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An Interview With

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

August 27, 2007

 

 

 

Since 1987, Nancy Pelosi has represented California's Eighth District in the House of Representatives. The Eighth District includes most of the City of San Francisco including Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, and many of the diverse neighborhoods that make San Francisco a vibrant and prosperous community. Overwhelmingly elected by her colleagues in the fall of 2002 as Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi is the first woman in American history to lead a major party in the U.S. Congress. Before being elected Leader, she served as House Democratic Whip for one year and was responsible for the party's legislative strategy in the House. On January 4, 2007, Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

•  http://www.house.gov/pelosi/biography/bio.html

It was a privilege to meet the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. The 110 th Congress under her leadership has already made huge strides to change the direction of our nation. Despite her busy schedule, she was able to take the time to answer my questions.

"Global warming and energy independence are two crucial issues that are as local as our neighbors and are as global as our planet, and must be addresed for our children and grandchildren."- Speaker Pelosi

Spencer

The first few months of your term as Speaker have been enormously successful.  The American people are looking for something to cheer about.  What optimistic views do you have for the 110 th Congress?

 

Speaker Pelosi

I am proud of our record of accomplishments during the first few months of the Democratic-led Congress.  Beginning with the opening hours of the 110 th Congress, the House ushered in a new era that is taking our country in a new direction with an agenda that restores accountability and fiscal responsibility.

In the first 100 hours, the House passed legislation to increase the minimum wage for the first time in 10 years, which was signed into law by the President; to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, which has also been signed into law; to roll back subsidies for Big Oil and to reinvest in renewable energy and energy efficiency; and to make college more affordable.  The House also acted quickly to invest in stem cell research and reduce the cost of prescription drugs for America 's seniors and the disabled.

Congress has had a number of legislative successes that have been signed into law.  We have ended the President's blank check for the war in Iraq , demanding accountability and working to bring this war to an end.  We have provided long overdue hurricane recovery assistance to the Gulf Coast ; emergency funding for children's health insurance coverage; disaster relief for American farmers; and funding for military and veterans' health care.

These accomplishments are just the beginning.  The House has passed and will continue to pursue an agenda that expands health care for children and educational opportunities for the next generation, help achieve energy independence and fight global warming, and bring the best science to how we care for our children.  We will continue to pass legislation that implements our Innovation Agenda that will spur the next generation of discovery and economic growth through investment in science and technology and a strong American workforce.

 

Spencer

There is no way you could have been fully prepared for your job.  What about it has surprised you the most?

 

Speaker Pelosi

I have not been surprised by anything.  But I have been touched by the extent of the reaction to my election as Speaker.  I have received thousands of calls, letters, and emails from all over the country, especially from fathers of daughters telling me how thrilled they are to have yet another example of greater opportunity for their daughters.

 

Spencer

The Statue of Suffragettes sits in the Capitol Rotunda and pays tribute to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.  They shaped the way for the American woman.  What are you thoughts as you walk by this statue?

 

Speaker Pelosi

All of the women who paved the way before me have been inspirational.  When I first was elected as Democratic Whip, I went to the White House for the first leadership meeting.  We sat down at the Cabinet table, a rather large table I have sat at many times, but it dawned on me, “This is it!”  For the first time in more than 200 years of our country's history a woman was sitting at the table as an equal.  All of a sudden I felt like I was surrounded by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Shirley Chisholm – the leading women in our nation's history.  For a moment, I felt the historic presence of all those who worked so hard to help me get here.

 

Spencer

Mary Catherine Bateson said, “Environmental issues pose a whole new era of social justice.  We do not inherit the earth from our parents; we borrow it from our children.”  How will the 110 th Congress address the problems that are polluting our world?

 

Speaker Pelosi

Global warming and energy independence are two crucial issues that are as local as our neighborhoods and as global as our planet, and must be addressed for our children and grandchildren.

Where we once thought the effects of global warming would occur decades away, change is already underway.  That is why in the first 100 hours of the 110 th Congress, the House passed legislation to repeal $14 billion in subsidies and giveaways to Big Oil and invests in clean, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation.  I also established the Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence to elevate these issues in the House and the public eye.  The evidence is clear: global warming will reshape our planet and society.  In the House, we have taken bold action to pass a comprehensive energy independence package, which will move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, develop innovative new technologies, reduce carbon emissions, create green jobs, protect consumers, increase clean renewable energy production, and modernize our energy infrastructure. 

 

Spencer

Many feel the biggest threat to the world is nuclear weapons.  Eight countries now have nuclear weapons, and more are trying to develop them.  What steps can we take to make our world safer?

 

Speaker Pelosi

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is the biggest security challenge facing our nation.  Dealing with this challenge successfully will require more aggressive implementation of existing international regimes designed to prevent proliferation and the development of new ones as the need arises.  The United States will have to act unilaterally when it must to safeguard nuclear and other materials used in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction, and prevent associated technologies from falling into the possession of countries and/or individuals that do not now have them.


Spencer

You have spoken about generational change taking place in the Middle East .  Isn't this our opportunity to create dialogue?


Speaker Pelosi

In my recent travels as Speaker, I have met with presidents, prime ministers, and kings.  But what impressed and inspired me the most were my encounters with young people.  Young people are engaged in their own international dialogue about their hopes for a brighter future, of their desire for peace and prosperity.

The young people I met in my travels are weary of war.  They want an end to the violence whether in Iraq , the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or in Darfur .  They want to know if their leaders have the political courage to make the decisions necessary for peace.

I have heard this call at home and abroad.  We must take this opportunity to engage our young people and work together toward peace so that they can meet their full potential as the next generation of leaders.

 

Spencer

In your years of public service, you have proposed many initiatives.  Which has been the most personally rewarding?

 

Speaker Pelosi

One of my proudest accomplishments was assuring the preservation of the Presidio park in San Francisco and turning the Sentinel of the Golden Gate into the nation's largest urban park.  Through a public-private partnership, the Presidio has been transformed from a military post into a place of peaceful reflection and recreation, while moving toward the dual goal of financial stability and service to all members of the community

 

Spencer

In 1869, Justice Bradley wrote, “The female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.”  Although we have come a long way, women are still not equally represented in government.  Why?


Speaker Pelosi

We are making progress.  The ranks of women are growing in Congress, and with it comes a new perspective and fresh ideas on the issues facing our nation.  I know that by becoming the first woman Speaker, a message was sent to young girls and women across the country that anything is possible for them.  As the first woman Speaker of the House, I will work to make certain that I will not be the last. 

When I talk with young women I urge them to get involved and advise them to just run.  Run for student government run for local office, run for higher office.  Women can achieve power, wield power, and breathe the air at that altitude, and the number of women in Congress and positions of power and influence will only continue to grow.


Spencer

Earlier this year Justice O'Connor told me, “A wise man and a wise woman reach the same conclusion.”  Do you agree?



Speaker Pelosi

I think diversity is one of the greatest strengths of our country.  People of different races, genders, and backgrounds all have a unique outlook based on their individual experiences to contribute to the discussion, and we are best served when all groups are represented and have a seat at the table.

The Supreme Court, and indeed America , certainly benefited when Justice O'Connor brought her experience and views to the bench as the first female member of the Court.  She broke barriers for women everywhere, and by serving with honor and distinction, she is an inspiration to all Americans.