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Transcript of Press Conference on the Launch of the American Women Quarters Program

San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congresswoman Barbara Lee, former U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios, former Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown and community leaders to celebrate the launch of the American Women Quarters Program.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

 

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning everyone.  Amos, thank you for your inspirational prayer this morning.  I know you have to go, but I just want you to know that I carry in my heart the words that you have said when we were recently together, about gun violence and our young people.  Thank you for that and for this and for everything.  Thank you, Amos Brown.  Thank you.

 

Good morning, everyone.  I want to associate myself, of course, with the remarks of others who have gone before to talk about the importance of women on the coins.  But first, I want to say how happy I am to be in this library.  

 

My first official assignment a long time ago – my children were very little, crawling all over the place.  And I was appointed to the Library Commission.  And one of the things that we did – because we were volunteers and then they elevated me, as a volunteer, to be on the Commission.  And one of the things we did when I became a member of the Library Commission was to say [that] we’re going to have our Commission meetings in the neighborhood library so we can really bring it to the people and hear what they have to say.  And again, also to recognize the importance not only of Central Library which is important, but our libraries and – this is lovely, and it’s a joy to be here.

 

The other point I want to make is that today, as we gather, the Senate is preparing to confirm the first woman justice of the – an African American woman justice to the Supreme Court.  Her dignity, her brilliance, her capability, her persistence, as Barbara has said, and again – not only has Barbara but as Lateefah has said, have been really so, so magnificent for the country to behold.  It’s long overdue.  It’s about time.  And pretty soon it will happen, and we’ll all be proud.  And just another recognition of the role of women and the coins that Barbara has talked about.

 

Before I talk about the coins, I want to talk about Barbara Lee.  There’s some things I need to tell you about Barbara Lee.  You may not know this, but Barbara is one of the most powerful people in Congress – women or men, one of the most powerful.  She’s the Chair on the Appropriations Committee of something called State, Foreign Operations Subcommittee, which means that she is in charge of all of our foreign cooperation assistance and the rest.  Values-based, pragmatic and concerned about the alleviation of poverty, eradication of disease and how we work together with other countries.  

 

Needless to say, at this time, when we are dealing with what’s happening Ukraine – and we’re so proud of the courage of the people of Ukraine – Barbara Lee is the person to watch.  Because again, when the President says we’re giving a billion dollars here or $13.6 billion – it’s Barbara Lee’s Subcommittee, which she Chairs, that makes that happen. 

 

[Applause]

 

We think of her as a champion, a grassroots advocate – a champion here, there and there.  But power – now we’re talking power.  And we were together – we visited Munich, there’s something called the Munich Security Conference, which is the big deal where – of course the Chancellor of Germany, the Prime Minister of the U.K., heads of state of all these countries come together.  But because of COVID – narrow, not as many people as before, so more intensely powerful.  You should have seen the interest they had in Congress – Madam Chair Barbara Lee, because of her important role in all of this.  And when she speaks, people not only listen, they learn.  

 

And so again, we should take – I mean, I don’t know how many of people in our communities know of the power that she has and the value – but you know, the values that she brings to it.  So I just want you to know, as we’re honoring these first – first woman in space; first woman, what, school superintendent; first head of a Cherokee Nation and all that – that Barbara Lee is just a complete, total champion in the Congress of the United States on everything that we care about, what we stand for.

 

Values-based, idealistic but also pragmatic and getting the job done.  Persistent, persistent, persistent.  Congressman, Madam Chair. 

 

[Applause]

 

In the Congress, when you get to be a Chair of a subcommittee of Appropriations, you get the – we refer to them as the Cardinals.  She’s a Cardinal.  We have to kiss her ring.  Money, power, Barbara Lee.

 

[Laughter]

 

So she had this idea.  This idea of women on the coins, she talked about it.  Rosie has been a champion in all of this as well.  Rosie, if – she was the Treasurer of the United States, and then bringing that experience to this challenge.  Thank you, Rosie.  Thank you so much.

 

[Applause]

 

So don’t we take – Mr. Mayor, you understand when I say being a Library Commissioner how – how important that was.  You know, I said I’m a volunteer.  I’m going – I’m just going to tell my own story.  ‘I’m a volunteer, Mr. Mayor’ – it was Mayor Alioto, a long time ago.  And again, my kids were little.  We were always volunteering at the library.  I say, ‘You don’t have to give me the honor because I’m going to volunteer anyway.  It’s not going make any difference in what I do.’  And he said, ‘What I want to tell you is, when you have official recognition of what you do, take it.  Especially as a woman.’  You do believe Joe Alioto was a feminist all those years ago?  

 

[Laughter]

 

I – but I say that to all of you as well, to the women here: be recognized for what you do.  

 

And, again – of course Malia is so wonderful.  We’re so, so, very, very proud of you, and I’m honored to be here.  But Stephanie Floyd-Johnson – please accept condolences, the loss of your dear husband.  And as I said Rosie Rios.  

 

Our dear Mayor Willie Brown.  And Willie Brown doesn’t come and speak for anybody else, except Willie Brown.

 

[Laughter]

 

I don’t care what he says.  He’s here for Willie Brown.  

 

[Laughter]

 

Amos, thank you.  Lateefah, I’m so happy you’re in the position that you are in.  You know what I mean.  Congratulations.  And thank you.

 

[Applause]

 

And Yejide, you make us so proud.  Yejide Mwongozi.  Did I say it correctly?

 

Audience.  Yejide Mwongozi.

 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yejide? 

 

Offscreen.  Yes.

 

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh, I said Yejide.  I’m combining the two of you.  I know you’re Yejide Mwongozi.  Thank you.  And next time, we want to hear your poem of the same name.  

 

But let’s just talk about Maya Angelou for a moment.  Do you know that she worked on the cable cars in San Francisco?  How much more San Francisco can you be than that? 

 

[Laughter]

 

And of course, at fifteen, she set her sights on working as a conductor aboard our city’s iconic streetcars – well, cable cars.  A role dominated by white men at the time, you can imagine.  Unfazed, she applied for the job every day until she got the job.  Of course, the tenacity of her writing – no need for me to even go into that.  We all carry her words in our hearts.

 

And one thing that she said that is so iconic and so – that people quote all the time.  They quote it all the time, and they say, Maya Angelo once counseled: ‘People will forget what you said, people will never forget – people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

 

You all know that.  And for this and so many other reasons, we are so honored that she is the first to be on a coin.  And yes, we will get – we will get Harriet Tubman on that $20 bill.  That’s for sure.

 

[Applause]

 

As we pay homage to these women, who were the first in their field – and we’re thrilled about having the first African American woman.  And just as a little point, she mentioned in her comments that her birthday was the same day as Constance – Constance –

 

Audience.  Baker Motley.

 

Speaker Pelosi.  Baker Motley.  The same day – not the same year, but same date.  But that, that woman was – Constance was appointed in 1966.  Right – just right after the passage of the Voting Rights Act by Lyndon Baines Johnson, who had signed the – that legislation.  

 

How fortunate for us that this Justice comes in at a time when we really need her there on the Court, as our voting rights are under assault in our country.  So, so many reasons for us to be together, for us to celebrate, for us to collaborate, for us to recognize the challenges ahead, but take pride in those who went before.

 

And in that vein, it is my pleasure to yield back.  Who am I yielding back to?  Lateefah?  Let’s hear it for Lateefah again. 

 

[Applause]

 

Thank you, Barbara Lee, for bringing us together to celebrate women.

 

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Barbara. 

I want to acknowledge Adriana and Dan and others as well.  The staff – always make so many things happen that look so easy, but so much goes into it.  

I just had a couple of thoughts I wanted to share with you.  When we’re talking about women – first in their field, being on these coins.  And this is remarkable.  Understand that Rosie Rios’ name was on the – signature, signature was on the –

[Applause]

That was pretty significant.  

In Washington, D.C., when we launched the coins, Barbara had the event to launch the coins.  It was pretty spectacular.  Maxine Waters, whose Committee this all goes through, was part of this.  It was fabulous.  It was wonderful.

But nothing could compare to having you here to tell us your personal story.  Wasn’t that remarkable, to see Stephanie Floyd-Johnson tell the story of being the girlfriend, the fiancé, the daughter-in-law.  It was a beautiful story.  We feel very honored.  Again, extend sorrow to you, sympathy to you.

There’s one thing you have to know, because we’re talking about firsts first on the coin, first in this, first in that.  Barbara Lee – what in a couple of weeks, Barbara?  The UN?

Congresswoman Lee.  Tuesday. 

Speaker Pelosi.  On Tuesday – you come here, Barbara.  You tell the them.  

[Laughter]

On Tuesday, she will be the first woman Member of Congress, first African American woman Member of Congress – well, take off any one of them, first woman, first African American – to address the United Nations.  Tell them why. 

[Applause]

Congresswoman Lee.  Why is because the Speaker has had her confidence and trusted me to represent the Democratic Caucus at the United Nations on the critical issues that our planet faces.  So, I was invited by the State Department to speak to the General Assembly of the United Nations commemorating the end of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade and what that means now as we move forward to end institutional racism and all the unjust policies and practices that still exist around the world.

[Applause]

So the United Nations General Assembly – Speaker Pelosi thank you for the honor of being able to represent our – not only our Democratic Caucus, but the Congress, which means the people of our country, so thank you guys.

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