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Pelosi Remarks at Bush School and Library at Texas A&M University

College Station, TX - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the Bush School and Library at Texas A&M University in commemoration of President's Day.  Below are the Leader's remarks and a transcript of the conversation with the school's Dean, Andy Card.

“Thank you very much, Andy Card.  I guess that's what you call Texas hospitality, to get an introduction like that.  Right, Mr. President?  Mr. President, First Lady Barbara Bush, President Lofton, Chancellor Sharpe, all of you, thank you for the wonderful welcome here, to Texas A&M. 

“I should of started by saying: Howdy! 

“I know, that on this one instance, I can speak for each and every one of you in the room, when I say, that it is a great privilege, for each and every one of us, to spend President's Day with President George Bush.  President Bush, his name and his Presidency are synonymous with the word: civility.  Something badly needed in our political discourse today.  President Bush followed what Thomas Jefferson said: ‘that every difference of opinion is not a matter of principle.'  And we should debate accordingly.

“I particularly want to acknowledge President Bush's support for Mrs. Bush in her literacy programs, which are so important to our children, and to our democracy, an informed electorate.  Thank you Mrs. Bush, for your tremendous leadership.  A President can only be President with a great First Lady, and wasn't Mrs. Bush a great First Lady?  We're so proud of you, so proud of you.

“I want to acknowledge the leadership of Ambassador Popadiuk, here at the George Bush Presidential Library, which I had the honor of touring this afternoon.  It's wonderful, I highly recommend it.  If you haven't been there recently, it even has some updates.  It's about President Bush, but it's about America too.  And he's a great patriot, as we know.  Early on, he served his country, he was the youngest, the youngest at 17 years old, right out of high school, he enlisted at the outbreak of World War II.  He was the youngest naval, what do we call it Mr. President?  The youngest pilot in the Navy at the time.  And he never ran away from a fight.  He never ran away from a fight.  But, I'll talk about that more in a moment.  This is a strong President.  He was strong enough, and confident enough of his strength, that he spoke about a kinder, gentler, America.

“He talked about a thousand points of light.  And that really took great courage.  And that's what I see here, at Texas A&M.  So, I have a few words of introduction here but then we're going to have an exchange.  And, I'm happy to engage in that exchange with Andy Card.  As Ambassador Popadiuk said, he has made his very serious contribution from the state legislative level, to the White House, to the Cabinet, and serving the President.  And his, again, his commitment to public policy, to patriotism, to love of our country and a sense of civility, are very, very, very well respected in Washington D.C.  You all are fortunate indeed, to have him here at Texas A&M now, as the acting Dean.

“So, again, all of the things that we know about President Bush, how he has reached out, working with President Clinton in a bipartisan, really a nonpartisan way, to help victims of Katrina, victims of tsunamis, victims of the earthquake in Haiti, getting a response from the public that is nothing to match, really, just so spectacular, but a real sign of respect that's there for him, and they're working together.  Courage to sky dive.  Not once, but twice, in his eighties, over Texas, over College Station.  Now, aren't we proud of that brand of courage?

“I come here as the Leader in the House of Representatives.  And many of you know a great deal about the President's service to our country.  Whether it was as a young person right out of school in the war effort.  Whether it was as our envoy to China.  Whether it was our representative to the United Nations, to stand behind that American flag, to sit behind there and speak for the American people.  Whether it was his being the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the list goes on and on, right up to the White House, as Vice President, and then, as President of the United States.

“But, did you know, that he also served in the House of Representatives for two terms?  And we in the House feel very proprietary about him.  We take great pride, not many Presidents have served in the House.  Right, Mr. President?  Not many.  But this is a President who served there for two terms, not a long tenure, but the friendships have lingered on.  And, earlier I told the President that so many of his friends in the Congress, both who served with him, and since, send their best and warmest regards to him, and always take pride in his service and our association with him in the House of Representatives.  Thank you for continuing to take pride in your service in the House of Representatives, Mr. President.  Thank you. 

“He knows of what I speak.  He came to all of the gym dinners.  Now, I myself, have never been to the gym.  As Andy has said, we've been, I've been there for 25 years, this year I'm celebrating my 25th anniversary, in fact, starting off here.  But, I still don't even know where the gym is.  But the gym dinner, we all knew where the gym dinner was for one big reason: because the Vice President, and the President, George Bush, would come and honor the Members of Congress with his friendship, his respect, and that was greatly, greatly returned.

“In fact, when I was Ranking Member, Mr. President, you don't know this, on the Intelligence Committee, your friend and mine, Porter Goss, then the Chairman of the Committee, came to me and he said: ‘I have something I want to share with you, and I want you to be part of, and I know that the President would appreciate this.'  And I said: ‘anything, what does the President want?  Anything.'  He said: ‘well, we want to name the building, the whole compound of the Central Intelligence Agency after President Bush, recognizing his service there, and since, to the security of our country.'  Of course, it was my honor to cosponsor that legislation, and we put it in the bill.  And I said: ‘if that's what he wants, that's what we want him to have.' 

“So now, again, security, protect and defend.  It's our first responsibility.  We take that oath the very first day.  And the President has done that, as a teenager, and all the way up to Commander-in-Chief, and everything in-between.  And we wanted that acknowledgement to be there.  So, again, thank you Mr. President, for your service.

“President Bush could have had this library any place in the country.  You know, he has eastern roots.  Well, he saw the value of coming to Texas, as he and Mrs. Bush--and that took a level of courage, didn't it?  As young newlyweds, to get in the car, with your college car gift and come all the way down to a new place in Texas, for you, establish yourself, make the record that you did, and create a path, that began here in Texas, to the White House.  He could of put his library any place.  And he chose, and took great pride in choosing, Texas A&M.  And I know that you all take pride in the fact that he did that.  This university is marked by the same kind of courage that the President's personal life and public life has exemplified.  The word ‘courage.' 

“We're very proud that one of your [former] presidents, Robert Gates, served our country as the Secretary of Defense under a Democratic and a Republican President.  Or, I guess, in the reverse order.  But in anyway, first and foremost, for America.  When Secretary Gates left College Station, when he was here as your President, to serve his country, Aggies understood that because Aggies are renowned for the courage in the field of battle, and the contribution to our national security.  The Corps of Cadets is a proud reminder of your patriotism, and your courage.  And I understand that more officers are commissioned from Texas A&M than any other school in the nation, except for our service academies.  Thank you for helping us honor our oath of office.  To protect and defend.

“We had, I had the occasion to be in Texas, in San Antonio on Friday and Saturday and Laredo, to celebrate the birthday of President George Washington, and in fact, the role that Martha Washington played in the founding of our country.  You know it's a big celebration in Texas, I don't have to say that to you.  But at one of the Martha events, I had the privilege of meeting Timothy Herb, Ross Brady, Benjamin Norman and Michael Powell.  I don't know if they're here, but they are members of the Cadet Corps, there they are.  Thank you for, and they proudly told me of their work, and your work, and they said: ‘be sure, when you're there, to do this.'

[Leader Pelosi gives thumbs up.]

“In fact, one of my colleagues, Congressman Cuellar, who is a graduate of U.T. at Austin, in the picture that we had taken with the cadets, the cadets made us all do this.  [Leader Pelosi gives thumbs up.]  So, we have Cuellar on record doing this.  [Leader Pelosi gives thumbs up.]

“But the story that I love, and I learned more about in preparation for visiting here, the story of Earl Rudder, another leader who demonstrated Aggie courage.  You know the story of Texas A&M's 16th President, who was called away to war and found himself commanding a battalion of Rangers on D-Day.  You know about his valor: leading men up--scaling the 100-foot cliffs at Pointe du Hoc under unrelenting enemy fire, to destroy German gun batteries and help open the beaches below to the Allied landing forces.  Wounded twice, he fought on for two days, this Aggie did, until victory was secured in this critical turning point of the war.

“What you might not know is that in recent years, Pointe du Hoc was in disrepair, the erosion was causing it to just fade away, and visitors could no longer come and visit and bear witness to the courage and the difference that it made in the war. 

“That was until another courageous Aggie, who was earlier acknowledged, Congressman Chet Edwards, he went to work in the House of Representatives to preserve the sacred site.  Many experts told Congressman Edwards that Pointe du Hoc was damaged beyond repair.  But Aggie engineers stepped in and disagreed.  They devised a plan to save it and Congressman Edwards secured a $6 million investment to shore up those cliffs.  I think that was an earmark, Mr. President.  But we will call it a national priority of great significance.  Because it certainly was that as well.  And, Chet Edwards had all this passion for the subject, because he had received himself the Earl Rudder Award upon his graduation from Texas A&M, and he would therefore then be in position to save this important A&M legacy.

“Last year, the 67th anniversary of D-Day, Pointe du Hoc reopened.  Now, these hills will stand forever, thanks to the Aggies, as the solid testament to Aggie courage.  And for the safety of America.  We thank you.

“Now, Andy Card mentioned that my college roommate was here.  And, what's important about that is the thread that runs through so many of us, and that is, that my college roommate, she was my college roommate, Rita Meyer, she's here with her husband Dennis.  Her daughter is very close friends with Marsha Bush, the granddaughter of the Bush's and they love each other very much.  So, I could not have told her a better thing, then to say that I had been invited to come on President's Day, to honor President and Mrs. Bush and to have this opportunity to speak with you.  She happens to be the Godmother of my daughter Jacqueline, my husband and I are Godparents to her daughter, Katie, and Jacqueline, her husband Michael, a Republican I might add, not that it matters.  I told the President that in 1992, when Michael was at Cornell, getting his MBA, somehow or other, his absentee ballot did not reach him, his father, who was a stern taskmaster, never let any of the kids miss school or class, and the two of them decided that that was one thing, but it was another thing to miss a vote for President Bush.  So, he left Cornell, came to Texas so he could cast his vote for President George Bush, and that's that part of the family, all of us respecting and loving the President.  And they're here with our three cowboys--Liam, Shawn and Ryan.  All of us now going into another generation of regard for this great President, and his contribution to our country. 

“So Mr. President, Mrs. Bush, Dean Card, members of the Board of Trustees, it really is, I hope you know, for me, a great privilege, personally, officially, and in every way, on behalf of the House of Representatives, to bring all of you greetings, to bear our testimony to the greatness of President Bush, to say how pleased that I am to do this on President's Day, and I'm sure we'll talk more about that significance, and to be able to do it at Texas A&M.

“Gig'em!  [Leader Pelosi gives a thumbs up.]  Thank you all.”

Conversation with Dean Card

Dean Card.  Madam Leader, thank you very much.  When I mentioned, how you had made a significant difference to women, there are a lot of women, not only in this audience, but around the globe, that would really like to hear the story, of how you were able to realize the dreams, that probably weren't even the real dreams of Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others.  What was it like to realize that you were carrying, not only the burden, but the opportunity for others to experience?

Leader Pelosi.  Well thank you Andy.  And thank you for telling that story, about my first day, when President George W. Bush was President, and I went to the White House for my first meeting as a Leader.  I wasn't too apprehensive about it.  I hadn't been to the White House for many meetings, until that meeting, which I realized, as Dean Card said, was unlike any meeting any other women had been to before.  And when they were all sitting on the chair with me, I could hear them say: ‘at last, we have a seat at the table.'  And then they were gone.  And my first thought was, we want more.  But I never set out to do this.  I'm a mom of five children, I volunteered at the library.  They said, ‘you should be a Commissioner.'  I said, ‘I don't really need a title.'  ‘Oh yes, you should have it,' [they said], and I did, and one thing led to another.  And that's what I say to young women, and women, whether its young, or coming as I did, from the kitchen to the Congress, or young women just coming out: be ready.  You never know what opportunity might be there.  Have confidence in who you are, cause nobody is like you.  Nobody is like you.  But, when I was, I had absolutely no idea that I would ever run for public office.  It was not in my, even in my thoughts, that I would do such a thing.  But, an opportunity came, and I was ready.  And then, one thing led to another in Congress.  And then I had the opportunity--never thinking, never… people said: ‘oh, she wanted to be Speaker since she was five years old,' not so.  And when I was a teenager, it was ‘rock around the clock,' I wasn't interested at all.

But the fact is, that really nothing has been more wholesome for the political process, or for governmental and public service process, than the increased participation of women.  It really is urgent that women take responsibility for leadership, on the decisions that have to be made for our country.  I know, I know one thing, and it's hard because women say to me, ‘oh I can't raise the money,' or ‘I don't want all that money spent against me,' you're familiar with that phenomenon, but I believe, that if we can reform the role of money in our political system, and this is part of what I'm trying to do now, is to reduce the role of money, increase the voice of the people, if we do that, I promise you, we will have many more women elected to public office.  That would be something that benefits.

So, you mentioned my book, it's called ‘Know Your Power.'  And that's my message to young women, and, again, women young into the process, whatever their age is.  Know your power.  Know what you can bring to the table.  Know that you, again, there's no contribution like the one that you can make.  And that holds true for our young men as well.  So, I'm optimistic that if we can succeed in the reforms that we need to make in reducing the role of money, that many more women will be involved, that will be a good thing.  Otherwise, it will be incremental for the rest of eternity.  Ten more this year, two more next year.  No, now we're just going to make our own environment, just change the whole environment, one that is much more conducive to us having the fullest participation.  And if women wish to participate, they can, and if they don't, they won't.  But it won't be because there is a barrier to that participation.

So, go for it.

Dean Card.  You grew up in a family where politics was really not a dirty word.  It was a noble calling, and I know that you participated in campaigns, and I was struck in reading your autobiography, that your mother played a very big role in your election to Congress, even though she was thousands of miles away on the other coast.  And, you mother, I guess, she sent letters to her friends?

Leader Pelosi.  No, no.  This is my mother-in-law.  Now, we're talking about my mother-in-law.  First of all, everybody always talks about my father because he was the elected official.  Mrs. Bush will know what I mean when I say, my mother was a very important part of all of that.  Sharing the values.  Holding down the home front.  Giving, from time to time, candid advice, would you say?  What do you think, Mr. President?  Was it candid?  In any event, they were a team, and their values about our responsibility to one person to the next, our sense of community, were imbued in me.  But not, to the extent that I wanted to play the role myself.  I wanted to support other people to do it.  But when I ran, see, I never, nobody ever thought I ever wanted to run for office, including me.  And, certainly my husband.  Though, when the opportunity came, we had these five children, four of them were in college, one was a senior in high school. 

So, since we're here at a college, I'll tell you the story.  I go to Alexandra, whose now going to be a senior in high school, and I say: ‘Alexandra, mommy has an opportunity to run.  I wish it were one year later, when you're in college, any answer is fine, I'm happy to stay home with you, if that's your answer, or I can run, no guarantee that I will win.'  And she said, now a phrase I had never heard before, this is 25 years ago, she said: ‘mother, get a life.'  And so I did.  And another life, another life, I had a very happy life.  But, my husband of course, Paul, he was very supportive, ‘whatever you wish, whatever you wish.'

And our son Paul Jr. is here, where is Paul Jr.?  I didn't see him.  There is Paul.  Paul remembers that story very well because had been off to prep school, and to college.  And so, he knew that Alexandra would be, say, home alone, but with dad, and that worked out.  But, but the thing about it is that it is my mother-in-law. 

Now, now I'm totally like, not registering in any poll because I've never run for office.  All the people who were running were elected officials who had run on more than one occasion citywide in San Francisco.  So, we just had to build our own base.  Create our own environment.  So my husband's mother, Nana, as they called her.  Nana, she wrote to 8,000 Italian-American surname people in San Francisco.  We captured a few Hispanics in the vowels at the end of the name.  But, in any event, it was that kind of a retail effort, door to door, name for name, that's what it takes, my sisters, it takes really that kind of an effort to win.  And that's the way it should be.  It should be about the voice of the people, not the bankroll of a few people, that determines what the outcome of our elections will be.

Dean Card.  You represent a very diverse district.  It may not be philosophically diverse, but it is a very diverse district.  And when you came to Congress, I remember you came carrying an awful lot of passion to help the fight against AIDS.  And I was struck, in your book where you had approached someone, who is a close friend of mine, we served together in the Massachusetts legislature, Barney Frank.  And, at the time, I think you were expressing some frustration because you were trying to gain a little support, and he offered you surprising advice, that, quite frankly, I haven't found him following.  When he said: ‘speak very few words, very bluntly.'

Leader Pelosi
.  Well, that's right, he did.  Because, and so now, when I talk to him, but it served me well Mr. President, Mrs. Bush, because when I would, after that conversation, when I'd call people, I'd say: ‘hi, this is Nancy,' subject, whatever; problem; question.  I'd speak like that and they'd be like, ‘why are you talking that way?'  Well, I'm speaking, if you want to have a conversation, we can.  But, I want to make sure that right up front, no small talk, we get right to the point.  But what was interesting about that time, even predating that conversation with Barney, which I found to be very useful, he talks a lot.  You know, people who talk a lot, don't necessarily want to hear a lot from other people.  So, he likes us to be brief, so that he can be long.  But he's brilliant.  And when he leaves the Congress, as you know, it will have a tremendous impact.  And though he has a reputation as a progressive Democrat, he's as fair, and as open, and as wise at listening to solutions that will really hold up.  Because they don't come from one wing.  But, they are the benefit of the thinking of many people.

But when I went to Congress, the first day I was there, this has a Texas connection, they said to me, some of my friends that I knew in Congress from before, they said: ‘when you're sworn-in, all you say is ‘yes.'  Do you uphold the Constitution, swear to protect and defend the Constitution?  All you say is yes, and then go sit down.  Nobody wants to hear, maybe it's a women thing, I don't know.  But nobody wants to hear any more than that.  So, this is 25 years ago, minus a few months.  So, I make my speech, my father was on the floor, Mr. President, because he had served in Congress, and you know had rights to be on the floor.  So, I acknowledged my parents, my father, my constituents who sent me there and that.  And then, oh let me say this, so when I said: ‘yes,' the Speaker of the House, Jim Wright, he said: ‘will the gentle lady from California wish to address the House?'  Oh my gosh, they told me just to say ‘yes.'  So then, then they were saying: ‘just be short, just be really short, just really be brief.'  So, I got up and, as I said to you, acknowledge my father, my mother, my constituents, and I said, being brief, I said: ‘I told my constituents, when I came here, that I'm coming here to fight against HIV and AIDS.'  End of speech.  Took me longer to tell you about it, than it took me to say it.  So, I go back to my seat, I look over to my friends, and their like ‘ohhh.'  I said: ‘well how could I have been shorter than that?'  And they said: ‘well, that isn't the point.  Why would you want the first thing anybody knows about you to be that you're here to fight against AIDS?' 

Imagine, that was 25 years ago.  Imagine, that they would say that, that they said: ‘why did you say that?'  Well, I said it for a simple reason: that's why I did come here.  Because, our district, oh my, we had taken such a big bite of that wormy apple.  People were dying.  We were going to two funerals in a day.  We learned a lot about community based prevention, community based cure--not cure, research for a cure--community based non-discrimination, all of those things.  And, I thought it would be important for us to convey that.  But they just didn't think it should be mentioned on the floor of the House, 25 years ago, as the first thing I would say.  I never really thought, 25 years ago when I said that, reaching out 25 years to now there would not be a cure by now.  But, we have been able to sustain life because of the increased funding for research, some of it under the leadership of President Bush, increased funding for prevention and care and ending discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS. 

We still have that struggle.  But, that is a struggle that we have.  We have it with cancer.  We have it with Alzheimer's.  We have it with Parkinson's.  We have really got to make even a bigger commitment, as science has advanced, the genome project, to advance technology to enable us to see more, to put more of our resources in a place where there is scientific opportunity, I think we have a moral responsibility to do the research, to have a healthier America.  So, that is a priority, that I think everyone in America shares.   

Dean Card.  I remember you working very hard to help the people who put together the quilt.  To remember those people who had died of AIDS.  And, it was a pretty dramatic story, about the quilt being on the mall.  And I remember when the quilt came to the mall, could you tell us what the deal was to allow them to put the quilt there?

Leader Pelosi
.  Well, I thank the President, because without him we would not have been able to do this.  Let me first tell you that, when I, now, 25 years ago--I'm now the nominee, which, in San Francisco, really means that…

Dean Card.  Democratic nominees in San Francisco are the winners.

Leader Pelosi.  But President Bush has many friends in San Francisco.  Right, President Bush? 

They came to me one night, and they said: ‘we want you to be part of a press conference,' that we're going to put together a quilt, where people are going to make quilt patches, and put together this quilt that's going to be so spectacular, and it's going to be an expression of mourning, and renewal, and therapy for people.  And it will demonstrate how widespread it is, because it'll be all kinds of people who have died of AIDS.  I said: ‘forget it, nobody sews anymore.'  I said: ‘I went to school.  I took crochet.  I took knitting.  I took sewing.  I took darning.  I took all of those things as a little girl.  I don't even sew anymore and I have five kids.  Who's going to, now I just want you to know my great foresight in all of this, I said: ‘who's going to do this?'  They said: ‘everybody.'  I was wrong, they were right, everybody.  And so, in a really short period of time, this quilt was as big as the mall, even bigger, but it could fill the mall, just really, almost instantly.  So, we wanted to show it off in the mall.  And we went to the Park Service, [and they] said: “no, you can really have like a corner of a,” you know like a corner, a street corner, “and put a few patches there.”  And we said: “that's not really what we had in mind; we want the mall for the quilt.”  And then one thing and another, back and forth.  We had a promise, that every 20 minutes, we would lift the quilt, so that the grass underneath would be aerated, and that the quilt did not…  And so, thanks to the Bush Administration, we were able to do that.  We were able to do that and lift the quilt.  Because, without the Executive--I was coming, as like, one of the newest Members, you know a couple years into my term, I had zero clout.  But, these things don't happen just because I convinced an employee at a certain level; it had to come from above.  And, it did come from above.  And, from above, helicopters and newscasters, and all the rest showed this remarkable statement of support for people with HIV/AIDS.  I had a quilt there for a little girl--flower girl in my wedding--she had a situation where she died of AIDS.  Her family couldn't even grasp what that was.  But, we had our own.  But everybody had their own.  We made each other, each other's own.  But I had not the faintest idea that people were into sewing in our country.  And, left to me, it would never have happened.  But, since I had to make up for that, I had to be sure that we could show it on the mall.

Dean Card.  I remember you as a very loud voice, standing up…

Leader Pelosi.  Yelling?            

Dean Card.  Standing up during a very challenging time, for the dissidents in China.  And it was a time that was a significant diplomatic challenge for the President, as he had to deal with the ramifications of Tiananmen Square, and whatever.  But your voice was very loud, and I do remember you being a champion for the dissidents, not only in China, but also for those who are fighting for recognition in China.  I remember your meetings at the White House, and others, where you were pretty vocal.  And, the truth is, people heard you.

Leader Pelosi
.  I appreciate your saying that.  It is, I have always believed, that if we're going to have moral authority on human rights, we have to do it with big countries, as well as small countries.  That we just can't select where human rights are important or not.  The issue that we were fighting for at the time was a very discreet, specific one.  We wanted to free the dissidents.  We wanted to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  We wanted to open their markets to our products and all that.  But, in particular, we had one discreet issue.  And that was that the Chinese dissidents who were in America, and they had demonstrated in support of those in Tiananmen Square, and some who had escaped from Tiananmen Square and came to America, that they would be able to stay here.  Because the Chinese Embassy and Consulates had taped every demonstration and to go back to China would mean, you know, you're going to jail, or worse.  So, our pitch was that we wanted, and actually, Lamar Smith was helpful--this was a bipartisan effort that we had in the Congress--and it placed the President in a difficult place with the Chinese.  We won in the House.  We won in the Senate.  But we didn't win the day.  And, the President came through for us, because he issued an Executive Order, while we didn't get the legislation, the President issued an Executive Order protecting those Chinese dissidents in America.  So, while we didn't get it done our way, it did get done.  And that was very courageous on the part of President Bush.  And I thank you for that.

But, we had our moments.        

Dean Card.  I remember that, sometimes the friction in Washington gets pretty hard to deal with.  Congressman, like Chet Edwards, did a great job of standing up to represent their constituents, and Congressman Edwards certainly did a terrific job of representing constituents far beyond his district.  Because, working with you, he helped bring a lot of Veterans benefits to people who have recently served in the service, and it's made a difference.  And I know that Congressman Edwards gives you an awful lot of credit, and I give him a lot of credit as well.  But, you certainly were the one that pushed that legislation through and made it possible for many of our Veterans today, to get benefits.  In fact, Congressman Edwards claims that you've done more than any Speaker in history to provide benefits to Veterans of our Armed Services.

Leader Pelosi.  I appreciate your saying that, and I'll speak about Congressman Edwards.  But, because of his leadership, and his knowledge of the issue, we can all say we're Veterans, right?  Now, what is it that we're going to do about it?  And, when I became leader, we said: ‘we are planting a flag for our Veterans.'  Enough about the talk, what is it that we can do, because now we have Veterans coming back from Iraq--now, in the 2000s, Veterans coming from Iraq, now Afghanistan and the rest.  And, Congressman Edwards--where is he, I keep looking for him here--Congressman Edwards was the Chairman, at one point the senior Democrat, when we were not in the majority, and then the Chairman of the Committee that funds the Veterans initiatives, whatever they may be.  His motto, was the motto of our military.  It's something that saved our President: ‘on the battlefield, we leave no solider behind.'  Mr. Edwards follows with: ‘and when they come home, we leave no Veteran behind.' 

So, what would be the priority?  The list is very long, the needs of our Veterans.  What would be their priorities?  And we met with them, regularly.  Many still do, to see what their priorities were.  And they involved many things.  Advanced funding, so that anytime Congress gets involved in budget fights, they're out of the fray.  Because their funding is advanced.  And any threat to say: ‘well we're not funding the government,' will not affect them, because their advanced funded.  But also, issues that relate to the G.I. Bill, working with a lot of the vets coming home, we had a campaign: ‘Thank our Vets, Send Them to College.'  We had a big G.I. initiative.  I think one of the bills that gets personal, and drives home, again, how knowledge informs decisions, is that Chet came and he said: ‘you know we passed this G.I. Bill, that these kids would have the ability to go to college, and it's even transferable--and that was the debate too, should it be transferable to a family member?  And we decided that it could be transferable to a family member.  However, if that person died in battle, the benefit ended.  So, if you lived, you could go to college, or your family member could.  But, if you died, it was gone.  How could that make sense?  An unintended consequence.  And he just fought, and fought, and fought till, because to reopen all of these issues is, you know, you have to find a path.  Because, we wanted it to happen right away, in real time, because that's how that person died, in real time, and how that family got that news.  So, Chet, thank you for leading the way for us to do so many things for our vets.  The G.I. Bill for the 21st Century, so many things, the jobs initiatives for out vets, the education initiatives.  And that one, that brought--Chet was telling me earlier, about a woman who had six children and her husband died, in the war, and now she knows that her kids will go to school.

And that, of course, comes back to what I said about Mrs. Bush earlier.  Literacy--learning, the education of our children, it's important for them, it's important for our democracy.  So, I want to thank Chet Edwards for his tremendous, tremendous leadership.  I appreciate the credit that I received, but let's put it this way: it simply could not have happened without Chet Edwards, thank you Chet.  And I see we've been joined by another one of my colleagues, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson-Lee, from the Houston area.  Thank you Shelia.  Shelia is also a fighter for our Veterans and our children, and all Americans.  Thank you, Shelia.                   

Dean Card.  Madam Leader, the audience submitted some questions and one of the questions relates to a pretty tough issue.  You're a woman of phenomenal faith.  And you have been strong in practicing your faith, your family has lived the faith, and I'm a witness to that.   And, I know the role that family has played in your life.  But one of the great debates taking place today has your church and the public policy questions that need to be answered in conflict over the question of contraception.  And that was one of the questions that came from the audience.

I wondered if you can talk about your faith, in the context of public policy?  And, your role as a policymaker in public policy?

Leader Pelosi.  I thank you, Andy, for that question.  And I think it's important to have the discussion.  Although, it is a difficult subject to talk about because it is so personal.  It's personal in terms of it being a women's health issue.  It's personal about it being a part of our faith.

The issue is, in my view, not about contraception.  It's about women's health.  It's about women's health.  It is, I think, that one thing that was demonstrated in the course of the debate, when the President made his first rule, proclamation, I guess is the word, how they said that they were going to proceed by saying that institutions, churches, could still continue to have the waiver.  But, if you're engaged in universities, and hospitals, and things that had some element of commerce to them, and the rest, that you would have a responsibility to provide contraception, as other insurers were required to do.  And there was all this ho-ha, that it was church and state and the rest of that.  So, the President then went to the next step and said, okay, then the insurers have to ensure free access to contraception and family planning.  And that was very interesting to me, because, again, I come from a family that you would call pro-life.  They don't share my views on a woman's right to choose and the rest of that.  So, I've been raised in the atmosphere.  I understand it.  I respect it.  But, the fact is, that this is now no longer any, I don't think it was ever an issue of church and state.  But if you did, now it isn't.  And those same people who were saying it was an issue of church and state, are now saying: ‘well, we don't think any insurers should provide free contraceptive care.'  So they really revealed themselves, that they really--now, again, this so personal.  I mean, I'm of an age where we don't really even talk about these kinds of things in public.  But, nonetheless.

Right, Mrs. Bush?  In our day, in our day we didn't talk publicly about these matters.  But this really is a matter of women's health.  And women have traditionally been discriminated against in the health insurance industry.  I know, having five children, when I would call for insurance they'd say, ‘you're a poor risk, you've had five children.'  I said: ‘how could I be a poor risk?  Having five children is a sign of strength!'  And, one of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act is no longer being a woman will be a preexisting medical condition.  But this a matter so personal.  It's about women's health.  There's some women who need access to these medications that have nothing to do with reproduction, but have to do with how women's health works, A.  B, a decision about the size and timing of your family, it's really personal.  And that's a matter of conscience for each person.

Now the church, again, they tell me, 98 percent of women 14 to whatever childbearing age goes up to, maybe 50 years old, I don't know, 40 something years old, 98 percent of women in childbearing age, who are Catholic, [have used] contraception.  Okay, so in practice, the church has not enforced this.  And now, they want the federal government and private insurance to enforce it.  It just isn't consistent to me.  Whatever my personal belief, or my personal upbringing are on this subject.  Everyone has their own responsibility, in terms of the size and the rest of their families. 

So, I think that the issue should be removed from the debate.  It's inflammatory.  Misrepresentations are made.  I want to say this, and I may be overstating this, and I can't speak for everyone, but there's a sisterhood, there's a sisters under the skin understanding of this issue among women.  It may determine how some women vote, or don't, but everybody know that the management of a family should respect the discretion of the mother.  Because her health is important to that family, her decisions with her husband, her doctor, and her God are important to the family.  And just, I mean, how can we say the federal government, or private insurance companies, should enforce something that the church itself has not been able to enforce?

So, I've been, I think that's the most I have ever said on the subject.  And, I say it because I respect this audience and you asked that question.  But, it isn't without a level of discomfort that we even have to go to that place.  If you want, you know we all say that abortion should be rare, and safe, and if necessary, and the rest of that.  So, why wouldn't we say that, again, a woman's management of her situation probably would do a lot to prevent going to a place that is even more controversial in those terms.  It's very sad, and we all have to pray over it.  And God,  you see, my mother, I won't even tell you the conversations we've had on this subject, but, we have differing views.  But, on the other hand, she taught me that we all have a free-will, and we're all responsible for the decisions that we make.  And that free-will is a gift of God.  My hope is that another gift of God, science, will take us even further away from this discussion, which is really, shouldn't be, I don't think, a public policy issue.  And the same kind of science that can help us help women with the size and timing of their families, is the same kind of science that can help us with infertility and other health issues that women face.  So, let's be prayerful about how we go forward on that.

Dean Card.  Well, we've almost reached the end of our time, and I wish this conversation could go on a lot longer, because we've got a lot of interesting things that we could be talking about.  I will say this: Speaker Pelosi has been very wonderful about demonstrating to all of us the value of answering the invitation to public service.  And the Bush School is the premier school in America right now, in terms of bringing--President Bush's goal is to make sure that the graduate students who attend the Bush School are well trained and ready to be in public service to our nation.  Not only in the form of government work, but also in work with our non-profit organizations.  And, the call for public service is something that he answered at a very young age, because of a family that inculcated him with a responsibility to participate, and that's his 50 cent word that I heard over, and over, again.  And, Nancy Pelosi, you certainly were inculcated with the expectation that you'd be giving back to our country through service.  And you've certainly done it well.  And we're all very proud to say that the glass ceiling was broken…

Leader Pelosi.  Marble ceiling.

Dean Card.  …you were the 60th Speaker of the United States Congress.  The first female Speaker, and it has been an honest privilege to have you come here.  And, I thank President Bush for allowing this invitation to be delivered.  And for the real Dean, Ryan Crocker, for delivering the invitation.  I just got to be the one to moderate the debate.  And, thank you very much. 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, let me say this about Andy Card.  As I said to you at the beginning, President Bush subscribed, in his leadership, and his role as President, to what Jefferson said, as I said earlier, ‘every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle,' and we should treat each other with respect in those debates, and the rest, and listen to each other.  And, one of the things that President Bush, and many things, but, appropriate for this evening, that he did, was to name Andy Card into a position of leadership.

His liaison with the Congress, his leadership in the office that he held in the White House was important to us.  Many Members from Massachusetts, of course, knew him.  They had contests to see who could say what a greater guy he was, even though they were all Democrats.  They were all, I think, except for one, Democrats.  But they all, they all took pride in knowing Andy, and knowing what a fair person he was, and knowing that he would give you a fair shake, in terms of listening to what your arguments were, not whether he agreed or not, at least he'd give you your day, which meant that he respected the role you played, and the people you represent.  And I always say to the Members: ‘your job title, and your job description are one in the same: Representative.'  You come to Congress as an independent voice for your people.  Your vote is about your conscience, your constituents, and the Constitution of the United States.  Anything else, is very secondary, tertiary, to that.  And that was the attitude that this President, and the leadership in his office, his [Deputy] Chief of Staff, the respect that they had for Congress was reciprocated back to them.  And they led with a level of civility that taught us a lot, and that we miss.

And in that spirit, I want to once again say, Mr. President, what an honor it is to be with you, all of my colleagues in Congress send you best regards, with appreciation, with admiration, and Mrs. Bush, with affection.  So, thank you again, for this great honor.