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End of Democratic Rule
Richard Gephardt

Ladies and gentleman of the House, I first want to thank my Democratic colleagues for their support and their confidence. I noted we were a little short, but I appreciate your friendship and your support.

As you might imagine, this is not a moment that I had been waiting for. When you carry the mantle of progress, there is precious little glory in defeat. But sometimes we spend so much time lionizing the winners and labeling the losers, we lose sight of the victory we all share in this crown jewel of democracy.

You see, Mr. Speaker, this is a day to celebrate a power that belongs not to any political party, but to the people, no matter the margin, no matter the majority. All across the world, from Bosnia to Chechnya to South Africa, people lay down their lives for the kind of voice we take for granted. Too often the transfer of power is an act of pain and carnage, not one as we see today of peace and decency, but here in the House of Representatives, for 219 years, longer than any democracy in the world, we heed the peopleís voice with peace and civility and respect. Each and every day, on this very floor, we echo the hopes and dreams of our people, their fears and their failures, their abiding belief in a better America.

We may not all agree with todayís changing of the guard. We may not all like it, but we enact the peopleís will with dignity and honor and pride. And in that endeavor, Mr. Speaker, there can be no losers, and there can be no defeat.

Of course, in the 104th Congress there will be conflict and compromise. Agreements will not always be easy; agreements sometimes not even possible, but while we may not agree on matters of party and principle, we all abide with the will of the people. That is reason enough to place our good faith and our best hopes in your able hands.

I speak from the bottom of my heart when I say that I wish you the best in these coming 2 years, for when this gavel passes into your hands, so do the futures and fortunes of millions of Americans. To make real progress, to improve real peopleís lives, we both have to rise above partisanship. We have to work together where we can and where we must.

It is a profound responsibility, one which knows no bounds in party or politics. It is the responsibility not merely for those who voted for you, not merely for those who cast their fate on your side of the aisle, but also for those who did not.

These are the responsibilities I pass, along with the gavel I hold, will hold in my hand, but there are some burdens that the Democratic Party will never cease to bear. As Democrats, we came to Congress to fight for Americaís hard-working middle-income families, the families who are working, often for longer hours, for less pay, for fewer benefits in jobs they are not sure they can keep.

We, together, must redeem their faith that if they work hard and they play by the rules they can build a better life for their children. Mr. Speaker, I want this entire House to speak for those families. The Democratic Party will. That mantle we will never lay to rest.

So with partnership, so with so with partnership but with purpose, I pass this great gavel of our Government. With resignation, but with resolve, I hereby end 40 years of Democratic rule of this House. With faith and with friendship and the deepest respect, you are now my Speaker, and let the great debate begin.

I now have the high honor and distinct privilege to present to the House of Representatives our new Speaker, the gentleman from Georgia, Newt Gingrich.