Pelosi Remarks at Women’s History Month Reception Honoring Women Veterans


Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her annual Women’s History Month reception today with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to honor women veterans for their service to our country and Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught, U.S. Air Force (Retired). Below is a transcript of Leader Pelosi’s welcome, remarks and flag presentation to General Vaught:

“Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to Statuary Hall. Thank you all for joining us for this annual celebration of Women’s History Month.

“Each March, we gather as Members of Congress and friends to lift up the legacy of every woman who has stepped forward to expand and defend freedom throughout our history. The oath of office we take as Members of Congress is to support and defend the Constitution – and the American people.

“Last year – as many of you know – we honored the four women Supreme Court Justices, who support and defend the Constitution with their wisdom. Today, we are privileged to pay tribute and to honor the women who support and defend the Constitution and the American people with their heroism: America’s women veterans.

[Applause]

“Today, it is such an honor to be joined in this celebration by two of our nation’s greatest champions for women veterans and military families: Our magnificent First Lady Michelle Obama and the outstanding Dr. Jill Biden.

[Applause]

“Madam First Lady, Dr. Biden – thank you for your leadership in creating the Joining Forces Initiative to empower our service members, veterans, caregivers and families. As we celebrate all women veterans, we are also proud to be honoring one woman veteran in particular: Retired Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught, U.S. Air Force.

[Applause]

“A trailblazing woman who gave nearly 30 years of service to our country – one of the first women to become Brigadier General; the first woman to deploy with a Strategic Air Command bombardment wing on operational deployment; one of the most decorated women in American history.

[Applause]

“Now General Vaught is President Emeritus of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation – keep that in mind.

[Laughter]

“Here, we have a slight change in our scheduled program. Your program will show Dr. Biden speaking later in the program – but after 340 days in space, Astronaut Scott Kelly has come back to earth, landing in Kazakhstan late last night. It is the longest time an American astronaut has ever spent in space – a historic achievement for our nation. That’s an applause line.

[Applause]

“It’s also personal for us in the Congress, through the connection of Scott Kelly’s brother, Mark Kelly – also an astronaut and husband of our former colleague, Gabby Giffords.

[Applause]

“We always like to associate ourselves with greatness one way or another.

[Laughter]

“Dr. Biden must leave early to be sure she makes it to Houston in time to help welcome Captain Kelly home on behalf of all Americans. Please send him our congratulations, Dr. Biden. We thank you for making time for this gathering – and it is my privilege to welcome Dr. Jill Biden, champion of our veterans.”

[Applause]

***

“I know that I speak for everyone here to say that this was a very special experience to hear your history of women in the military and your personal experiences. You honor us with your presence. Thank you, General. And I thank Cathy McMorris Rodgers for joining us in saluting America’s women veterans in this celebration. Thank you for your inspirational message to us, as well, and for your leadership in the Congress.

[Applause]

“And today – following up on what General was telling us – the post-9/11 generation of American women represents the largest percentage of women ever to serve in the military.

“Securing the right to serve has not come easy for women – as the General has told us. Many military women faced down the enemy abroad and discriminatory barriers at home. Many women in uniform have come home to a society that does not recognize or understand fully their service and their heroism. All too often, our military women are the ‘invisible veterans. Yet, your bravery and determination are an inspiration to our nation. You are changing the face of courage in America. And we thank you for that.

[Applause]

“The presence of so many honored guests here today is a true testament to the respect we all have for our 2 million American women veterans.

“Thank you to the DC Mayor, Muriel Bowser – Mayor Bowser was with us earlier – I don’t know if she is still here, but she was with us earlier – Air Force Secretary Deborah James, American Legion Executive Director Verna Jones. And a special angel for American military families and retirees, Senator Elizabeth Dole.

[Applause]

“Senator Dole, Senator, Secretary, angel, whatever you want to call her – established Caring for Military Families: the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

“Thank you to VA Secretary Bob McDonald, for encouraging women veterans to come forward with their heroism and declare ‘I’m One.’ Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

[Applause]

“We are glad to support the VA’s ‘I’m One’ initiative to help ensure women veterans get the recognition and the support they deserve. We are so pleased that Corrine Brown, our Ranking Member on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee – who has already been acknowledged – is here with us, as well.

[Applause]

“We also acknowledge the women veterans serving in the Congress on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol: Senator Joni Ernst, Congresswoman Martha McSally – who has already been acknowledged, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth.

[Applause]

“I’m acknowledging the women, but I know there are many men veterans in the audience. Will you all stand? We have many friends from the Veterans of Foreign Wars who have joined us, as well. John Conyers, Mike Thompson, Secretary McDonald, Tim Walz.

[Applause]

“Welcome to all of you. Thank you for your service.

“Together we must continue to act on our sacred responsibility that just as in the military leaves no one behind on the battle field when they come home – when they come home, we leave no veteran behind.

“At the Women’s Memorial in Arlington, carved in glass, cry out the words of a U.S. Army Nurse from World War II. Words that define the mission of the Women’s Memorial; words that embody our purpose here today – and that quote is: ‘Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom.’

[Applause]

“And now, it is my privilege to present a woman who has inspired millions of Americans with the grace and strength of her leadership as our First Lady, Michelle Obama.

[Applause]

“Not yet, not yet, not yet. I’m milking this for all it’s worth.

[Laughter]

“She has used the power of her position to celebrate and lift up the extraordinary service of our women – and men – in uniform. Through the Joining Forces initiative, the First Lady is ensuring that the courage and sacrifice of those who serve – and that of their families – are the center of our national conversation. She is helping ensure that our military women get the full respect and recognition they deserve.

“Now, please join me in welcoming the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.”

[Applause]

***

“Again – aren’t we blessed to have had the presence of the First Lady here today?

[Applause]

“Today, we have gathered in the very heart of our democracy – in the halls of the Congress. Above us, the Star Spangled Banner flies in pride and in honor. From time to time, we present outstanding individuals with the flags that have flown above the Capitol – in recognition of their contributions to our country. Rarely do we do so in Statuary Hall, in the presence of such distinguished guests – the First Lady – I don’t know if we say ‘the Second Lady.’

[Laughter]

“The First Lady of the United States and Dr. Jill Biden – as well as all of you.

“Right here before us is the flag that flew over the Capitol on January 1, 2016: the date General Vaught retired from the Women’s Memorial Foundation.

[Applause]

“Now, in recognition of her service, and in tribute to the service of all America’s women veterans, in the presence of the First Lady, and so many Members of Congress and all of you, it is our honor all of you to join us in presenting Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught, U.S. Air Force with this flag, and with our nation’s gratitude. God bless you, General. And God bless America.”