Biden acknowledged the historic moment before giving his joint address to Congress

Por Adam Carlson and Virginia Chamlee
Abril 29, 2021
Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi at Joe Biden Joint Congressional Speech
Vice President Kamala Harris (left) greets House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress on Wednesday.
| Credit: Jim Watson/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi greeted one another with an elbow bump on Wednesday night — and perhaps savored a bit of history made between them — before President Joe Biden began his first joint address to Congress.

The speech, in which a president was flanked by two women on the dais for the first time, opened with Biden, 78, acknowledging the moment.

Madam Speaker. Madam Vice President. No president has ever said those words from this podium. No president has ever said those words. And it's about time," he said.

Appearing on MSNBC earlier Wednesday, Pelosi concurred: "It's pretty exciting. And it's wonderful to make history. It's about time," said on Andrea Mitchell Reports. "I made history when I was the first speaker to be standing behind President Bush. And he made note of that. Now this is just so exciting."

Ahead of Biden's speech — in which he outlined how he said his administration was getting "America moving" through the COVID-19 pandemic and other problems — Democratic women in Congress spoke to USA Today about what they called the importance of the women seated behind Biden.

Pelosi, 81, made history in 2007 when she was became the first woman to serve as speaker of the House. She again made history January 2019 after regaining her position as speaker — which is second in line to succeed the president — as the first person to do so in more than 60 years. 

When inaugurated in January, Harris, 56, became the first woman vice president, as well as the first Black person and first person of Asian descent to hold the office.

"Representation matters, and it is past time that we see two women on the dais representing the highest civilian roles in the U.S. government," New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told USA Today. "When women of all ages tune in Wednesday night, they will see themselves in [Pelosi and Harris]."

The view of two women beside the president of the United States, Shaheen added, could encourage more women to run for office. "We've seen these numbers increase over the years, and I hope that visual Wednesday night reaffirms to the women and girls who are watching that no job is off limits," she said.

Hawaiian Sen. Mazie Hironi echoed those thoughts, saying she believed Harris and Pelosi's appearance will resonate with "young girls in particular" and "should give us all hope."

New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney said those seated on the dais will serve as a reminder of how far the women's equality movement has come in recent years.

"We have made tremendous strides for women's equality in my lifetime and this is the type of representation that can inspire so many young minds. If you see it — you can be it," she said.

Florida Rep. Val Demings concurred with her fellow Democratic lawmakers, telling USA Today the moment would be particularly remarkable given that Harris is Black.

"This should be a nation where everyone should be able to live their American Dream. I am extremely excited that all of America's daughters — and our sons — will be able to see two strong, powerful women, including a Black woman, occupying the dais with the President of the United States," Demings said in a statement. "When a child sees something for the first time, it becomes achievable in their mind. We should not discount how powerful this moment will be."

The president's speech on Wednesday will be followed by the Republican Party's response, delivered by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

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