The 2019 Profile in Courage Award goes to Speaker Nancy Pelosi for putting the national interest above her party’s interest to expand access to health care for all Americans and then, against a wave of political attacks, leading the effort to retake the majority and elect the most diverse Congress in our nation’s history.
In 2010, amid a public climate of deepening polarization, Pelosi tirelessly spearheaded the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA has subsequently enabled millions of Americans to have access to quality, affordable health care, and improved benefits for tens of millions more; it was the most significant expansion of health care access since the implementation of Medicare and Medicaid nearly half a century before. Following its passage, Pelosi became the subject of negative political attacks from the GOP. Democrats lost control of the House in November 2010, ending her first tenure as House Speaker.
Despite facing opposition, Pelosi illustrated her persistence and determination, as she set out to rebuild the Democratic Party in the image of America. In 2018, she led Democrats in electing the most diverse Congress in U.S. history – more people of color, more LGBT Americans, and a record-setting 35 new Democratic women – including the first Native American women and Muslim American women. With Democrats back in the majority, Pelosi elevated a new generation of leaders to leadership positions and skillfully united her party focusing on shared values, policy priorities, and a commitment to governing for the greater good. On January 3, 2019, Pelosi was once again elected Speaker of the House, becoming the first speaker in more than 60 years to win nonconsecutive terms.
In her extraordinary tenure as House Speaker, Pelosi has secured the passage of landmark legislation to expand access to health care, make historic investments in renewable energy resources, improve access to education, reform the financial services industry, and repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military.