House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discusses threats to democracy, women’s leadership

Photo of Nancy Pelosi
Eran Kohen Behar/Staff
Pelosi speaks on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol at a Barbara Boxer lecture series event.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., discussed threats to American democracy and the role of women’s leadership at former senator Barbara Boxer’s annual campus lecture Monday.

Wearing bright blue, Pelosi sat opposite her longtime friend Boxer in Hertz Hall as she recalled how she came to hold public office. Pelosi also discussed the riots that transpired at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,  urging Americans — regardless of partisan affiliation — to protect the nation’s democracy during a time in which it continues to be assaulted.

Pelosi is the latest guest of the Barbara Boxer lecture series, which was launched in 2017 to bring female leaders to UC Berkeley and is co-sponsored by the campus Institute of Governmental Studies and Bancroft Library.

“All of us have to resume our responsibility,” Pelosi said at the event. “You came here today. You have some idea about what we can do to preserve our democracy.”

Hundreds of campus students and Berkeley community members erupted in applause.

Pelosi, who was first elected to Congress in 1987, noted she “never for a million years” considered running for public office during her childhood. However, her family’s devout Catholicism, patriotic love for America and staunch Democratic beliefs eventually motivated her to enter the political world and follow the “noble calling” of public service, she said.

Pelosi called it a “supreme honor” to get sent by her own constituents to represent them at the Capitol, a “temple of democracy” that she said was under attack Jan. 6. She heavily condemned the riots, which she said disrupted a peaceful transfer of power by forcing Congress to temporarily halt its count of presidential electoral college votes.  

“It was not just an assault on the Capitol; it was an assault on the constitution and an assault on Democracy,” Pelosi said at the event. “The disrespect, the danger, all of it was horrible.”

Pelosi added she would “never forgive” the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol and traumatized fellow Congress members and staff. She noted it was imperative to seek the truth of how events unfolded Jan. 6.

Boxer highlighted Pelosi’s decision to certify President Joe Biden’s electoral college win despite the chaos that ensued that day.

“A miracle happened because you made sure the certification of the presidential election continued,” Boxer said at the event. “If you hadn’t done that, I don’t know where we’d be today.”

Pelosi elaborated further on the decision, saying she had pushed to continue the vote count to show the world the Capitol was still operational Jan. 6. However, she said it was “heartbreaking” that House Republicans overwhelmingly voted against certifying the election results after they were counted.

Pelosi concluded her remarks by calling on all Americans to fight for democracy by voting in elections, especially as the 2022 midterms approach. She emphasized the importance of the right to vote, highlighting a Senate bill that would stop the nullification of elections and the suppression of the American vote.

The legislation has yet to pass and does not have the votes to overcome the filibuster, a tactic used by minority members of the Senate to prevent the passage of a bill, according to Pelosi. Nevertheless, she said the legislation would protect democracy during a time when it is at stake.

“It’s not about partisanship. That’s the least of it,” Pelosi said at the event, referring to the right to vote. “It’s about patriotism, for our country to ensure that people who run for office are there to protect our democracy.”

Contact Annika Kim Constantino at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @annikakimc.