After being officially sworn in to the 116th Congress by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C. earlier this month, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley held a local swearing in ceremony Saturday at Roxbury Community College.
Pressley, who now represents the 7th Congressional District that includes East Boston, unseated incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano during the Democratic Primary in September, and became the first African-American woman to serve the district.
After being sworn in by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Pressley addressed the crowd.
“You are a glorious, glorious sight to behold,” Pressley began. “The manifestation of millions of steps, and a million more prayers. I am so grateful to be here with all of you today. To my family, to my fellow elected officials, to my dedicated A-Team, and most importantly to the residents of the 7th Congressional District – thank you for making this moment, today possible.”
Pressley said she did not come to the ceremony to offer celebratory remarks, but simply remarks of vision–vision for the district, for its communities, and for the country.
“We find ourselves in unprecedented times,” she said. “Each day, we hear a deluge of hateful rhetoric and even more hateful policies, meant to divide us and make us feel small. But together, we are powerful. Yes, these are unprecedented and uncertain times, unprecedented times which demand unprecedented leadership, unprecedented organizing, unprecedented mobilizing, unprecedented legislating, and unprecedented hope.”
Pressley added that there are many who have characterized the Democrats’ electoral victory as a referendum against hate, but she sees it as a victory for hope.
“And so it is together, in community, in the 7th Congressional district – here today in Roxbury, Massachusetts – the very place that inspired, fortified and nurtured history makers like Elma Lewis, Paul Goodnight, Malcolm X, Dr. King, and Melnea Cass, and Mel King, and Alfreda Harris, and Sarah-Ann Shaw – it is in this community, at this place, that we come together to fortify ourselves for the work that we will take on together,” she said. “The pursuit of justice and equality and equity, my mother reminded me, is a cradle-to-grave struggle. In the pursuit of justice, the line is not a straight or linear one, it is not always consistent, but it is always worth it.”
Pressley said while the moral arc of justice bends it only does so when we make it bend.
“We must ready ourselves, for both the breakthroughs and the joy of the struggle, and then we can realize the joy of the victory,” said Pressley. “We’ve made our fair share of history together, but I was not sent to Congress just to make history. You sent me there to make meaningful, lasting change – progress on behalf of the residents of the Massachusetts 7th Congressional district – the most diverse and unequal district in our delegation, and arguably one of the most unequal in our country.”
Pressley said she will not do this work alone and on the days that she feels tired or weary, she will reflect upon and think of this moment.
“I will think about the hundreds of you in front of me, and the hundreds more that each of you represent,” she said. “Each of you speak for and act on behalf of those you have a loved, and lost, and fought for, and nurtured. We walk through this life not just as individuals, but also as manifestations of the people who have shaped us and those whom we carry with us. And so, I recommit to you today, that I am bringing all of you to Washington with me.”
Pressley went on to credit her victory to the voters who believed in the pursuit of equity, equality and justice.
“I know this to be true because, when the rights of our trans family members were under attack, you organized and mobilized and fought for equality,” she said. “When rhetoric of hate tried to vilify our immigrant neighbors and violently separate their families, you showed up at airports offering legal representation and demanding humanity. When our union brothers and sisters were locked out of their jobs, their livelihood in the balance, you marched. When your loved ones healthcare was under attack, their cancer treatment, their insulin, their lives in jeopardy, you put your bodies on the line to fight for their dignity. When survivors of gun violence, of domestic violence, of sexual violence; when our voices were silenced you built megaphones and amplified their stories.” She ended by saying, “The work we take on together will not be easy. But it will be real. And it will be worth it. I still believe in the power of us, and change is on the way.”