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Pelosi ends tenure as House Speaker: First woman, First Italian-American

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WASHINGTON--Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrapped up her historic tenure as Speaker of the House on Wednesday, handing over the gavel to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio.)

In her very last remarks before stepping down, Pelosi in the chamber, applauded the House for passing health care reform, fair pay legislation and repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell as she noted that she broke two glass ceilings: she was the first female speaker and the first Italian-American to hold the post.

Her last formal remarks outside the House chamber were to the Congressional Black Caucus.

Pelosi said on her last morning as speaker: "Yes, I am still Speaker of the House for a short period of time." But one of my last acts as Speaker of the House for the 111th Congress is to come and congratulate the Congressional Black Caucus of the 112th Congress in the short period of time between their swearing-in and the swearing-in of the new Congress.

"I come on behalf of all of my colleagues to not only offer congratulations but with a deep sense of gratitude for the contribution that the Congressional Black Caucus and its many friends have made to the strength of our country. And with the recognition that so much more needs to be done and the challenges that we face ahead."

below, from Pelosi...


Remarks at Congressional Black Caucus Ceremonial Swearing-in

Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today in the Capitol Visitor Center at a ceremonial swearing-in for the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver took the gavel as the 22nd Congressional Black Caucus chair. Below are the Leader's remarks.

"Good morning. Yes, I am still Speaker of the House for a short period of time. [Laughter.] But one of my last acts as Speaker of the House for the 111th Congress is to come and congratulate the Congressional Black Caucus of the 112th Congress in the short period of time between their swearing-in and the swearing-in of the new Congress.

"I come on behalf of all of my colleagues to not only offer congratulations but with a deep sense of gratitude for the contribution that the Congressional Black Caucus and its many friends have made to the strength of our country. And with the recognition that so much more needs to be done and the challenges that we face ahead.

"There is a tradition in the House, when you hear somebody very eloquently presenting the case that you just decide to say, 'I associate myself with the previous speaker' and call it a morning. But I do want to acknowledge how blessed we are to have Emanuel Cleaver as the new head of the CBC.

"He follows in some mighty footsteps of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, fulfilling the vision that she set forth. This Caucus, as has been said over and over, started four decades ago. Congratulations to you, Congresswoman Barbara Lee for your exceptional work as leader of the CBC. Congratulations to Emanuel and good luck to you. And I am so happy to see Emanuel Sr. along with Emanuel Jr., with Emanuel III joining Diane. Congratulations to the entire family for the wonderful benefit we will have.

"Emanuel Sr., I have to tell you this. When Emanuel was a new Member of Congress, we asked him to speak as a freshman Member at a rally that we had. He talked about you the whole time. He talked about how in church one day the minister was saying that they took up the collection, and he said that the money was tainted. It was tainted. And then it finally, the collectors bringing it up, and he said: 'It is tainted. It ain't enough.' [Laughter.] That was our introduction to Emanuel Cleaver. I, needless to say, did not do justice to the way he told the story. But that was when the world knew what you all new and we suspected, that we had a great leader in our midst.

"I was reading...oh, he takes such great pride in the CBC and the 40 years of its leadership in the Congress. But I was reading that, now we see Chairman Conyers and Chairman Rangel as the two charter members, founding members. Thank you for your leadership. [Applause.] There originally were 13 original members. And I was thinking, how interesting--13 original colonies coming together to fight for freedom; 13 original members of the CBC coming together to expand freedom in our country.

"Ten years before that, and we will observe this this month, 50 years ago was the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. January 20th we will observe that. Many of you--well many of you were not born, but I was there that day. It may be history to you, but it was my youth to see the swearing-in and the beautiful words that were said about how important every person is in our country. And in the course of that time, from the President's inauguration and then with President Lyndon Johnson. But with people like John Lewis and our distinguished Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn, people like many who are here present, working hard to teach America what our country was about in the civil rights movement. And because of what they did, what are we now? 43 strong here. We want more, of course, but 43 strong from the original 13.

"It is an honor again. Thank you, Craig Melvin, for your introduction of one title or another. Emanuel, Barbara Lee. Congressman Donald Payne, thank you for your leadership as Chair of the Foundation.

"Evette Jones, congratulations on receiving the Foundation's Performing Arts Scholarship. It is very important to recognize the talent among us in many different ways and what a great honor to receive from the CBC.

"Back to John F. Kennedy--he said at the time: 'This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man is threatened.' I did not really mean that as a source of humor.

"But in any event, the fact that the when the rights of one person are threatened, then the rights of every person are diminished. What we are facing now as we go forward, Emanuel addressed this and is the essence of the Congressional Black Caucus, is that if we are talking about the dignity and worth of every person and that everyone is equal, then it is really important in our society that dignity be afforded the ability to make a living suitable to the talents that people have. It isn't enough to say, 'We are going to put people back to work.' Many people have not had work because for the number of years they have been excluded because our system has favored the high.

"Under President Obama and the conscience of the Congress, the CBC, we have fought to change the leverage. With Wall Street Reform, with the greatest consumer protections, we are saying no longer will recklessness cause joblessness on Main Street, that the worker must me valued, that the consumer--the greatest consumer protections in history. And talking about the health care reform, where, again, the leverage moved to the people away from the insurance company. These are all, in their own right, important, but as a source of job creation in a new way. What we want to do on energy independence--a new green job in a new way. So that many young people in the African American community, in the minority community on the ground floor of building the future for our country.

"So what we are saying is, as we go forward, we extend a willing hand of friendship if our colleagues are interested in creating jobs for all Americans, if they are interested in strengthening the middle class, enhancing those that are there and pulling many more people into it, and by reducing the deficit so that we are not giving tax cuts to the rich and sending the bill to our grandchildren and future generations as it increases the deficit. Create jobs, strengthen the middle class, reduce the deficit--that helps all Americans. That helps create American jobs.

"I was so pleased to see the acknowledgement of our men and women in uniform, and the African American community has played such a big role. In fact, the minority community in general played such a big role in keeping us the home of the brave and the land of the free. So thank you for your service to our country. We owe you more though than that thanks. We owe our returning troops jobs. We owe them jobs. That when they come home, we are building a future worthy of their sacrifice.

"So this before you, you see, probably the greatest collection of idealism, of imagination for what should happen, a connection to people and their needs, to energy and stamina to get the job, to a relentlessness and dissatisfaction with the status quo until many more people can partake in the American dream.

"So I have come here to say thank you for that. Our great President Barack Obama has said, 'We will measure our success by the progress that is being made by America's working families.' If relentlessness could be expanded with intensity, that only begins to tell the story of Barbara Lee and Emanuel Cleaver and the members of the CBC on behalf of working families in America--relentless, dissatisfied, persistent, creative, entrepreneurial, imaginative, patriotic for our country.

"We have our own preacher in the leadership--Jim Clyburn, who makes us reflect upon our purpose as we begin our meetings. And again, we had a service this morning at church, an interdenominational service. And I came here and heard Preacher Cleaver. It is true, though, what he was saying, it is about our values, about what we carry inside of us. And if we go to church and talk about God's blessings on all of us, and how we are all equal in his eyes and we are all equal in terms of our Constitution, that equality has to extend to economic opportunity for all Americans as well.

"Dr. Martin Luther King taught us a lot about how to be effective, how to get a job done, how to stick by your principles. Right, John? And taught America so much. We learn every day in the Congress. That instruction continues from our CBC. I said before, and others have said, they are the conscience of the Congress. Your support of them, intellectually and every way, personally and every way, is a great resource not only for them and for the Congress but for our country.

"So we will not rest. Again, we extend a hand of friendship to create jobs, grow the middle class, and reduce the deficit. We look for common ground to solve the problems of the American people--their health, their housing, their jobs, their savings, their children's education.

"But where we cannot find common ground, we must stand our ground on behalf of the pledge we take every day: 'With liberty and justice for all.' And that includes economic justice for all.

So I have come here to thank the CBC for being who you are, to congratulation your growth, to wish success to your new leader, Emanuel Cleaver, to express appreciation to Barbara Lee for her leadership, to the Foundation and Donald Payne, to the family for sharing Emanuel with us. But this looks like one great big family to me. I see Diane Watson who is going to be leaving us now but will always be part of our family.

"So we all know what our important role is, has been, and will continue to be. Two years from now when we come together, things will be different. [Applause.] Things will be different. [Applause.] And we are now all engaged in a campaign for all Americans--what better, better field marshal in that campaign than the Congressional Black Caucus under the leadership of Emanuel Cleaver.

"Thank you all very much. Congratulations, and I will see you on the floor of the House. Thank you all very much."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 5, 2011 12:28 PM.

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