San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the inauguration of Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Governor Granholm, for placing us in time as we look to the future and the wonderful leadership of Eleni Kounalakis: the Lieutenant Governor of California, and now we will shortly be joined by the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom.
Governor Granholm, wherever she is, isn’t she remarkable? As Governor of Michigan, she demonstrated courage. She had her convictions, she had her commitments, she had her courage and she made a tremendous difference. No wonder Eleni sees her as a kindred spirit to lead us in this salute to Eleni today. Thank you, Governor Granholm.
Here we are gathered, some of us long-time associated with Jerry Brown, four terms as governor of this state and aren’t we proud of where he has taken us to?
As we celebrate a new governor — wasn’t his presentation this morning and Dutch’s presentation this morning remarkable?
I am honored to be invited to say a few words here in honor of the U.S. House of Representatives and though Governor Granholm said Members of Congress were here, she would acknowledge them, not name them, I’ll name them.
Please rise, my colleagues, because on behalf of these colleagues who are here today because they have great admiration for Eleni, let me please. Okay, Ami Bera, John Garamendi, Barbara Lee, Doris Matsui.
We are also very honored to have the Mayor of San Francisco London Breed.
From the Mayor’s office and the Speaker’s office, Willie Brown.
Former Governor of California Gray Davis as well. Please rise and shine.
The list goes on and on. So many people in this room. They are here because they admire Eleni. They are here because we have shared values. As I said, I am proud, on behalf of the House of Represenatives to bring greetings. I am especially proud to bring greetings as the Speaker of the House.
So, again, we will be joined by the Governor momentarily, Gray Davis, you were acknowledged already. But each and every one of you is a very special guest of Eleni. You are in this room because she loves you. You’re in this room because you loves you. It’s very important.
And so, again, I commend the people of California for their wise choice at the ballot box.
Let’s hear it for the people of California!
We will honor the trust that has been placed in her and working with Governor Gavin Newsom also. I do want to commend the Metropolitan for that prayer which took all of our remarks away from all of us, fully describing the beautiful contribution of Eleni that she will make and that is what I want to say.
All of us who are privileged to represent the American people come to public service strengthened by our families and the trust of our constituents. Today was made possible by the love and support of Eleni’s family. Her husband Markos, her children, Eon and Neo, and her many family members who are here. The Kounalakises.
As the Metropolitan said, I am touching on some things, I know you made it clear but I just want you to know that we associate ourselves with your remarks in that regard.
Her story is the story of America. Her story is the story of the American dream. She carries the same pride of heritage, love of America and entrepreneurial spirit that allowed her father, Angelo, to succeed. When he left to pursue the American dream at 14 years old to come to Calfornia to the Central Valley, the Central Valley – how inspiring is it that after making history as the Greek-American woman to serve as an ambassador for the United States of America she is now the first woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of California?
Here in California, Eleni’s leadership will be vital, will be vital as we honor that responsibility, particularly as we work to support the middle class and those who aspire to the middle class which is the backbone of our democracy. George Marcus would be disappointed if I did not quote the Greeks.
As we talk about the Greek heritage and how proud she was of it and she associated herself with it, to quote another Greek, Aristotle, the philosopher, Aristotle – it’s in the DNA – he said, ‘It is manifest that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, in which the middle class is larger and stronger than the other classes.’
And that is what our work is to do: to strengthen the middle class, to grow the middle class to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in that way, remembering again, that the middle class is the backbone of our democracy. Aristotle told us that.
So today, we know that she will be a champion of the middle class and those again that aspire to it, the future of prosperity and aspirations for all.
Eleni has been a champion for children as a leader of the First 5 Commission and a young mother herself. What more do you need to know about her and Markos – I mean, these boys are just so wonderful.
As a businesswoman and democratic activist, she has been a champion of bold ideas and effective solutions – results, results – to drive progress for all. She has been a relentless, persistent champion for democracy, as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary – I saw, bringing delegation to visit her, when she was the Ambassador to Hungary – her confidence. The courage to bring the values of the United States of America. The humility to listen and learn and report back on how we should go forward. In a voice that was respected by the President of the United States. Oh, and did I say it was Barack Obama?
And so, here we are. Two new leaders for the future.
Before I say anything about Gavin to bring him on – he needs no introduction. But as the Metropolitan told us, that doesn’t hold us back.
The story that the Governor was going to say is that when you get into the arena, you become a target. There are people who may not share your values, or your approach or whatever, and you have to be able to take your hits.
So the story is, there was a Presbyterian bishop, an African Presbyterian bishop, who saw this post it on a wall in a hospital in Africa and on it said a prayer, sort of a prayer. It said, ‘When I one day will die, and happily go to meet my maker. When I get to heaven he will say to me. Show me your wounds, and if I have no wounds he will say, “was nothing worth fighting for?”’ And that is what they are here to do, to fight for our values, fight for every person in our state, in a way that they are very well equipped to do.
Gavin Newsom, I’ve known since he was a baby and Eleni since she was in college, a long time ago in both cases, so I have seen, I have seen, the values that they share.
Gavin Newsom has been someone who has learned from his mother, his beautiful mother Tessa, how important it is to have equal pay for equal work for women, and how important it is to health care for all Americans.
I acknowledge his sister Hilary, whom we all love and is a champion for women in the workplace as well.
He learned from his father and from his father’s family to have public service in his DNA. And his love of nature as part of the environment in which he was raised. A commitment his father made to justice. As we heard this morning, justice is not just his title, it’s in his bones, justice was his purpose. It’s Gavin’s purpose too.
And he himself as a young boy, I used to see him because we were shall we say, clients, he used to deliver products to our home. He worked so hard. He has the work ethic embedded in him. An entrepreneurial spirit at a young age. He was a job creator practically as a teenager. He knows how to do it.
So when he speaks as he did so beautifully this morning. He speaks with authority. He speaks from values. He speaks with a purpose and that’s why it’s such a terrific honor to present him today to be able to swear in his Lieutenant Governor, the Lieutenant Governor of California in a way that gives us all great hope for the future. The governor of California, Gavin Newsom.