Cheers As Pelosi Smashes 'Marble Ceiling'

Newly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addresses the 110th Congress in the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) AP

Swept into the most powerful political job ever held by a U.S. woman, Nancy Pelosi embarked on a jubilant victory lap with children and grandchildren in tow and a soundtrack by Tony Bennett: "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

The crooner performed his signature tune at a $1,000-a-head fundraiser Thursday night where Pelosi, 66, celebrated her historic swearing-in as the nation's first-ever female speaker of the House, second in line to the presidency.

"Democrats are back and that is cause for celebration, and we are back after 200 years with the first woman speaker," the San Francisco Democrat told the roaring crowd of 1,200 at the National Building Museum. "Thanks to you, working moms in this country know there's a mom in the speaker's office who understands their challenges."

As she had earlier in the day after accepting the speaker's gavel from House Republican leader John Boehner, Pelosi thanked her husband, investor Paul Pelosi, her five children and her six grandchildren for helping her move "from the kitchen to the Congress."

"I guess it hasn't really fully landed that I am the person who carries a great deal of responsibility," she acknowledged, "because we have always been a team effort."

Pelosi kept her family close throughout the day Thursday, bringing her grandchildren onto the House floor where they took turns sitting in her lap as the roll was called sealing her election by a vote of 233-202, the chamber's Democratic-Republican breakdown.

On Friday, the final of three days of festivities Pelosi orchestrated to introduce herself to the nation, she was to greet well-wishers at an open house on Capitol Hill, then head to her native Baltimore to visit statues of her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, the city's former mayor.

A ceremony was scheduled to rename a part of her childhood street in the city's Little Italy after her, as Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi Via.

The week's events also included Catholic masses and dinner at the Italian Embassy as Pelosi highlighted her ethnic, family and religious background more than her California liberal politics.

Even so, Pelosi's daughter Alexandra told the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gala Thursday night that her hard-charging mother, who ran for Congress only in 1987 after moving to San Francisco and raising five children, was never ordinary.

She multitasked, made elaborate Halloween costumes by hand and hosted birthday parties where children built life-size gingerbread houses.

"Everybody's coming up to me and saying, 'Can you believe your mother is speaker of the House?"' said Alexandra Pelosi. "And to anyone who's been to my house, the answer is: 'Of course!"'

In addition to Bennett, performers Thursday night included Wyclef Jean, Carole King and several former members of the Grateful Dead, one of Pelosi's favorite bands.

Outside there was even a genuine Grateful Dead fan trying to get in, holding a hand-painted sign with the classic Deadhead plea: "I need a miracle." The fan, dreadlocked 30-year-old Scott Orellana, said he didn't have $1,000. A Democratic aide eventually sneaked him in the door.

But mostly Pelosi attracted her own fans, eager to applaud her landmark victory.

"It's inspirational ... I am so thrilled," said Rachel Binah, 64, of Mendocino, Calif., a Democratic activist who brought her 15-year-old niece, Maija, to Washington to witness history being made. "A lot of young people don't really know what we went through to get here."
  • Joel Roberts

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