Historic moment as women flank Biden for speech

Washington, United States: When US President Joe Biden delivered his debut speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, history was made behind him, with two powerful women taking their places on the rostrum for the first time.

Speaker of the House, Pelosi has already seen what it is like to sit on the House rostrum and present the president for speeches.

She's sat through speeches by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

But with the addition this time of Kamala Harris, the nation's first female vice president, the two people seated behind and on either side of Biden as Americans tuned in on their TV screens for the primetime address were women.

"Madam Speaker. Madam Vice President," Biden said proudly, turning to the women and clapping as he began his address.

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

Women's rights activists said it would be a "beautiful moment" to see Harris and Pelosi sitting together behind Biden. They did, however, point out that appointing a woman to the Oval Office, as well as adding an equal rights amendment to the Constitution, remain unfinished business.

The chamber, with a limited number of lawmakers on hand due to coronavirus guidelines, burst into applause, as First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff joined in the ovation.

The moment marked a milestone in the nation's nearly 245-year history, and female lawmakers noted the symbolism regarding the strides that women have taken to reach positions of American power.

"Like so many women, I feel pride at this moment and seeing this representation," House Democrat Barbara Lee posted on Twitter. "It's long overdue."

It also marked a first of another sort: both the speaker and the vice president were wearing masks, another key plank of policies implemented in Congress beginning last year to guard against the spread of Covid-19.

Harris and Pelosi are the first and second, respectively, in the presidential line of succession.

During Trump's presidency, Pelosi, 81, held the dominant position and sat behind him during his last two addresses to Congress, famously tearing up her copy of Trump's remarks after he finished addressing lawmakers in 2020.

Harris, 56, made history last year when she was elected vice president for the first time as a woman and the first Black and Indian American. In her capacity as Senate President, she joins Pelosi in preside over the joint session of Congress.

Women are equally able

Debbie Walsh, director of Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics, said Wednesday night's event will demonstrate to men, women, boys, and girls that women can achieve and hold high-level roles, and that they are as entitled to them as men are, Associated Press reported. 

Walsh also emphasized Biden's promise to place a woman on his ticket, as well as the diversity of his Cabinet. She predicted that the backdrop behind Biden on Wednesday will make him feel proud — not just personally, but also professionally "but I also think proud of the country and proud of his party. And I think he will clearly see the historic implications of this and the role that he played in making that happen." 

"For all of us who care about women's 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 gratifying moment."  

Harris's office refused to comment on her historic appearance in the president's speech on Wednesday, choosing to let the moment speak for itself.

Aside from the speech on Wednesday, Harris, and Pelosi have achieved yet another first in American and women's history. They are first and second in the line of presidential succession, respectively.

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