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Northwest Asian Weekly: A Gift From the Most Powerful Woman

By Assunta Ng

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave every woman a rare gift last Friday at SeattleCity Hall.

What did the woman who is second in line for the presidency of the United States -- behind the vice president -- give to more than 300 women?

Pelosi, 66, was elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 4, 2007, becoming the first woman to lead the majority party in that legislative body. Since 1987, she has been elected to represent one of the most diverse districts in the nation -- one that includes San Francisco's Chinatown.

Usually, supporters have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to mingle and take photos with prominent politicians. Most politicians come to Seattle with one purpose in mind: to raise money for themselves or their colleagues' campaigns.

Charging each guest $500, $1,000, $2,000 or even $10,000 for a chance to rub shoulders with these elected officials is normal. Sen. Hillary Clinton did that in Seattle last year during for a fund-raiser herself and Sen. Maria Cantwell. President Bush has also had his share of big-ticket fund-raisers in Washington state. When Pelosi came to Seattle a few years ago to raise money, the ticket price was $300 each, according to June Chen, who attended. Chen admired Pelosi's poise and energy.

Pelosi had another purpose in mind this time. Last Friday, Pelosi shook everyone's hands and posed for pictures with each one of the 300 guests, but it didn't cost anyone a dime.

'I really appreciate that she (Pelosi) really looked me in my eyes when she shook my hand,' said Theresa Pan Hosley, who was invited by Congressman Norm Dicks. 'Most politicians, when they shake your hand, their eyes look somewhere else to see who else is in the room.'

Call me lucky. I shook Pelosi's hand twice. If I'm doing my math right, then those handshakes were worth a couple thousand dollars now that she is the speaker of the House. Yes, I went back through the photo line twice. Don't accuse me of being greedy. The first picture happened so fast that I thought my eyes were closed. So my friend said, 'Go back there and do it again.' Why not? There were so many people there that no one noticed. A couple of professional photographers were clicking their cameras every 30 seconds so we could buy our photos online.

No, Pelosi didn't forget her duty to fund-raise for the Democratic Party. Earlier, she hosted a $1,000-a-plate lunch at the Washington Athletic Club for about 60 people. The money benefited the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But the real gift was not the photo opportunity. Any of the women present could tell you what the gift was.

Pelosi takes her position as a 'role model for women pretty seriously,' according to an insider. Her wish was to invite these women and empower them with her presence and a short speech before Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, King County Executive Ron Sims, U.S. Congressmen Jim McDermott, Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee, and several Seattle City Council members. A question-and-answer session was not part of her agenda, however.

As the first female to get this close to being U.S. president, Pelosi gave us women the gift of inspiration, hope and, most importantly, testimony to the American dream. A housewife with five children can run for Congress and win. Now a grandmother of six, she has climbed up the ladder to become speaker of the House. As she says over and over again in her speeches, she has cracked 'the marble ceiling.'

Possibility is what Pelosi is about.

The audience could see that within Pelosi lay the powers of resilience, transformation, optimism, vision, rule-breaking and, of course, making a difference. She has the power to create an 'old girls' network.'

Among the 300-plus in attendance were two female mayors, a woman eight months pregnant, pioneers, leaders and activists. The female mayors were Claudia Thomas of Lakewood and Nancy Conard of Coupeville.

One fan who waited in line to get into the reception and later the photo session with Pelosi was former first lady of Seattle Dr. Constance Rice. 'She is history,' commented Rice. 'She is strong and knowledgeable and knows exactly where she wants her party to go.'

President of Pacific Communications Regina Glenn did not intend to stay for the photo, but then changed her mind. She was impressed that Pelosi was personable and spent time with the women for camaraderie's sake. 'It's the women's way of doing things,' Glenn said.

Dorothy Wong, another guest at the reception, pointed out that Pelosi is one of many powerful women leaders in the history of the world. 'I hope that the legacy she leaves behind is one of profound impact on this nation, rather than to just have made history because of her gender,' she said.

These women can go home and tell their daughters, sisters and girlfriends: Yes, you can do anything you want. Run for office. Aim higher. Take that risk and doors will open. Make that move and you will not regret it. The future is bright, and it's up to you to shape the road. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for shaping the road for us women.

If you are a woman, you might be wondering why you didn't get invited. Here are some tips: Know your congressman and get involved in your community. Most attendees were invited through their congressman's office.