Jayapal, Gabbard take oath of office on Bhagavad Gita; Omar, Tlaib sworn in on Quran
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, January 5, 2019 – A record 102 women were sworn into the US House of Representatives on the first working day of the 116th Congress as Democrats regained control of the lower chamber for the first time in eight years. It is the most diverse legislature ever in the history of the United States.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman elected to the House and now re-elected for a second term took the oath of office on the sacred Hindu scripture, Bhagavad Gita, and a copy of the US Constitution.
“Today, I was sworn into the 116th Congress, our most diverse and most progressive Congress yet! I am honored to once again represent the beautiful people of Washington-District 7″, she said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
The democratic lawmaker who earned 84 percent of the vote in the recent midterm elections, vowed, “I’m ready to fight for a bolder progressive America in the 116th Congress”. A strong woman of color, she has been called Leader of the Resistance, the anti-Trump.
Administering the oath was Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who holds the distinction of being the only woman to serve as Speaker of the House.
“I am particularly proud to be the woman Speaker of the House of this Congress which marks 100 years of women having the right to vote. And that we all have the ability and privilege to serve with more than 100 women in Congress – the largest number in history”, she said at the opening session on Thursday afternoon.
The California lawmaker spoke of: advancing America’s preeminence in the world; building an economy that equips Americans with tools to succeed – public education, workforce development, good-paying jobs and secure pensions; ending the huge disparity of income in America; fighting for the middle class which includes protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; protecting the environment and facing the climate crisis. All this on the 13th day of the government shutdown with no end in sight.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to the House, took the oath of office on her personal copy of the Bhagavad Gita. The Democratic lawmaker from Hawaii will be serving her fourth term in Congress amid speculation of a 2020 presidential bid.
Delivering the keynote address at the Honolulu City Council inauguration, Friday, she lamented, “Divisiveness, hatred, bigotry and greed have cast a dark shadow over our country and so much of our politics”, and proceeded to dwell on the healing power of Aloha which she described as “being in the presence of and recognizing the breath of life in others”.
With her hand on the Quran, Islamic sacred text, clad in a thobe – the traditional Palestinian dress, it was quite a sight to behold Rashida Tlaib who describes herself as a “proud Muslima” being sworn into the new Congress.
“This really happened. I am US Congresswoman. Not bad for a girl from southwest Detroit who didn’t speak English, daughter of Palestinian immigrants”, she tweeted.
Thanking her constituents from the 13th District of Michigan, the Democratic lawmaker gushed, “You helped change Congress forever”. On her part, she pledged, “Being accessible to every single resident from day one is how I serve you. My door is always open to you”.
Warmly welcoming her “sister” to Congress, Jayapal declared, “When I became the first member of Congress to endorse Rashida Tlaib many months ago during her campaign, I knew what I have known since I worked with her 17 years ago: she is a powerhouse”.
And a firebrand freshman legislator. “I will always speak truth to power”, Tlaib tweeted Friday, adding the hashtag “unapologeticallyMe”.
Newly-elected Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar cited how the 116th Congress has so much to be proud of: first Somali-American and refugee, she noted about herself; first Muslim women (Tlaib and herself); first indigenous women (Democrats Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Sharice Davids of Kansas); first Palestinian-American (Tlaib); youngest woman ever elected to Congress (New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez); a record 100-plus women; and the largest ever Black (55), Hispanic (37), and Progressive (97) caucuses.
On Thursday, Omar took the oath of office on her grandfather’s Quran, wearing a hijab. “No one puts a scarf on my head but me”, she tweeted last November. “It’s my choice – one protected by the First Amendment. And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift”.
At her swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill, Ocasio-Cortez made a strong statement in a white pantsuit, and looked stunning in the process. “I wore all-white today to honor the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come”, she explained in a Twitter post. “From suffragettes to Shirley Chisholm, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the mothers of the movement”, she said.
Referring to the new generation of female trailblazers in Congress, Ayanna Pressley who was herself sworn into the House as the first black Congresswoman from the state of Massachusetts, tweeted, “We marched. We ran. And we won. I’m excited to serve alongside these groundbreaking women, and look forward to working with them to elevate the voices of women and girls across the country”.
Quoting former First Lady Michelle Obama, she said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish”.
At the opening session of the 116th Congress, Pelosi affirmed, “When our new members take the oath, our Congress will be refreshed, and our democracy will be strengthened by their optimism, idealism and patriotism of this transformative Freshman class”. Powerful words from the most powerful woman in American politics!