On January 4, 2007 my daughter Desiree came home with tears in her eyes, and wearing a button showing Rosie the Riveter over the words:
"A Woman's Place is in the House--as Speaker!"
Nancy Pelosi had just been named Speaker of the House of Representatives, the first woman to achieve that level of power.
In California, of course, we knew her as a woman of strength and character, who could (and would) fight tooth and nail during the campaign season, but then sit right down afterwards, and work with the same person whom she had just been battling.
When she said, "I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship...In this House, we may belong to different parties, but we serve one country," it was not just talk.
Example: George Bush. No modern Republican has so infuriated Democrats, particularly about the war he began in Iraq. When he committed America's might to that invasion, he sacrificed the blood of our sons and daughters, and the wealth which had taken the previous administration years to build into a surplus--which Bush reduced to an ocean of red ink-- on the basis of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
Many called for Bush to be impeached. Certainly there was cause. To usurp Congress's authority to wage war--and to do it under false pretenses?
Republicans had impeached Bill Clinton for comparatively trivial offenses, marital misdeeds which embarrassed him and his family, but did no harm to the country.
Pelosi's personal feelings might be judged by her response to Mr. Bush's sneering attack on Congress in 2008, saying "America deserves better".
She responded strongly, referring to the Bush Presidency as:
"A total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the war, the economy, on energy, you name the subject..." adding that Congress had been "sweeping up after his mess over and over again."--CNN, July 18, 2008
There was huge pressure on Pelosi to impeach George Bush.
But she would not do it. "It's off the table," she said. Why?
Perhaps just as the Clinton impeachment had been used by Republicans to distract America from much needed healthcare reform, a Bush impeachment could tie up the Democrats' opportunity to improve health insurance law.
She had set her sights on a goal, and she was determined to deliver it, for the good of the country.
When Edward Kennedy died, and a Republican took his place, many thought that was the end for health care insurance.
But Pelosi never faltered. She was there, fighting every inch of the way. Largely because of her leadership, American children can no longer be denied insurance on the basis of a pre-existing condition.
And for my number one issue, stem cell research, which could someday allow my paralyzed son Roman Reed to walk again?
When the Stem Cell Enhancement Act of 2005 and 2007 was proposed, Republican leadership tried to shoot it down. But Pelosi put her strength behind it. Where the smoke of battle was the thickest, there she was. From Congressman to Congressman she went, on both sides of the aisle, asking their vote-- both times, she carried the House--and both times, a Republican president vetoed it.
But she would not be discouraged. She would just keep on.
As she said of another effort she advanced, the cause of women's equality:
"Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle: ...not just waiting,... but working.. to redeem the promise of America."
And when at last a Democratic President put pen to paper, restoring both scientic freedom and the hope of cure, March 9, 2009, Nancy Pelosi had this to say:
"By lifting the executive ban on federal funding for stem cell research, President Obama has given hope, and potentially health, to millions. Every family in America is just one diagnosis, one phone call, or one accident away from needing the benefits of embryonic stem cell research....
"If we have a scientific opportunity to treat and cure disease, we have a moral opportunity to support it. That is why Congress will move to pass legislation to make this executive order the law of the land."
Today, when all seems lost: when not only a carefully planned lawsuit seems poised to block federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, and the Republicans have pledged to "ban all embryonic stem cell research, public and private," and the good old boy network of conservatives thinks to re-take control of the House of Representatives:
One slender woman stands in their way.
"No," she says, "We will not lose the House."
Proud of Pelosi?
Of course. And so should every American be, proud of the woman who broke the glass ceiling, advancing women's rights and freedoms, who will stand up for what is right--but who is also never afraid to sit down and talk, and figure out a better way.
Remember in November.