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Giving Thanks to Madam Speaker

Jamie Stiehm on

WASHINGTON -- Journalists don't cry. It's in the code of conduct. Yet tears welled in my eyes in the House press gallery when Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave her farewell speech as Speaker, though she will stay on in Congress.

Reader, the stem-winder at high noon brought down the house. Clad in gleaming white, like a modern suffragette, Pelosi delivered one for the ages. Move over, Daniel Webster.

The Speaker reminded the House that this was the "temple of democracy." That the Capitol is "the most beautiful building in the world." And indeed, our democracy is majestic but "fragile."

Everyone in the chamber knew what Pelosi meant. The contrast between the November day and the Jan. 6, 2021, siege could not have been clearer. The mob that stormed the Capitol on a winter day came rushing down the marble halls, hunting for the Speaker.

Members and press found a way to escape, by a hidden staircase and a tunnel. Howls, gunshots and broken glass were the soundtrack. Late into the night, early in the morning dark, we returned and stayed until the last presidential vote was counted for Joe Biden.

In lockdown, Pelosi had the presence of mind to tell Vice President Mike Pence, sheltered in the Capitol: "Don't tell anyone where you are." Character comes out in crisis.

 

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer gave a speech of thanksgiving: "Thank you for teaching us... an honor of a lifetime."

The consensus is, the only woman Speaker in history is the greatest, combining light and heat to keep Democrats together.

For me, it was simple. If an 80-year-old woman can go through that trauma and not skip a beat, I can too. Truthfully, I was not as resilient. The Speaker was a valiant beacon in the rocky post-Jan. 6 days. She refused to crack.

The mob incited by a sitting president would never win over her.

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