House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Talks to Scholastic News Online
|House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with Kid Reporter Chelsea Lollar in the Speaker’s office in the Capitol, Washington, D.C., February 2007. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)|
February 7, 2007
Kid Reporter Chelsea Lollar, 12, interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the speakers office in February 7. Below is an excerpt from that interview.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: I want to congratulate you on being the first woman Speaker of the House.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you, Chelsea. I’m honored to welcome you to our office. Everything we do is about you—about the future. That’s what we’re here for. The future belongs to you. It’s yours and we have to be responsible about how we turn it over to you. So you’ve got some questions?
CHELSEA LOLLAR: When you were younger, were you interested in politics?
SPEAKER PELOSI: I was interested in politics but I was raised in a political family, so I wanted to be interested in it, but also wanted to have a normal childhood. So I was interested in it, but I was more interested in going outside and playing and being with my girlfriends.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: When you’re not at your job, what are some of your hobbies? What do you like doing outside of politics?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, my family, of course. I have five children and six grandchildren, so being with my family is the first call on my time and what I crave. I love to read. I love to do crossword puzzles—any puzzles really: crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles. I love puzzles.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: Outside of issues like the war in Iraq, what do you think are the fundamental differences between being a Republican and being a Democrat?
SPEAKER PELOSI: The fundamental difference between the Democrats and the Republicans centers around our budget. The budget debate really spells out the party differences—how you decide to invest your resources as a country. Democrats are more inclined to invest our resources in our children’s future, in their health, their education, the environment in which they live, and to end some of the economic differences among the people in our country. So I would say that if you want to see the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, watch the debate on the budget.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: What kinds of things can Congress do to get children interested in the political process? For example, I believe that if schools were required to participate in mock voting procedures at the same time as the election cycle, that this would allow children to get an understanding of the political process. Is it possible that Congress could either create a regulation or legislation that would require this?
SPEAKER PELOSI: I don’t know if it would have a regulation, but I think Congress could do a whole lot more to communicate with young people about issues that they care about. Now I know, and I’m sure you know, that young people care very much about their own education. They care about the environment in which they live and what’s going to happen 30 years down the road or even 10 years down the road in terms of how we preserve our planet.
So I have four things that I usually talk about in terms of how we conduct our work here: how we protect our country, how we care for our children, how we grow our economy to create jobs for the future, and how we preserve our planet.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: What exactly does a Speaker of the House do?
SPEAKER PELOSI: The Speaker of the House has many responsibilities and duties. First of all, the Speaker is second in line to the President. It goes the President, the Vice President, and the Speaker of the House. It’s the third highest office in the country, though we would never want that to happen. But there’s a great deal of attention paid to the Speaker for that reason.
I’m called the Speaker of the House even though I’m elected by the Democrats, because we have the majority. But I see my role as speaker of all the members, that we have set an agenda on the floor of the House that is respectful of all views, that says every voice in America should be heard on the floor of the House, not just the voice of the majority. So the Speaker has a great deal of power in terms of what comes to the floor, in terms of legislation, and how we develop other issues.
For example, I have decided that the issue of energy independence and global warming should be a very high priority for the Congress, so I’m establishing a special committee to deal with those issues. And that’s just some of the power that the Speaker, in just a few words, can do to set the agenda for Congress.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: What do you hope to accomplish as the first female Speaker of the House?
SPEAKER PELOSI: When people ask me what are the three most important issues of today in Congress, I’ve always said the same thing: the children, our children, our children. Their health, their education, their economic security, their families, the environment in which they live, and safe neighborhoods. My focus has always gone back to the children and our responsibility to the future. So I would hope that my speakership would have successes ascribed to us in terms of how we teach children from the earliest age, 0 through 5, and recognize what that means to their future development.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: Do you think that you’re being elected as the Speaker of the House is an important milestone for women’s history?
SPEAKER PELOSI: I think it’s a tremendous milestone. Please put: “She said modestly.” I really do. You know, people talk about the glass ceiling. We have really broken the marble ceiling here. This is a big, big difference. And I think it says to young people and to women: the sky’s the limit. You can do anything you want. Because if you can prevail in this environment, which is historically very male-oriented, then I think women can succeed any place.
I would hope that in the performance in my abilities as Speaker, that people would have confidence in women at this high altitude of power and that it would soon lead to a woman President of the United States—which would be very exciting.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: What will be your leadership style in Congress and how will your style help Congress deal with the challenges facing the world today?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I promised when I came in that I would be the Speaker of the entire House. So my leadership style would be to honor that. I truly believe that many of the challenges that our country faces must be dealt with in a bipartisan way: Democrats and Republicans working together. And if we do that, then we’ll have better solutions. We’ll have to listen to each other. I hope my leadership style would be described as respectful and strong.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: In your Speaker acceptance speech, you thanked your children and your grandchildren for supporting your journey from the kitchen to the Congress. Can you elaborate on some of the challenges you faced while raising your family?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I had five children in six years, so that was a challenge in and of itself. But I was very fortunate. My husband was a very cooperative spouse and we, that’s what we did—we raised our children. We had to work, of course, but our focus was on our children, and my focus was on them until they were of such an age where I could do other things. But what I learned is that no matter what your economic situation, you still need to pay a great deal of attention to your children as you’re raising them.
I simply have complete awe for women who are holding down jobs and raising a family. They have my complete and utter respect.
CHELSEA LOLLAR: We are gearing up for the Women’s History Month. What does it mean to you, Women’s History Month?
SPEAKER PELOSI: As with Black History Month and all of the other history months that we celebrate, Women’s History Month is very important because for too long the role of women in the formation of our country, in the growth of our country, was not recognized. And now it is and that’s important. But what’s also important is recognizing the new contributions, like the first African-American woman in space. That’s brilliant for all of us. So it’s about the past and it’s about the future.