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Pelosi: We Have Had the Courage to Make History, Now Let Us Have the Courage to Make Progress

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke this afternoon at EMILY's List Majority Council Luncheon.  Below are her remarks as prepared:

'Thank you again for the opportunity to come before you and to thank you.

'Today, I come with a special appreciation for your accomplishments - as one of your firsts - as the first woman Speaker of the House.

'It is an honor and a privilege to share the stage with Ellen Malcolm, and Senator Hillary Clinton - the frontrunner to become the first woman President of the United States.

'And I am absolutely delighted to see my granddaughter Madeline on the screen, saying, 'I think more women will get jobs like hers.'  Seeing her and all of you, I am filled with hope.  I know America's best days are ahead. 

'Since the day I accepted the gavel on behalf of Madeleine and all of America's children, the question I get asked most, from women - young and old, and men too, especially fathers of daughters, is: 'What is it like to be Speaker of the House of Representatives?'

'What is it like? 

'It's absolutely fabulous. 

'I am grateful to my colleagues for their courage in electing me.  In doing so, they have brought us closer to the ideal of equality that is America's heritage and hope. 

'Their courage enabled us to make history.  Now let us have the courage to make progress.

'In early January, when I was sworn in as Speaker, the revered Father Robert Drinan celebrated a mass at my alma mater, Trinity College.  We celebrated that mass in the name of the children of Katrina and Darfur. 

'With his deep faith and great moral clarity, Father Drinan laid out our challenge in helping the world's children: 'Let us reexamine our convictions, our commitments, and our courage.  Our convictions and our commitments are clear and certain to us.  But do we have the courage to carry them out?' he asked. 

'In those first weeks, I received thousands of letters from around the world.  One was from Jeanne McDonagh, the grand niece of Mary Norton, the first Democratic woman Member of Congress.

'She wrote of her aunt, Congresswoman Norton, 'I am sure she is jumping with joy in heaven that you have broken the latest marble ceiling!...God bless you and give you the wisdom to know the right things to do and the courage and fortitude to carry them out.'

'She echoed the challenge of Father Drinan - do we have the courage and fortitude?

'I come here today to say, we do.

'The firsts we celebrate today required great courage: from the election of Mary Norton, to the first EMILY's List candidates, Senator Barbara Mikulski and our beloved Harriett Woods, to the first woman who may be the next President of the United States - Hillary Rodham Clinton.  They remind us that the pioneering, great and small, is not over.

'It is humbling to know that I am a part of such pioneering.  And my acceptance of the gavel simply would not have been possible without EMILY's List. 

'It is because of you that we have 61 Democratic women in the Congress - 11 in the Senate, and 50 in the House. 

'Many of my House colleagues are here today, and I ask them to stand. 

'It is because of you that Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro - your former Executive Director - is in House leadership as Chair of the House Steering Committee.  She will also be taking the lead on our summit on children.  Whether it is policy or politics, Rosa DeLauro is always in the lead. 

'It is because of you that we call four women Madam Chair: Chairwoman Louise Slaughter of the Rules Committee; Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of the Ethics Committee; Chairwoman Juanita Millender McDonald of the House Administration Committee; Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez of the Small Business Committee; and the Senior House Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee, Vice Chair Carolyn Maloney.

'It is because of you that we will always protect a woman's right to make the decisions about her own life.    

'And aren't we grateful that 20 years ago Ellen Malcolm had a vision?  She had the commitment, the conviction, and the courage to carry it out.  Ellen Malcolm is the Susan B. Anthony of our time.  Thank you, Ellen.

'With your leadership, the American people have two houses back - the House and the Senate - only one to go!

'Speaking of firsts, in the first 100 hours, House Democrats took our country in the New Direction demanded by the American people in the election.  With women in the lead, we passed legislation to: drain the swamp of corruption with tough ethics reform; make America safer at home; make our economy fairer by raising the minimum wage; make college more accessible by cutting in half the interest on the student loans; make prescription drugs more affordable; advance embryonic stem cell research; and bring us closer to our goal of energy independence in 10 years.

'We then turned our attention to the first real debate in Congress on the war in Iraq.

'In his sermon, Father Drinan proudly declared that 'for the first time the Speaker is a mother.'  It is as the Speaker and a mother that I want to speak to you today about the war in Iraq.

'Let me be clear: we are prepared to do whatever it takes to protect and defend the American people. 

'The war in Iraq is not making our country safer, our military stronger, or the region more stable.  In fact, the war in Iraq is the greatest ethical challenge facing our nation.

'Earlier this year, my first trip as Speaker of the House was to meet with our brave soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.  On all my trips, I thank them for their valor, their patriotism, and the sacrifice they are willing to make for our country.

'I ask them about their families and their lives at home.  So many of them are National Guardsman, and they told me about being firefighters, and teachers, and mechanics.  But one response moves me to this day.  When I asked the question, 'What did you do before you came here?'  A young man responded, 'I was in high school, ma'am'

'We must remember the impact this war is having on the families of our men and women in uniform. 

'Recently, I read about an American army captain who had died in Iraq.  He used a webcam to talk with his family each day - to read a bedtime story to his three year old son, Zack.

'After he died, his wife tried to explain death to Zack. 'Daddy went to heaven,' she said. 'He can hear us. But he's not going to come home.'

'Zack said, 'Yes he is.  He's in Iraq.  When he's finished, he's going to come home.'

'But he isn't coming home.

'Nowhere were the American people clearer about the need for a New Direction than in the war in Iraq. 

'At the end of our debate, which lasted four days, a bipartisan majority in the House and in the Senate, voted to support our troops and voted against President Bush's escalation of the war by his sending more than 21,000 combat troops there. 

'As the generals tell us, we must stop thinking of this war solely as a military conflict. 

'We need a New Direction. 

'Again and again, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and I, have presented the President with a plan for a New Direction that would: change the mission from combat to training, force protection and counterterrorism; redeploy the troops; engage in regional diplomacy; have real and honest reconstruction in Iraq; make political change necessary to end the civil strife.  Only then can we refocus our attention on the real war on terror - the war in Afghanistan.

'We must never go to war unless our troops are trained, equipped, and with a strategy for success.

'And we must never go to war unless we are prepared to care for our veterans when they come home.  That is why we have begun intense oversight of the care our returning soldiers receive at Walter Reed Hospital and other facilities. 

'On the battlefield, our troops pledge to leave no soldier behind.  As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.

'Four of my brothers were veterans.  One of them died in the end of February.  His name, Franklin Roosevelt D'Alesandro, gives you a sense of my family's priorities.

'In my last conversation with him, the day after Congress voted in support of our troops and against the escalation, he said to me, 'I am so glad I lived long enough to see Congress have the courage to say no to the President on the war.'

'We salute the courage of our troops.  Now we must have the courage to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

'Because of the work of EMILY's List, Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern, and determined to make you proud. 

'I assure you, we have the courage to carry out our convictions. 

'Thank you Ellen Malcolm and EMILY's List.  God bless you.  God bless America.'