House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Children are the inspiration for first woman speaker
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
In her Capitol office, which overlooks the National Mall to the Washington Monument, the first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, meets her constituents, her allies, and her adversaries.
During a recent interview, she sat on a dark blue couch in the center of her airy and light filled office to talk to Scholastic News. She talked about her interest in children, her role as Speaker, and her role in women’s history. She was gracious and poised, wearing a dark blue velvet pantsuit and gray and white pearls. Her office smelled of flowers, probably from the three large colorful arrangements in the room. It was a bright but cold day, following a major snowstorm. Everything in Washington, D.C., glistened.
Pelosi’s office is filled with pictures of her grandchildren and other members of her family (she is the mother of five). Kids are the constant inspiration for her work, she says. In her words, the three most important congressional issues of today are “our children, our children, our children: their health, their education, their economic security, their families, the environment in which they live, and safe neighborhoods.”
Her top priority as Speaker is the well-being of America’s children, Pelosi says. When she was sworn into office in January, she was joined at the podium by a group of kids who all shouted out with her, “The House will come to order!”
“Everything we do is about you (kids),” Pelosi told Scholastic News. “That’s what we’re here for, because the future belongs to you. It's yours and we have to be responsible about how we turn it over to you.”
As Speaker of the House, Pelosi holds the third highest office in the country behind the President and the Vice President. This is one reason her position is so important—she is second in line to the presidency.
But the job itself is important, too. The Speaker is responsible for setting the agenda for Congress.
“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,” she said. “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.”
|The view from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in the nation’s Capitol includes the National Mall and the Washington Monument. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)|
Pelosi modestly admits that becoming the first woman Speaker is an important milestone for women’s history. She credits Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and other such women for her own success.
“(Women) have really broken the marble ceiling here,” she says. “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 anyplace.”
When asked about what she hopes to accomplish as the first woman Speaker of the House, her focus returns to young people.
“I would hope that my speakership would have successes in terms of how we teach children from the earliest age—0 through 5—and recognize what that means to their future development,” she said.
She also hopes her successful climb to the speaker’s job will help other women break through more barriers.
“I would hope that people would have confidence in women at this high altitude of power and that it will soon lead to a woman President of the United States—which would be very exciting,” she said.
As the interview came to an end, Pelosi stood for photos. Even in such a small gathering, lights flashed like paparazzi cameras, recording the moment for history. Along with the official photographer, a reporter’s proud mother and several members of the speaker’s staff were snapping away. The speaker kept talking as she stood, pointing out the photographs on display.
“They [the photos of children] are the constant reminder, the constant inspiration, of why we’re here,” she said.
Kid Reporter Chelsea Lollar, 12, interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the speaker’s office. Check out an excerpt from that interview.