Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders spoke this morning at the opening ceremony of the United States Capitol Visitor Center (CVC). Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:
“In this grand Emancipation Hall, we come together to reflect upon the history of our nation and of our remarkable United States Capitol.
“From time to time in our history, Members of Congress have lamented the ever changing nature of the United States Capitol. As our Acting Architect Stephen Ayers can testify, work on the Capitol has not ceased from the moment President Washington laid the cornerstone in 1793 to this very day.
“A once modest building suited to a fledging republic grew into this grand Capitol that is among the most recognizable structures in the world. And a small nation that struggled to break free of outmoded ideas and repression became both a global power and the world's beacon of liberty.
“For this newest addition to the Capitol, we all appreciate the vision of past Speakers and Senate and House leaders, including former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who is with us today.
“We thank the architectural firm, the construction firms, the more than 9,000 workers and hundreds of employees of the Architect's office, many of whom are with us today, as well as those who ensured that that the exhibits are educational and enlightening.
“With this ceremony's close, we will hand the keys of the CVC over to Terrie Rouse, who will oversee the daily operations of the visitor center. Terrie will oversee a new Capitol Visitor Center that incorporates many environmentally friendly initiatives in keeping with our Greening of the Capitol initiative.
“Yet even our efforts to be green and recycle are in keeping with this building's history. As far back as the winter of 1797, carpenters working on the Capitol were instructed to save their ‘chips' from woodworking to help heat the homes of workers on the grounds.
“During the CVC's construction, 50 percent of the waste was recycled. And the East Capitol grounds will be even greener than before, with 85 new trees planted to revive the vision of Fredrick Law Olmsted's magnificent landscape plan.
“This new addition to our majestic Capitol embodies our nation's ability to adapt while preserving our essential American character.
“As Members of Congress and visitors pass through the halls of the Capitol, we literally walk in the footsteps of giants, such as James Madison, Henry Clay, Sam Rayburn and Tip O'Neill, and we learn from their leadership.
“As both Members and visitors enjoy the educational benefits of Capitol Visitor Center, we will be inspired to explore new paths and to write new chapters in our nation's great history.
“With that reverence for our history and dedication to progress, may this Temple of Democracy continue to be a place where people of diverse background and opinion can find common ground for the common good.”