Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in recognition of Congressman Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, who became the first Member in a wheelchair to preside over the House of Representatives. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“Mr. Speaker, Mr. Langevin, it is with great pride and joy that I rise today to acknowledge the history that you are making. By your leadership and your inspiration and your education of the Congress, you have helped take us to a place that honors the tradition and the goals of our Founders -- to improve liberty and equality for all Americans.
“Today, through technology, with the leadership of the architect of the House, we are able to in a way that is almost magical, extend to you, the privilege that you deserved all along, to be able to preside over the House.
“We are pleased that we are joined from our former colleague in the House and now a Senator -- Senator Harkin -- who is such a champion in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our former colleague, Tony Coelho -- also a leader in that regard. Our colleagues who have worked so hard on that subject -- Mr. Markey, Mr. Kennedy, and a champion in our House on Americans for Disabilities Act -- Steny Hoyer, our distinguished Majority Leader. Mr. Sensenbrenner has made this part of his legacy in the Congress -- not so fast with the legacy -- I know -- more to come. But we thank you for being the champion on civil rights that you are. And I see now that we have been joined by our distinguished Republican Leader of the House, Mr. Boehner.
“This is a bipartisan effort; it has been all along. It is a cause for celebration. It is a source of liberation. And it's important to note of that, there's a reason Mr. Langevin is first. He is first because of his courage. He is first because of his inspiration. And he is first because when I became Speaker, he said to me: ‘Now that you are presiding, I want to preside too.' So when that day -- when we made history, having the first woman Speaker of the House, it became clear that we had to make history today in having Jim Langevin preside on this historic occasion, which is a source of pride to all of us, but also, a source of challenge as to how we go forward addressing the new technologies so that we can continue to remove barriers of participation to all Americans. It's better for them and it's better for our country.
“Now we can go forward clearly as saying that we respect people for what they can do, not judge them or limit them for what they cannot. And that we can more fully honor the pledge of allegiance that Mr. Kennedy led us in just earlier: ‘One nation, under God, with liberty' -- and this is about liberation -- ‘with liberty and justice for all.'
“Congratulations, Mr. Langevin. Thank you.”