Newly-elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday after Democrats officially took control of the legislative body, invoking two Presidents while laying out her leadership agenda.
Both were Republican. Neither was President Donald Trump.
Pelosi made her triumphant return as Speaker on Thursday, after making history in 2007 as the first woman to hold the position. After the 116th Congress convened on Thursday, Pelosi won back her gavel with 220 total votes. In her speech, Pelosi made reference to President Ronald Reagan and paid tribute to President George H.W. Bush, who died in November.
Pelosi evoked former President Reagan’s final speech as President, where he emphasized the importance of open borders. “If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost,” she quoted Reagan as saying.
She did not mention Trump’s name, or even make direct reference to him, though Democrats won back the House in the 2018 midterm elections with promises to be an effective check on Trump’s power.
In her speech, Pelosi celebrated the 116th Congress as the most diverse in history. She said the new Democratic-led House enters with a sense of great hope and confidence for the future and that during the midterms the American people spoke and “demanded a new dawn.”
“They want a Congress that delivers results for the people, opening up opportunity and lifting up their lives,” she said. “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.”
Pelosi also asked for Republican help in voting to end the partial government shutdown, which has resulted from a showdown over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall that Trump is demanding.
“Democrats will be offering the Senate Republican appropriations legislation to re-open government later today – to meet the needs of the American people, to protect our borders, and to respect our workers,” she said.
Read Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s full speech:
Thank you, Leader McCarthy. I look forward to working with you in a bipartisan way for the good of our country, respecting the constituents who sent each of us here.
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 our great American experiment.
I am particularly proud to be the woman Speaker of the House of this Congress, which marks 100 years of women winning the right to vote, as we serve with more than 100 women in the House of Representatives – the highest number in history.
Each of us comes to this chamber strengthened by the trust of our constituents and the love of our families. We welcome all your families who are with us today.
Let me thank my family: my husband Paul; our five children Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul, and Alexandra; our grandchildren, and my D’Alesandro family from Baltimore.
Here in spirit are my mother and father and my brother Tommy, who taught us through their example that public service is a noble calling, and that we should serve with our hearts full of love – and that America’s heart is full of love.
In that spirit, let me especially thank my constituents in San Francisco, who have entrusted me to represent them in Congress in the spirit of Saint Francis, our patron saint – whose song of Saint Francis is our anthem: “Lord, make me a channel of thy peace” – as we beautifully sang in church this morning.
And let us all thank our men and women in uniform, veterans, and their families and caregivers, whose service reminds us of our mission: to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.
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 president and 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.
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 tomorrow.
We must remove all doubt that they do, and say to them: we will have an economy that works for you.
Let us declare that we will call upon the bold thinking needed 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 democracy.
It has been so since the birth of democracy itself.
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 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; an economic decision for America’s global preeminence in green technology; 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, 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 – 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 in this 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, the little lobbyists – bravely came forward to tell their stories. And they made the 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.
This House will be for the people! Empowered by our mandate, we will pursue our mission:
To lower health care costs and prescription drug prices, and protect people with pre-existing conditions.
To increase paychecks by rebuilding America with green and modern infrastructure – from sea to shining sea.
To pass HR 1 to restore integrity to government, so that people can have confidence that government works for the public interest, not the special interests.
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 LGBTQ Americans.
And we will make America more American by protecting our patriotic, courageous Dreamers!
As President Reagan said in his last speech as president: “If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”
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;
And always, always to keep our nation safe from threats old and new, from terrorism and cyberwarfare, from overseas and here at home.
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, and who, last month, returned 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.
In 2010, we marked the 20th anniversary of the act by making it possible for our colleagues with disabilities to preside over the House.
In that same spirit of equality and justice, let me announce that, this afternoon, the first Speaker Pro Tempore 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 courage, wisdom and 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 America.