The only woman to lead the U.S. House of Representatives felt it was so important to welcome Mark Takai to Congress that she flew to Honolulu for the occasion.
Takai, Hawaii’s newest congressman, was actually sworn into office in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
But fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, the former House speaker, accepted Takai’s invitation to a ceremonial swearing-in Friday afternoon at U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks after Rep. Mark Takai took his oath of office in a federal courtroom Friday.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Speaking before an A-list of political, labor, legal and other leaders that included Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and a host of Takai’s former state House colleagues (which include Caldwell), Pelosi praised Hawaii for its history of electing diverse congressional delegates distinguished by women and minorities.
As she described it, “The beauty is in the mix.”
Pelosi’s point was underscored by a giant mural in the courtroom depicting the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Of the 25 people shown in the painting — Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Madison et al. — all were white males, many of them privileged.
Hawaii, of course, has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the country, something usually reflected in its Capitol representation. Half of the four members of the current congressional delegation are female.
Pelosi, who first traveled to Honolulu several years before Hawaii was a state, said it had been her honor to serve with local leaders of distinction such as Dan Inouye and Spark Matsunaga. Pelosi herself spoke at the late Patsy Mink’s 2002 funeral.
“I feel pretty close to Hawaii,” said Pelosi.
In Pelosi’s view, Takai is expected to continue in the important role of speaking for his constituents, and to “support and defend” the Constitution.
In his prepared remarks, Takai — “humbled and blessed” — said he would do exactly that by working hard, building unity and making Hawaii proud.
Judge Susan Oki Molllway swears in U.S. Rep. Mark Takai as his wife, Sami Takai, his son and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi watch.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
It won’t be easy.
The 114th Congress has more Republicans than the 113th, and the party controls both chambers. In Takai’s first two weeks on the job, the House GOP has passed legislation to block President Obama’s plans on immigration, to repeal Wall Street regulations and to build a controversial oil pipeline.
Neither Pelosi nor Takai said much about the state of politics in D.C., and a press conference with reporters after the swearing-in ceremony was limited to just a few questions.
Pelosi, however, did comment on one news item: She expressed optimism that the U.S. Supreme Court would rule favorably on gay marriage cases, something the court announced Friday it will consider in its current term.
Hawaii’s delegation may be working well together again after a spell of division, something Takai reiterated Friday. But in D.C., divisive partisan politics continue.
Takai acknowledged the challenge and said a lot of people had lost faith in the political process. But Pelosi’s presence at Takai’s side also had a political purpose. Asked if there might be a campaign fundraiser with the newbie congressman during her visit, Pelosi smiled and said, “There might be.”
Takai called Pelosi’s attendance “incredible.”
It was apparent that that the newness of Takai’s election had not worn off. He spoke about the thrill of walking through the Capitol in the quiet evening, his honor at being named to the House Armed Services Committee (Takai is a military veteran), and his honor in being allowed to wear cufflinks that belonged to Inouye, a gift of a former U.S. president (Takai could not recall which one).
U.S. Rep. Mark Takai gives his wife Sami a kiss after taking the oath of office.
“Everybody knows how important Sen. Inouye was and is to Hawaii,” he told reporters. “Walking through the halls of Congress, just having some quiet time, remembering everybody that served before — it’s pretty emotional.”
Takai’s family and many friends were at Friday’s ceremony as well, and Takai made a point of stating that his election to Congress shows that a public school graduate — Pearl City High School and the University of Hawaii — can make good.
More special moments await the U.S. representative. On Tuesday, in the House chamber, Takai will help escort Obama to deliver his annual State of the Union address.
“This is about the future — new, young leaders — teaching other colleagues the perspective they have from here,” Pelosi told reporters. She said that was a key reason that Takai and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard are serving on Armed Services, even though they represent a small state.
But Pelosi, who was graced with nearly as many floral lei as Takai, kept her focus on her younger colleague.
“I wanted people here to know how respected he is in the Congress of the United States as he takes this very important step,” she said.
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