Nancy Pelosi

House Floor Speech on Not Seeking Re-Election to Democratic Leadership in Congress

delivered 17 November 2022, Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Audio mp3 of Address       Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address

 

[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker:

As we gather here, we stand on sacred ground: the Chamber of the United States House of Representatives, the heart of American Democracy.

I will never forget the first time I saw the Capitol. It was on a cold January day, when I was six years old. My father, Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., was about to be sworn in for his fifth term in Congress -- representing our beloved hometown of Baltimore. I was riding in the car with my brothers, and they were thrilled and jumping up and down and saying to me, "Nancy, Nancy, look -- there’s the Capitol!" And I keep -- every time I’d say, "I don’t see any capital. Is it a 'capital A', a 'capital B' or a 'capital C?'"

Credit: Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, circa 1980-2006.

And finally, I saw it: a stunning white building with a magnificent dome. I believed then, as I believe today, this is the most beautiful building in the world because of what it represents.

The Capitol is a temple of our Democracy, of our Constitution, of our highest ideals.1

On that day [applause] -- On that day, I stood with my father on this Floor as he took a sacred oath: "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."2

All of us who have served in this House have taken the hallowed oath of office. And it is the oath that stitches us together in a long and storied heritage -- colleagues who served before us are all our colleagues, colleagues like Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, Shirley Chisholm, Patsy Mink; and our beloved John Lewis.

Personally, it binds me as a colleague to my father, a proud New Deal Congressman and one of the earliest Italian Americans to serve in the Congress. And this is an oath we are duty-bound to keep -- and it links us with the highest aspirations of the ages.

In this room, our colleagues across history have abolished slavery; granted women the right to vote; established Social Security and Medicare; offered a hand to the weak, care to the sick, education to the young, and hope to the many.

 

Indeed, it is here, under the gaze of our patriarch George Washington, in the People’s House, that we have done the People’s work.

My Colleagues,

I stand before you as Speaker of the House, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a devout Catholic, a proud Democrat, and a patriotic American -- a citizen of the greatest Republic in the history of the world, which President Lincoln called the "last best hope o[f] earth."3

Indeed, in the words attributed to another of our colleagues, the legendary Daniel Webster, he said:

Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution of your country and the government established under it. Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in xix thousand years cannot be expected to happen often.4

Indeed, American Democracy is majestic; but it is fragile. Many of us here have witnessed its fragility firsthand -- tragically, in this Chamber. And so, Democracy must be forever defended from forces that wish it harm.

Last week, the American people spoke. And their voices were raised in defense of liberty, of the rule of law, and of Democracy itself. With these elections, the people stood in the breach and repelled the assault on Democracy. They resoundingly rejected violence and insurrection. And in doing so, "gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."5 And now, we owe to the American people our very best to deliver on their faith. To forever reach for the more perfect union, the glorious horizon that our Founders promised.

The questions before this Congress and in this moment are urgent, questions about the ideals that this House is charged by the Constitution to preserve and protect: "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, to ourselves and our Posterity."6

Our Posterity: Our children. Babies born today will live into the next century. And our decisions will determine their future for generations to come.

While we will have our disagreements on policy, we must remain fully committed to our shared, fundamental mission: to hold strong to our most treasured Democratic ideals, to cherish the spark of divinity in each and every one of us, and to always put our Country first.

In their infinite wisdom, our Founders gave us their -- their guidance: E pluribus unum, "[Out of] many, one." They could not have imagined how large our country would become or how different we would be from one another. But they knew that we had to be united as one.

We, The People; one country, one destiny.

It's been with great pride, in my 35 years in the House, I have seen this Body grow more reflective of our great nation, our beautiful nation. When I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now, there are over 90 -- and we want more.

The new Members of our Democratic Caucus will be about 75 percent women, people of color, and LGBTQ. And we have brought more voices to the decision-making table. When I entered Leadership in 2002, there were eight of us. Today, there are seventeen Members of the Leadership.

When I first came to the Floor at six years old, never would I have thought that someday I would go from homemaker to House Speaker. In fact, I never -- In fact, I never intended to run for public office. Mommy and Daddy taught us through their example that public service is a noble calling and that we all have a responsibility to help others. In our family, my brother Tommy then became Mayor of Baltimore also.

But it's been my -- been my privilege to play a part in forging extraordinary progress for the American people.

I have enjoyed working with three Presidents, achieving:
- Historic investments in clean energy with President George Bush.
- Transformative health care reform with President Barack Obama.
- And forging -- And forging the future -- from infrastructure to health
  care to climate action -- with President Joe Biden.

Now, we must move boldly into the future, grounded by the principles that have propelled us this far and open to fresh possibilities for the future. Scripture teaches us that: "[To] everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven."7

My Friends,

No matter what title you all, my colleagues, have bestowed upon me -- Speaker, Leader, Whip -- there is no greater official honor for me than to stand on this Floor and to speak for the people of San Francisco. This I will continue to do as a Member of the House: speaking for the people of San Francisco, serving the great State of California and defending our Constitution.

And with great confidence in our Caucus, I will not seek re-election to Democratic Leadership in the next Congress.

For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic Caucus that I so deeply respect. And I am grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.

Madam Speaker:

Standing here today, I'm endlessly grateful for all of life’s blessings, for my Democratic colleagues, whose courage and commitment -- with the support of your families -- have made many of these accomplishments possible. In fact, could not have been done without you.

For my dear husband Paul, who has been my beloved partner in life and my pillar of support: Thank you. We're all grateful for all the prayers and well-wishes as he continues his recovery.

Thank you so much.

For our darling children, Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul, and Alexandra; and our grandchildren, Alexander and Madeleine; Liam, Sean and Ryan; Paul and Thomas; Bella and Octavio -- they are the joys of our lives, for whom we -- and we are so very, very proud of them and a comfort to us at this time.

And for my brilliant, dedicated, and patriotic staff, under the leadership of Terri McCullough, together -- working together, the finest group of public servants the House has ever known.

Thank you all so much.

And again, for those who've sent me here, for the people of San Francisco, for entrusting me with the high honor of being their voice in Congress. In this continued work, I will strive to honor the call of the patron saint of our city, Saint Francis: "Lord make me an instrument of thy peace."8

In this House, we begin each day with a prayer and a pledge to the flag. And every day, I am in awe of the majestic miracle that is American Democracy.

As we participate in a hallmark of our Republic -- the peaceful, orderly transition from one Congress to the next -- let us consider the words of, again, President Lincoln, spoken during one of America's darkest hours. He called upon us to come together to "swell the chorus of the Union, when...again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."9

That, again, is the task at hand. A new day is dawning on the horizon, and I look forward -- always forward -- to the unfolding story of our nation -- a story of light and love, of patriotism and progress, of many becoming one; and always an unfinished mission to make the dreams of today the reality of tomorrow.

Thank you all. May God bless you and your families, and may God bless -- continue to bless -- our veterans and the United States of America.

Thank you all so much.


Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Richly figured clause containing metaphor, anaphora, asyndeton, parallelism, and climax.

2 Required oath of Office taken by "an individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor"

3 Lincoln, A. (1862). Annual Message to Congress. Broader quotation: "Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We -- even we here -- hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just -- a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless." [emphasis added]

4 Attributed to Webster but apparently an amalgam of at least two different communication events. The first was a letter written in 1851 by Webster to William B. Gooch of West Dennis, Massachusetts. In that letter is the line, "Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution of your country and the government established under it." The second event was a public address delivered in 1805 at Concord, Massachusetts, which reads in part, "We live under the only government that ever existed, which was formed by the deliberate consultations of the people. Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in six thousand years, cannot be expected to happen often." Neither the letter nor the speech contains the entire quotation -- even  reasonably paraphrased -- while, as evidenced above, the two artifacts together contain the delivered quotation's entirety. See this revealing analysis for further clarification.

5 Catalogued allusion

6 Taken from the Preamble to the Constitution: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

7 Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 NKJV. Extended quotation:
   "A time to be born,
   And a time to die;
   A time to plant,
   And a time to pluck what is planted;
   A time to kill,
   And a time to heal;
   A time to break down,
   And a time to build up;
   A time to weep,
   And a time to laugh;
   A time to mourn,
   And a time to dance;
   A time to cast away stones,
   And a time to gather stones;
   A time to embrace,
   And a time to refrain from embracing;
   A time to gain,
   And a time to lose;
   A time to keep,
   And a time to throw away;
   A time to tear,
   And a time to sew;
   A time to keep silence,
   And a time to speak;
   A time to love,
   And a time to hate;
   A time of war,
   And a time of peace."

8 The Prayer of Saint Francis

9 Lincoln, A. (1861). First Presidential Inaugural Address. Broader quotation: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Original Text Source: speaker.gov

Original Audio and Video Source: C-SPAN.org

Original Image of Capitol Source: https://www.loc.gov/resource/highsm.12576/?r=-0.647,0.021,2.294,0.888,0

Original Image of Washington Source: history.house.gov

Original Images (Digitally Enhanced Screenshots) of Pelosi Source: live.house.gov

Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement

Video Note: AI Enhanced Video

Page Updated: 11/23/22

U.S. Copyright Status: This text, audio, video = Property of AmericanRhetoric.com. Image of Capitol Building = No known restrictions on publication. Image of George Washington = Used in compliance with these terms. Images of Pelosi = Fair Use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 100 American Speeches

Online Speech Bank

Movie Speeches

© Copyright 2001-Present. 
American Rhetoric.
HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.