By Nancy Pelosi
As America approaches the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inauguration as president, we remember his inspiring message to members of Congress: 'The Constitution makes us ... all trustees for the American people, custodians of the American heritage.'
As trustees for the American people, Congress must honor our legal obligation to do what is right for our families and workers. As custodians of our heritage, we must uphold the American values of freedom, equality and opportunity for all.
For the past four years, it has been my honor to serve as speaker of the House, to follow in this tradition, and to work with my colleagues on behalf of the economic and national security of every American. Today, I will turn the gavel over to the new speaker, John Boehner, with my full commitment to join him in solving problems for America's families. When Republicans put forth solutions that reflect our priorities and address our nation's challenges, they will find in Democrats a willing partner.
Jobs top priority
As we pivot into a new Congress, our No. 1 priority will continue to be putting people to work. And we will measure each proposal by a simple test: Will it create jobs? Will it strengthen our middle class? Will it reduce the deficit?
The Democratic Congress and President Obama acted to lay a strong foundation for our nation's prosperity. We took action to create and save millions of jobs, and cut taxes for every worker. Our historic health insurance reform enacted a Patient's Bill of Rights, and Wall Street reform brought the greatest consumer protections in history.
We made the largest commitment to making college more affordable, and established landmark investments in the health and education of our veterans. These initiatives were all paid for; in the case of health reform and student loans, these actions will save taxpayers $1.3 trillion.
Health care reform and Wall Street reform increased leverage for America's working families. Any efforts to repeal or defund them will be met with stiff resistance. For the sake of all Americans, these protections must remain in place.
Make America No. 1
In the new Congress, Democrats are prepared to join congressional Republicans in focusing on job creation and strengthening our future. At this time of continued economic challenge, one place to start would be our ' Make It In America' strategy -- a series of steps to bolster America's manufacturers and our competitiveness so that we continue to lead the world economy. By creating jobs in our manufacturing and clean energy sectors, and making critical investments in our infrastructure, we can keep America No. 1. And with our plan, we can do so in a fiscally responsible way.
Now is the time for Republicans to join us in offering bold ideas to continue our recovery and to keep our promises to generations to come. Together, we must act to meet the challenges of the moment and of our country's future: creating a strong and growing workforce, ensuring a thriving middle class, and acting as responsible stewards of the public purse.
As we congratulate Speaker Boehner and our Republican colleagues, we stand ready to solve problems and to find common ground on behalf of all Americans. And as we take the oath of office today to support and defend the Constitution, we must be ever mindful that it 'makes us ... all trustees for the American people, custodians of the American heritage.'
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the first female speaker of the House, will serve as minority leader in the 112th Congress.