WASHINGTON – Newly minted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged Friday that voters would see big results from the Democratic majority in Congress. "It's going to be wonderful for the American people," she said.
"It's such an exciting thing — we've come a long way," an elated Pelosi said at an open house breakfast on Capitol Hill where hundreds of supporters cheered her election as the first woman ever to serve as House speaker, two steps from the presidency. Pelosi, sworn-in on Thursday, presides over the first Democratic majority since 1994.
Several women in the crowd said they viewed the elevation of the 66-year-old San Francisco Democrat, a mother of five and grandmother of six, as just the beginning.
"It prepares the nation to receive a woman president, a female president — that's the ice that's been broken," said Ethel Byndom, 53, of St. Louis, Mo.
"I think it's just really allowing us to have some additional influence. We're way behind Europe," said Lilly Stanets, director of the San Francisco Maritime Museum.
Pelosi took leave of the crowd, saying she had to go back to work on the House floor, where Democrats were getting to work on her legislative agenda for the House's first 100 hours with a planned vote on a "pay as you go" budgeting measure.
Later Friday, the final of three days of festivities Pelosi orchestrated to introduce herself to the nation, she was to 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 Via Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi.
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.
Crooner Tony Bennett provided the week's soundtrack at a $1,000-a-head fundraiser Thursday night for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."
As she had earlier Thursday after accepting the speaker's gavel from House Republican leader John Boehner, Pelosi thanked her husband, investor Paul Pelosi, and the rest of her family 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.
Pelosi's daughter Alexandra told the Thursday night gala that her hard-charging mother, who ran for Congress only in 1987 after moving to San Francisco and raising her 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!"'