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Nancy Pelosi's advice to women leaders: 'Know your power; be yourself'

By
Brock Hall, Medill News Service
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., became the nation's first female House speaker when she took the gavel in 2007. She returned to the post in January. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., became the nation's first female House speaker when she took the gavel in 2007. She returned to the post in January. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi focused on her legacy as a female trailblazer on Friday, International Women's Day, during a speech at the Economic Club.

"I am a master legislator. If I were not effective, they wouldn't be doing these ads," said the California Democrat, referring to her appearance in a slew of Republican advertising campaigns each election cycle.

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Pelosi invoked the names of past feminist icons and women's rights activists while telling a story about the first time she was in a meeting at the White House while serving as minority leader in 2003.

"I realized that sitting there on that seat with me were Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Alice Paul, you name it," Pelosi said.

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However, Pelosi, who became the nation's first female House speaker when she took the gavel in 2007, said she didn't try to use her status as a woman to gain any leadership role.

"The last thing I could ever say to someone is vote for me because we should have a woman," Pelosi said of her speakership election.

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Pelosi also gave advice to future women leaders.

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"Know your power. Be yourself. Authenticity and sincerity is everything. And be ready," Pelosi said.

The 78-year-old congresswoman, who has represented California's 12th and 5th Congressional districts since 1987, said she has no plans to retire soon.

"I'm on a mission, not on a timetable," she said.

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It has been a whirlwind of a week for House Democrats. On Thursday, the chamber passed a resolution denouncing anti-Semitism and other forms of hate speech after Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., ignited a controversy by tweeting about the influence of the Israeli lobby on Washington.

"I don't think our colleague is anti-Semitic," Pelosi said. "I think she has a different experience with the use of words and doesn't understand that some of them are fraught with meaning that she didn't realize."

The House on Friday passed H.R. 1, a sweeping piece of legislation that includes ethics reforms, the expansion of voting rights and a mandate requiring the disclosure of presidential tax returns, which Pelosi acknowledged to much applause.

Pelosi declined to say whether she would attempt to repeal the 2017 tax bill signed by President Donnald Trump.

"The Ways and Means Committee will review what we do about taxes," she said.

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While Pelosi opened and closed with messages about International Women's Day, all of the figures she mentioned in discussing her own ideologies and inspiration were men. She quoted Abraham Lincoln while talking about the government shutdown, mentioned Ronald Reagan while discussing immigration, quoted Thomas Payne while making appeals to unity and repeatedly referring to the nation's founding fathers.

Women of the U.S. Congress

Female Members of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., poses with the female Democratic members of Congress in front of the U.S. Capitol. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

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