Editor's note: The following are excerpts from an speech by U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the recent NAACP national convention.
When Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King went to India to learn more about nonviolence, they learned a translation of the word "nonviolence" in Sanskrit is "truth insistence." To insist on the truth — and isn't that what they were doing?
And even now today it is still important. When we insist on knowing the truth, the public is aware that one in five children lives in poverty; that 46 million Americans have no health insurance; 6 million hard-working Americans making minimum wage have not gotten a raise in nine years; and more than 200,000 survivors of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana alone are still living in trailers. When that truth is revealed, two-thirds of Americans say the country is going in the wrong direction.
Democrats are proposing a new direction to take our country forward for all Americans, not just the privileged few. And when we do take back the Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus will lead the way to the change that is necessary for our nation.
Just picture this: On the very first day of Congress, under the leadership of the chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, we will pass an Honest Leadership, Open Government package to restore integrity, civility and accountability to Congress and the American people.
The first legislative piece of business will be led by Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who will be the chair of the Homeland Security Committee. He will say that our first priority is to make America safer, and we intend to begin by passing legislation that will implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations and giving our first responders what they need to keep America's neighborhoods and homes in our country safe.
And then, under the leadership of Congressman Charlie Rangel, as chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Democrats will make our economy more fair. We will begin by giving America a raise by passing an increase in the minimum wage. We will remove tax incentives for corporations to send jobs overseas, and Charlie Rangel will lead us.
Another place where a new direction is needed is with the war in Iraq. We must change the direction there. We must insist on the truth there. The war in Iraq has exacted a terrible cost on the United States: in lives lost and shattered; in the readiness of our armed forces; in our standing in the eyes of the world; and in our ability to do the kind of daily diplomatic work necessary to prevent crises from developing.
This is a very difficult time in the world. You can't turn on the TV without seeing death and destruction. I don't come here to point fingers, I come here to extend the hand for all of us to work together to take us in a new direction, in a new era of braveness internationally. President Kennedy in his inaugural address, said, "Ask not what your country can do for you." But the very next line in his speech he said, "To the citizens of the world: Ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do working together for the freedom of mankind."
And that cooperation is what we have to do as a country — not condescension. We know how to do this.
Democrats are proposing real security, based on real diplomacy, and based on respect. Diplomacy that is of course backed up by a military second to none — and aren't we proud of our men and women in uniform? A values-based diplomacy that says working together, we can fight terrorism, we can stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and we can build the alliance to get that done. We can alleviate poverty and stop the fury of despair.
America can lead the way to a new era of greatness for our country internationally, but in order to do that we need a new direction, internationally and here at home.
Here at home, I was privileged to lead a delegation to the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina. How astounding it was for us to see in our very own country a situation that must be changed, that cannot be tolerated, and that change must come from the people of the region. We want to work together on it, so that the leadership springs from the people who are affected and the change comes from those affected.
Chairman Julian Bond said that it is important for elected officials, including the president, to hear the concerns of African Americans. I agree with you, Chairman Bond. And when you said that, it reminded me of a story about Franklin Roosevelt. Before President Roosevelt died, he said that if we were a nation at war he didn't want a state funeral because of the cost, pomp, circumstance and the distraction from the fact that our young people were in harm's way.
So they took him by train from Warm Springs, Ga. to Washington, D.C., where he lay in state at the White House, and then they took him to Hyde Park in New York, where he was buried. Along the way, thousands of people lined the tracks. So many people wept — migrant workers, farmers, poor people — you could see these people paying their respects. A reporter went up to a mourner and said, "Why are you here? Did you know Franklin Roosevelt?" The mourner replied, "No, I didn't know President Roosevelt, but he knew me." That's where we should be as elected officials — accountable to the people.
I'm here to salute the NAACP, because you know your people. You know their hopes, dreams and aspirations for their children, as well as the challenges that stand in the way. As we go forward with our new direction, we know that working together, we can do better, and that we can take the country into a new direction.