Kisna Pande, Grade 11, Staff Writer
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the woman who has led congressional Democrats for two decades, has announced that she will not pursue a leadership post in the next Congress, ending a historic tenure in which she oversaw many major legislative accomplishments. Pelosi will leave a legacy as one of the most powerful and polarizing figures in American politics.
Pelosi has made history in the Democratic Party by climbing the ranks of Democratic leadership and becoming the first woman and only woman to serve as Speaker. Pelosi spent over 30 years in the House, rising to power in spite of male colleagues who at times undermined her opinions.
She garnered respect by delivering votes on key legislation and candidates, even if that meant twisting the arms of her colleagues in the process. She led the House Democratic caucus through a tough battle in 2010 to pass the Affordable Care Act, and played a consequential role in passing President Biden’s key pieces of legislation, such as the COVID relief package, the CHIPS and Science Act, an infrastructure bill, and a bill that would help veterans exposed to toxins during military service.
In addition, Pelosi showed remarkable composure and leadership during the January 6th insurrection. She spoke passionately about the importance of keeping America’s democracy intact, something she has dedicated her career to doing.
“For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect, and I’m grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility,” Pelosi said in her retirement speech. She will not be easily replaced as the Democrats' leader in Congress. But stepping aside now may be her best chance to guide the party's next chapter.
Pelosi is one of the most polarizing figures in American politics. Her motivation to her work has made her seem impudent and contemptuous to some, both Democrats and Republicans.
At times, she has been impatient with the media, further affecting her reputation. She and her husband Paul have been scrutinized in the media especially following suspicious trading activity.
Financially, Pelosi benefitted from periods of financial turmoil, and her estimated net worth increased during the Great Recession, from $31.4 million to $101.1 million within two years, and in a time where the S&P 500 decreased by 13 percent. The former speaker’s portfolio also skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, as her estimated net worth rose from $106 million in 2019 to $171.4 million in 2021.
Pelosi’s controversiality is reflected by the varying opinions of her amongst students at the High School of American Studies.
“She was a very talented organizer of the House Democrats, who under less capable leadership may have been far more divided. Her legacy is definitely a positive one. She kept a diverse Democratic Party united amidst a period of record political polarization,” commented 11th grader Kabir Cohen.
Kabir believies Pelosi’s retirement can be positive as well, as it “signifies a new younger Democratic party, as it moves towards the future.”
Other HSAS students had a more mixed view of Pelosi. 11th grader Jonathan Korniman said, “I don’t really like her. She thinks too highly of herself and has jumped at the opportunity for power.”
When asked about the significance of her retirement, Jonathan said, “This is pretty significant, though not as significant as many would think. She’s a great leader and very effective for keeping Democrats in line, but there are others in the party who are just as good.” He believes that Pelosi stepping down could open up opportunities for new, younger politicians to move forward.
Noah Connolly (Grade 11) views Pelosi more unfavorably, saying, “Pelosi isn't a trustworthy politician. I lost a lot of respect for her when I read the stories about her insider trading. This is a scenario where she is using her power for personal gain.”
Despite the varying opinions of her, it can be agreed that Pelosi was historic and impactful. She has led the Democrats for over two decades, being the first woman to do so. The Democratic Party must move on, but it will be difficult to replace her.