Nancy Pelosi Portrait Unveiled in Emotional Ceremony During Final Days as House Speaker

Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner reportedly teared up while lauding the Democrat for her many accomplishments and sharing that his daughters see her as a role model

Republicans and Democrats alike paid tribute to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday as the longtime lawmaker's official portrait was unveiled and placed on the walls of the U.S. Capitol.

A ceremony to mark the occasion was emotional, as Pelosi — dressed in all white — told the crowd her members "had the courage to elect a woman speaker," according to The New York Times.

The Times reports that the unveiling ceremony brought together a host of names, from ex-cabinet members and television anchors to former President Barack Obama, who made a virtual appearance in which he described Pelosi as "one of the most accomplished legislators in American history."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) poses for photos with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Paul Pelosi, and others near her portrait following an unveiling ceremony in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty

Republican John Boehner, who served as House speaker from 2011 to 2015, even "teared up" at the event, with the Times reporting he spoke of Pelosi as a role model to his own daughters.

"Game recognizes game," Boehner said, "and the fact of the matter is no other speaker of the House in the modern era, Republican or Democrat, has wielded the gavel with such authority or with such consistent results."

In her own remarks, Pelosi joked that she "would have been a little disappointed if he didn't get emotional," a nod to Boehner's penchant for public displays of emotion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (L) and husband Paul Pelosi (R) during the unveiling of a portrait of Speaker Pelosi at the US Capitol, Washington, DC, USA, 14 December 2022.

Others in attendance at the event — including Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is currently campaigning to succeed Pelosi when Republicans take over the House in January — demonstrated that the California Democrat's legacy trumped politics, at least for one moment.

Pelosi's portrait — painted by the artist Ronald Sherr and completed in 2014 — features the speaker in a suit and pearls and holding the speaker's gavel. It will hang in the speaker's lobby outside the House chamber, the walls of which features the portraits of more than a dozen former speakers.

Pelosi first became speaker of the House — a role that would eventually define her political career and further carve a path for women in congressional leadership — in 2007. She assumed the role again in 2019, stating at the time that she would only serve a maximum of four years in the role.

She led Democrats through two impeachment hearings, an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, multiple legislative landmarks and a 2022 midterm season in which her party exceeded everyone's expectations.

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (Democrat of California) is embraced by her husband Paul Pelosi during a ceremony to unveil her official portrait in Statuary Hall at the US Capitol in Washington, DC

In November, Pelosi announced she will step down as the Democratic House leader at the end of the year, making her announcement shortly after the Republican Party regained the majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has been controlled by Democrats for the past four years.

Calling herself "a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a devout Catholic" and "a proud Democrat," Pelosi said her rise in the House was a surprise even to her.

"Never would I have thought I'd go from homemaker to House speaker. In fact I never intended to run for public office," she said. "Mommy and Daddy taught us through their example that public service is a noble calling and that we all have a responsibility to help others."

She continued: "A new day is dawning on the horizon and I look forward, always forward, to the unfolding story of our nation – a story of light and love, of patriotism and progress, of many becoming one," Pelosi said, earning a standing ovation and embraces from her colleagues, many of whom could be seen wiping tears from their faces at the close of the speech.

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Pelosi said she would, however, continue to serve as a member of the House, "speaking for the people of San Francisco, serving the great state of California and defending our Constitution."

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