Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi hosted a Women's History Month reception honoring Senator Barbara Mikulski, who became the longest-serving woman in Congress on Saturday. Below are the Leader's opening remarks:
“Good evening everyone. Welcome to the celebration of not only the longest serving woman in the history of the United States Congress, but the great leadership of Senator Barbara Mikulski. It's not just about the length of time, it's about the quality of service and leadership, it's about the personality that she is, it's about the history that she has made, it's about the progress she is making for the American people. Aren't we all honored to be with her this evening?
“On Saturday the great moment occurred. We thought all of you would be here if we had this celebration then. But we thought we would do it when Congress was in session. We particularly wanted to do it here in the House. They had a day of tributes in the Senate - I don't know if many of you had the chance to see it. But when they replay it, please watch it. It is so edifying to see the appreciation expressed by her colleagues in the United States Senate. And every time somebody said something, I think: ‘that's just what I would of said,' and I'm sure you would of said the same thing. So, here we are gathered, during Women's History Month. How better to observe it then to honor Senator Mikulski.
“And I want to acknowledge the presence of some great women leaders of our country. Three members of the President's Cabinet: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary Janet Napolitano, Administrator Lisa Jackson we're also very honored by a woman so spectacular that a room in the Capitol is named for her, our former colleagues, Congresswoman Lindy Boggs. I should say Ambassador Lindy Boggs, who just the other day, earlier this month, celebrated her 96th birthday. And since this is a day of firsts, I want to acknowledge the first woman Secretary of State, Madeline Albright. We're acknowledging the women, but I know the Marylanders would want to be acknowledged so - our great Whip, Steny Hoyer, [Congressman] Ruppersberger was here earlier, [Congresswoman] Donna Edwards is here with us, any other Marylanders - [Congressman] Elijah Cummings, Congressman John Sarbanes. And our former Members - Beverly Byron, our former Member.
“In any event lets applaud for all of us, because this is a room full of celebrities. Another former Member - Helen Bentley, there she is.
“The room is full of Members of the House and of the Senate, and as I say, we take special pride because for the first ten years of this record breaking history in the Congress, those first ten years were spent here in the House of Representatives and we're very proud of her.
“We have the whole Baltimore contingent here. And I start with myself. And we have the Choir from the Institute of Notre Dame - where Barbara and I both went to high school. And, when I was sworn in as Speaker, Barbara wore her IND ring to the swearing-in. So, we take great pride in that identity. But isn't this something?
“On the floor of the Senate today we heard about her upbringing in a proud Polish-American family in Highlandtown territory, very familiar to many of us here. About her father's grocery store opening up early so Steelworkers could come buy their lunches before the early shift. Barbara made her career first as a social worker, and as she likes to say, she is now a social worker with power.
“We all take pride in Barbara's success. I remember being in in Maryland the day in she won the primary in 1976 and Paul Sarbanes won the Senate race that day and we had that transfer of power. And ever since that day - guess how many: 12,858 of them - she's worked on behalf of her constituents, on behalf of all Americans. As she puts it she works “on behalf of the day to day needs of Marylanders and the long-term needs of the nation.” We're of proud that career in Congress, I'll say it again: that began in the House of Representatives.
“Today, as I said before, we not only celebrate the length of the leadership, but the quality of it. How appropriate that she became the longest-serving woman in Congressional history during Women's History Month and she's been making history and progress her entire career. First Democratic woman elected to the Senate in her own right. First woman on the Senate Appropriations Committee. First woman elected Assistant Senate Democratic floor leader and the only woman to have held that position. This I can't believe, but the first woman elected to statewide office in Maryland. A real pioneer. The women of the Senate, they tell me, the women of the Senate call Senator Mikulski: ‘Dean.' Dean, teacher, mentor, leader, friend - she is all of this and more to so many of us. And many of you are gathered here. By the way, I have the notes from all the people who couldn't come, and I'll share that later.
“Here today is one of Senator Mikulski's best friends and colleagues from her time in the House: Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly. Barbara Kennelly and I went to the same college - Trinity College, so did Kathleen Sebelius, this is a sisterhood day, IND here, Trinity College. Barbara Kennelly is now a distinguished professor of political science at Trinity College. Like Senator Mikulski, Barbara Kennelly has taught all of us: she's taught us how to lead, to legislate, how to be a champion for some of the most vulnerable in our society - especially women.
“I'm now pleased to introduce Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly and now I'm pleased to present a great leader in the House when she served here. A great leader in the House when she served here. A great friend to Barbara Mikulski and to many of us here. Our friend, Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly.”