Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Women's Information Network Congressional Reception honoring Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro:
“Thank you so much for your kind words and your wonderful welcome. And thank you to the Women's Information Network for what you do for women.
“I think it's perfectly more than appropriate to honor Rosa DeLauro, who has been a staunch advocate for WIN and for women advancing. I bumped into her on the elevator and told her I was coming here to sing her praises and she said, ‘no, I want you to sing WIN's praises, and so I will.
“I'm happy to join my colleagues, Lois Capps and Janice Hahn--now we have Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton from the District of Columbia. As she and I both know, when Karen Mulhauser--is Karen here? Oh Karen, right in front of my very eyes! Thank you for your leadership. When you founded the Women's Information Network, you created opportunities for the next generation of young women leaders. We are all in your debt for that. You must be very gratified to see this room full of young women leaders.
“Rosa, getting your trailblazer role, as I said, is very appropriate, and as I know she told you, we all have to be trailblazers for women. Whether it's helping women advance one way or another, mentoring women, watching women's backs as we trail blaze--blaze trail.
“Here's what I want to tell you because I know we have--obviously we come here and praise the organization--it's wonderful, it's doing exactly what needs to be done. The most eloquent statement about your work is the room that I see here, the very diverse group of young women with all the aspirations, all the prospects, all the beautiful futures, very evident here. I want more of you to be involved in public service in a very direct way. I have maintained that nothing is more wholesome for the political process and the government of our country than the increased participation of women. As Congress--okay, you can applaud that.
“And so, I said to the Girl Scouts today, I started the day with the Girls Scouts' 100th birthday, I said to these little girls who were sitting on the floor, I think some of them were Brownies--they were very young,--that the contribution that you make is very unique. Nobody can make your contribution but you. So you have to know your power about all of this. That's why I called my book ‘Know your Power.'
“Know your individual power. And the fact is, is that some of you may decide that public service is of interest to you, by staffing, by taking the lead on issues, or maybe, this is not for the faint of heart, but maybe in running for office yourselves. And that is very important. And we can help each other to do so. But that faint of heart part is the part I want to remove. And I believe, and I tell this to my colleagues almost every meeting, that part of the legacy we want to have, if I may be able to use a political word for just one moment, part of our legacy as Democrats is to say that we want a new politics, free of special interest money. If we can have reform, so we have clean campaigns, think of how many more women would run for office.
“So my pitch is: we want more women, we need political finance reform. Because so many women say, ‘oh I can't raise the money; they're going to use all that money against me.' I know that story. But you shouldn't have to worry about that. You should be able to run because of the contribution that you make, because of the ideas that you have, the vision you have for our country, the knowledge you have in judgment in how we should go forth, the plan you have to do that, the friends that you can attract because of your passion, your passion for our country and a better future for everyone. And, quite frankly, the responsibility that we have to other women to continue to lift women up. And we all have our role to play.
“Eleanor and I stand on the shoulder of giant women who went before us. And they on the shoulders of others. I've told some of you this story, when I went to the White House the first time as the Democratic Leader, I wasn't even that concerned about the meeting, because I had been to the White House, we go right there for meetings, on one subject or another, from time to time. President George W. Bush was President at the time. So I didn't even think that much about it, except I was going to a meeting at the White House. When I went in the White House, when they opened the door to the room and I saw how small the table was. It was just the Leaders: House, Senate, Democrats Republicans, the President, the Vice President, and I thought, this is unlike any other meeting I have ever been to at the White House. In fact, Karen, it was unlike any meeting that any woman had ever been to at the White House. It wasn't a Cabinet meeting, however exalted that is. But, your power derives from the man at the head of the table--or person, hopefully a woman soon--at the head of the table. And, therefore, you are there as his or her Cabinet. But, there I was representing the Democrats in the House of Representatives, and all the beautiful diversity, different from the other representatives, I might add. Anyway, I sit down--Eleanor has heard this story a million times.
Ms. Holmes-Norton. “Keep telling it. It's a good one.
Leader Pelosi. “I haven't told it in a long time. They're young, they may not have heard it, right? It's about our responsibility to each other. So I sit down in the chair, President Bush, ever amiable, a lovely man, despite his policies. Oh, that was political. So I sit down, gracious lovely man, and he's giving me this wonderful welcome because I was elected sort of mid-term, so I was the only one he was welcoming there as a new member of the group. And, he's talking and all of the sudden I felt really closed in, in my chair. I mean, it was pack and jammed on that chair. I never had this feeling before or since. It was very crowded, Karen. And all of a sudden, I realized that it was Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Alice Paul and Sojourner Truth, and you name it--they were all there on that chair, all of these suffragettes. And I swear to you, I could hear them say: at last we have a seat at the table.' And then like that, they were gone.
“I can't even imagine what the President was thinking as I was going through all of this. Maybe he was thinking. In any event, he knows I would just be kidding, in any event, my first thought was, ‘we want more.' We want more women, we want minorities, we want that table to look like America. But the point is, I wouldn't have been at that table, we wouldn't have even had the vote without these suffragettes and the women who came since then, to--a feminist movement, and the rest--to empower women. So, one set of shoulders, another set of shoulders, we have our shoulders now that you all stand on, and we're determined that you can reach new heights.
“But, I've gotten, shall we say, a little impatient with incrementalism. Well, we get 10 more women this year, and 10 more women the next year, and we lose two and we gain five--I want transformation. We don't want increments, we want transformation. We want to change the atmosphere; we want to make our own environment. So, if we can change the role that money plays in politics, I am absolutely certain we will have an unleashing of women power in our country that will make a tremendous difference, you are all a part of that. Whether it's in your personal lives, your professional lives, your official lives, whatever you choose to do, remember, as I say, ‘know your power.' Your unique contribution is very, very special.
“We have an obligation, WIN is a channel for us to harness some of the energy that some of us have in this regard. I'm pleased to be on WIN's Congressional Council.
“And, again, I thank you for honoring Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, she is a force of nature beyond, beyond anything. She is determined that change will take place, that women will shape that change. She's a big fan of WIN. And I thank you for honoring her and for giving me the opportunity to be with you this evening. Congratulations.'