(Photo from C-Span)
History is made every day. But today's signature piece is the election of Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The first woman to ever hold that position. The woman who, as Pelosi herself said, was supported by people who gave her the confidence to move from the kitchen to Congress.
I watched it happen on the tube. A major concession for me. First time I've turned on the TV in 2007. One of half a dozen times or so over the past 15 years. First time I heard Pelosi's voice. I justified the time spent watching history by multi-tasking. Putting away Christmas decorations. Folding laundry. In my case, moving from the kitchen to the basement.
I found a pre-distributed print version of Pelosi's speech at the Raw Story blog. She followed it closely.
The petite dynamo who is now just two heartbeats removed from the White House looked happy and genuinely hopeful. She was gracious and inclusive. She said all the requisite things and thanked people on both sides of the aisle, newbies and veterans alike, as well as family and assorted others. She underscored the historic significance of a woman breaking the marble ceiling, signaling strengthened hope for genuine equality.
Here's a major chunk of Pelosi's speech. The italicized comments are mine.
"I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and look forward to working with you on behalf of the American people.
"In this House, we may belong to different parties, but we serve one country. We stand united in our pride and prayers for our men and women in the armed forces. They are working together to protect America, and we, in this House, must also work together to build a future worthy of their sacrifice." (She wasted no time getting to Iraq. Camera panned over Republican faces, nearly all set in stone, heads tilting together, hands concealing exchanged comments.)
~ snip ~
"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 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 that allows us to responsibly redeploy American forces.
"Let us be the Congress that rebuilds our military to meet the national security challenges of the 21st century. (A reminder that the good old ways of the good old boys are, ummm, old. Time for new thinking, new ideas.)
"Let us be the Congress that strongly honors our responsibility to protect our people from terrorism.
"Let us be the Congress that never forgets our commitment to our veterans and first responders, always honoring them as the heroes 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 made our country great." (Ergo, how about taking a dim view of things like George Bush's quietly executed signing statement on December 20 that allows the government to open Americans' mail'"and no, I'm not kidding.)
~ snip ~
"A new America that seizes the future and forges 21st century solutions (a motif in her remarks) 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 accessible, and retirement secure.
"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.
"The American people told us in the election that they expect us to work together for fiscal responsibility, with the highest ethical standards and civility.
"After years of historic deficits, this new Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: pay as you go, no new deficit spending. (My personal favorite!) Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.
"In order to achieve a new America, we must return this House to the American people. So our first order of business is passing the toughest ethics reform in history. This new Congress doesn't have two years or 100 days to renew itself. (Amen, sister, amen!)
"Let us join together in the first 100 hours to make this Congress the most honest and open 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 the vision of our Founders, the expectations of our people, and the great challenges we face, we have an obligation to reach beyond partisanship to serve all Americans."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There you have it. I have to admit I went all teary occasionally as I watched and listened and folded. The thing is, I want so desperately to hope again, to believe that this country that is so capable of greatness will find its true center again.
You know, there's something of Miss Havisham going on behind the bright faade of the White House. More sinister than tragic, though. Darkness, decay, cobwebs and modi operandi firmly rooted in the past, always looking backwards.
As Nancy Pelosi attempts to breathe new life into the People's House, I hope with my whole heart that that is just the first step toward putting an end to the dark days of the past six years.
Open the windows, put out the welcome mat. Let's hope it's a whole new day. It can be.