American government in history. I am an unabashed sentimentalist. As the father of two daughters and the brother of five sisters, I got choked up a couple of times today. I couldn't help but think of the marches, letters, phone calls of the campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. That effort eventually failed. Twenty-five years later we have made this much progress anyway: The Speaker of the House, second in line of succession to the Presidency, is a woman.

Just imagine, peering through a window in heaven watching the proceedings today, Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull, Susan B. Anthony, a host of suffragettes, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jeannette Rankin, Rebecca Latimer Felton - our Georgia 2-day Senator, Frances Perkins, Margaret Chase Smith, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisolm, and the recently departed Betty Friedan.

If you missed it, here is the speech:

Thank you, Leader Boehner, Mr. Speaker.

I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and I look forward to working with you, Mr. Boehner, and the Republicans in the Congress for the good of the American people.

After giving this gavel away in the first two -- in the last two Congresses, I'm glad someone else has the honor today.

In this House we may be different parties but we serve one country. And our pride and our prayers are united behind our men and women in uniform.

They are working together to protect the American people. And in this Congress we must work together to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

In this hour we need and pray for the character, courage and civility of a former member of this House: President Ford. He healed the country when it needed healing. This is another time, another war and another trial of our American will, imagination and spirit.

Let us honor his memory not just in eulogy but in dialogue and trust across the aisle.

I want to join Leader Boehner in expressing our condolences and our appreciation to Mrs. Ford and to the entire Ford family for their decades of leadership and service to our country.

With today's convening of the 110th Congress we begin anew. I congratulate all members of Congress on your election. I especially want to congratulate our new members of Congress.

The genius of our founders was that -- let's hear it for our new members of ...

The genius of our founders was that every two years new members would bring to this House their spirit of renewal and hope for the American people. This Congress is reinvigorated, new members, by your optimism and your idealism, and your commitment to our country.

Let us acknowledge your families, whose support have made your leadership possible today -- to your families.

Each of us brings to this Congress our shared values, our commitment to the Constitution, and our personal experience.

My path to Congress and to the speakership began in Baltimore, where my father was the mayor. I was raised in a large family that was devoutly Catholic, deeply patriotic, very proud of our Italian-American heritage and staunchly Democratic.

My parents taught us that public service was a noble calling and that we had a responsibility to help those in need. I viewed them as working on the side of the angels, and now they are with them.

But I am so happy that my brother Tommy D'Alesandro, who was also a mayor of Baltimore, is here leading the D'Alesandro family from Baltimore today.

He's sitting right up there with Tony Bennett.

Forty-three years ago Paul Pelosi and I were married. We raised our five children in San Francisco, where Paul was born and raised. I want to thank Paul and our five children -- Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul Jr. and Alexandra -- and our magnificent grandchildren -- for their love, for their support and the confidence they gave me to go from the kitchen to the Congress.

And I thank my constituents in San Francisco and for the state of California for the privilege of representing them in Congress.

Saint Francis of Assisi is our city's patron saint. And his "Song of Saint Francis" is our city's anthem: "Lord, make me a channel of thy peace; where there is darkness may we bring light, where there is hatred may we bring love, where is despair may we bring hope."

Hope: That is what America is about. And it is in that spirit that I serve in the Congress of the United States.

And today I thank my colleagues. By electing me speaker you have brought us closer to the ideal of equality that is America's heritage and America's hope.

This is an historic moment, and I thank the leader for acknowledging it. Thank you, Mr. Boehner.

It's an historic moment for the Congress. It's an historic moment for the women of America.

It is a moment for which we have waited over 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights.

But women weren't just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal.

For our daughters and our granddaughters today we have broken the marble ceiling.

For our daughters and our granddaughters now the sky is the limit. Anything is possible for them.

The election of 2006 was a call to change, not merely to change the control of Congress but for a new direction for our country. Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in the war in Iraq.

The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end.

Shortly, President Bush will address the nation on the subject of Iraq. It is the responsibility of the president to articulate a new plan for Iraq that makes it clear to the Iraqis that they must defend their own streets and their own security, a plan that promotes stability in the region and a plan that allows us to responsibly redeploy our troops.

Let us work together to be the Congress that rebuilds our military to meet the national security challenges of the 21st century.

Let us be the Congress that strongly honors our responsibility to protect the American people from terrorism.

Let us be the Congress that never forgets our commitment to our veterans and our first responders, always honoring them as the heroes that they are.

The American people also spoke clearly for a new direction here at home. They desire a new vision, a new America built on the values that have made our country great.

Our founders envisioned a new America driven by optimism, opportunity and strength. So confident were they in the America that they were advancing that they put on the seal, the great seal of the United States, "novus ordo seclorum" -- a new order for the centuries -- centuries. They spoke of the centuries -- that they envisioned America as a just and good place, as a fair and efficient society, and as a source of opportunity for all.

This vision has sustained us for over 200 years, and it accounts for what is best in our great nation: liberty, opportunity and justice.

Now it is our responsibility to carry forth that vision of a new America into the 21st century.

A new America that seizes the future and forges 21st-century solutions through discovery, creativity and innovation, sustaining our economic leadership and ensuring our national security.

A new America with a vibrant and strengthened middle class for whom college is affordable, health care is accessible and retirement reliable.

A new America that declares our energy independence, promotes domestic sources of renewable energy and combats climate change. A new America that is strong, secure and a respected leader among the community of nations. And the American people told us they expected us to work together for fiscal responsibility, with the highest ethical standard and with civility and bipartisanship.

After years of historic deficits this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: Pay as you go; no new deficit spending.

Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.

In order to achieve our new America for the 21st century we must return this House to the American people. So our first order of business is passing the toughest congressional ethics reform in history.

This new Congress doesn't have two years or 200 days. Let us join together in the first 100 hours to make this Congress the most honest and open Congress in history.

This openness requires respect for every voice in the Congress. As Thomas Jefferson said, every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.

My colleagues elected me to be speaker of the House, the entire House. Respectful of division of our founders, the expectations of our people and the great challenges that we face, we have an obligation to reach beyond partisanship to work for all America.

Let us stand together to move our country forward, seeking common ground for the common good.

We have made history. Now, let us make progress for the American people.

May God bless our work, and may God bless America.

The nation has great optimism for this Congress and this Speaker, but we shouldn't overstate the possibilities. We have a tough two years, at least, ahead of us. Still January 4, 2007 has been a fine day in our history.

One of my favorite bloggers, S.W. Anderson, has written eloquently on this topic at Oh!pinion.

Another, Craig at Donkey Path, has written two posts about the new speaker.

Still another favorite, The Questing Parson, is a must read on his reaction to our new Speaker.

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