U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, left, greets House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi of California with an elbow bump ahead of President Joe Biden
addressing a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in
the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Jim Watson/Pool
U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of
Congress on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S.
Capitol in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California applaud. (Chip Somodevilla/Pool via
Harris, Pelosi make history seated behind Biden at
By Darlene Superville
The Associated Press
April 28, 2021
WASHINGTON (AP) ó Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi made history Wednesday as the first women ó one of them
Black and Indian American ó to share the stage in Congress during a
President Joe Biden noted the historic development at the very
opening of his address. After taking the podium, Biden greeted the two
women standing behind him with a "Madam Speaker" and "Madam Vice
He then declared, "No president has ever said those words ó and itís
Biden delivered his first prime-time speech to a joint session of
Congress flanked by Pelosi and Harris, two California Democrats.
The two began the night with another historic moment: An elbow-bump
hello, a pandemic spin on the traditional handshake. Pelosi and Harris
stood side by side behind the dais in the House chamber, chatting with
each other and occasionally waving to lawmakers as the group waited for
Biden to arrive.
"Itís pretty exciting. And itís wonderful to make history. Itís about
time," Pelosi said hours before the speech during an interview on MSNBC.
Pelosi already knows what it feels like to sit on the rostrum in the
House chamber and introduce a president for their speeches. She has sat
there for several addresses by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama,
and Donald Trump.
Womenís advocates said seeing Harris and Pelosi seated together
behind Biden will be a "beautiful moment." But they noted that electing
a woman to sit in the Oval Office remains to be achieved, along with the
addition of an equal rights amendment to the Constitution.
Biden helped usher the moment along by pledging to pick a woman for
his running mate and selecting Harris, then a U.S. senator from
"This is a great start and we have to continue to move forward to
give women their equal due," said Christian Nunes, president of the
National Organization for Women.
Pelosi made history by becoming the first female House speaker during
Republican Bushís presidency. He acknowledged the moment by noting
during his address to Congress after Pelosiís election that he had the
privilege of being the first president to open with the words "madam
Pelosi, 81, reclaimed the powerful leadership post during Republican
Trumpís presidency and sat behind him during his final two speeches to
Congress, famously ripping up her copy of Trumpís remarks in 2020 as
cameras continued to roll after he was finished addressing lawmakers.
Harris, 56, made history last year when she became the first woman
and first Black and Indian-American person elected vice president. In
her role as president of the Senate, she joins Pelosi to preside over
the joint session of Congress.
Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics
at Rutgers University, said Wednesday night will show men, women, boys,
and girls that women can attain and hold high-level positions and that
they are as entitled to them as men are.
Walsh also noted Bidenís promise to put a woman on his ticket, and
pointed as well to the diversity of his Cabinet. She said Biden was
likely to begin the speech by turning around to face Pelosi and Harris
and feeling proud ó not just personally, "but I also think proud for the
country and proud for his party and I think he will clearly see the
historic implications of this and the role that he played in making that
"For all of us who care about womenís public leadership, we still
look forward to the day when the person standing at the podium, in
front, is a woman," Walsh added. "But for now this is a particularly
Harrisí office declined comment Wednesday on her historic role in the
presidentís address, preferring to let the moment speak for itself.
Apart from the speech Wednesday night, Harris and Pelosi have notched
another first in U.S. and womenís history. They are first and second,
respectively, in the line of presidential succession.
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