Nancy Pelosi is a legend
Nancy Pelosi is a true leader. There are few American politicians who have kept the faith during the troubled first decades of the 21st century. The Speaker of the House is one of them, and my admiration and respect for her does not flow from agreement over political issues or happiness over her voting record. Nancy Louise Pelosi is a leader of character and integrity whose public service has been honorable and loyal.
She passed a test that was laid out by President-Elect John Kennedy in front of the Massachusetts Legislature on the eve of his ascension to the Office of President of the United States. The 43-year-old Irish Catholic senator from Boston was a combat veteran and decorated war hero, who lived in almost constant pain from his war wounds and had lost his older brother in combat.
Before the Massachusetts Legislature, one of the most important institutions in world history for the advancement of human dignity, liberty and freedom, he talked about John Winthrop and the Puritans who sailed across the sea and landed in a new world where they faced “terror without and disorder within.”
Winthrop said, “ We must always consider that we shall be a city upon a hill — the eyes of the people are upon us.”
John Kennedy talked about the great dangers that the Puritans faced in 1961 to make the point that the challenges a new generation of leaders faced at the height and most dangerous hours of the nuclear Cold War were just as treacherous. He applied a four-part test when considering the quality of character he would seek to help guide the Republic that emerged from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
JFK said he would fill an administration on four criterion: courage, judgment, integrity and dedication:
It is a tragedy of our era that so few men and women have kept faith with that test laid out by John Kennedy.
That is why Nancy Pelosi should be celebrated and honored. America has come a long way since 1961. Nancy Pelosi endured in a troubled era over 20 long years of abuse, harassment, pettiness, cruelty, name-calling and all manner of degradations. John Kennedy had a lack of imagination in 1961 that by 2022 it would be an American woman from Baltimore, elected from San Francisco, who would so brilliantly meet the test during a crisis of faith and patriotism among America’s most powerful leaders.
There is no politician in America — with the exception of Hillary Clinton and Michelle and Barack Obama — who have more fully felt the weight of the Gingrich era and its repercussions. The loathsome Gingrich is a singularly odious figure in American history, who made cynicism and malice a DC growth industry and merged it with a nascent media empire. A MAGA fanatic may have lowered a hammer on the skull of 82-year-old Paul Pelosi, but it was proverbially raised by the viciousness of Newt Gingrich a long time ago. Speaker Pelosi has handled it all with toughness and grace. She could be a fierce partisan when necessary, and put her party last when patriotic duty required her to put the country first. She demonstrated this time and time again through the 2008 financial crisis, during the wars that defined her service, and during the attack on America on January 6, 2021. She is singularly responsible for making sure the American people and our descendants will know precisely what happened when President Trump plotted a conspiracy to take down American democracy. Nancy Pelosi helped unify the nation after 9/11. She showed American grit, steel, determination, conviction and strength to the Chinese in 2022.
Nancy Pelosi has kept the faith and fought the good fight. She is a legend and she became one the old-fashioned way in this former Republican’s eyes. She earned it and America is better off for her service, which isn’t finished yet.
True public service is an act of love. Yesterday, the American people were able to take in the true measure of the character of a woman around whom much has been said. They were able to witness an act of humility and love. Nancy Pelosi had the wisdom and humility to pass the torch. She knew it was time. Yet, she also has the humility and wisdom to know her service isn’t over.
Hakeem Jeffries will begin his journey as the leader of House Democrats. Every American should wish him well. He has a profoundly important job, and he will sit across the table from an unworthy gaggle of MAGA Republicans who seek power at any cost.
President Kennedy found out the hard way the downside of generational change when he stumbled badly with Nikita Krushev at the Vienna Summit of 1961, and presided over the disaster at the Bay of Pigs. There is a famous picture of an old man he called to go for a walk with in the woods at the Presidential Retreat. The picture was with a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, his predecessor. John Kennedy had the humility and wisdom to consult his elders. It is why he was disinterested in the feud between Ike and Truman. He used both of them as trusted counselors. The New Democratic leadership would be wise to remember that though they will be in charge, asking for help and counsel is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Finally, there is something beautiful and tender around Speaker Pelosi’s announcement towards the institution she has long served and the one that was desecrated by Trump’s insurrectionist mob on January 6th. The Speaker is moving from the front of the House to its back benches. There she is simply a Member of Congress. She is a representative from the city of San Francisco sitting with the elected representatives of the American people from every corner of our vast republic in Congress to make the nation stronger. Even though it doesn’t work like that anymore, it will again one day. It will because the vision of service that will prevail is that of Nancy Pelosi, not Kevin McCarthy. Nancy Pelosi is a historic figure and an admirable one in a season in which finding character in DC is like finding water in the desert.
America owes Nancy Pelosi a debt of gratitude for her continuing service to America. The subject of politics came up at dinner with my kids last night. Of course, it took seconds to find our way to Trump. I said we weren’t talking about Trump tonight. I said I’d be happy to talk about Nancy Pelosi though. I asked them if they knew what the word “inspiration” meant, and if they thought it could apply to politics.
They weren’t sure. I told them that the answer was “yes.” I suggested they read more about Speaker Pelosi and used my economic leverage to make her watch that long ago speech by President Kennedy. When they finished it, my daughter said something surprising. She said that she thought that was a great speech. She then asked, “Why don’t politicians act like that anymore? I told her to read more about Nancy Pelosi. Every American should be grateful for a job well done and service well rendered. Thank you, Speaker Pelosi.