Posted by: Randy Allgaier | November 2, 2006

Nancy Pelosi- My personal story about the Minority Leader

The Republicans have been portraying Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a bogey man that is going to aid the terrorists, hand over the country to “illegals” and gays, and raise everyone’s taxes. 

I am one of Mrs. Pelosi’s constituents and I have had the privilege of working with her office on numerous occasions in my work in health policy and planning as well as AIDS advocacy.  I also had the honor to have dinner with Mrs. Pelosi once which was a remarkable evening. 

Congresswoman Pelosi is fair, she wouldn’t dream of raising taxes on the middle class- she would probably hope to repeal some of Bushs’s tax cut for the wealthiest in order to help balance the budget- but she cares about the middle class and those that are struggling.  Balancing the budget is a good thing folks!  She also cares deeply about public health issues and equal rights.  She is a balanced thinker and she is acts out of what she thinks is right- not what is politically expedient.  Nor does she act out of a need to pander to the worst in us. 

Mrs. Pelosi dares us to think about those who are less fortunate.  Quite frankly- that is the hallmark of the San Francisco liberal- caring for the most vulnerable in our society.  If our moral compass has moved so much towards a judgemental holier than thou status rather than a place of compassion, I am profoundly sad.  But I do believe in the innate goodness of people and that they do want to do the right thing- like Mrs. Pelosi. 

When I worked in Public Policy at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, there was no better advocate or champion for people living with HIV/AIDS in Congress than Mrs. Pelosi. It was due to my work in HIV/AIDS and her exemplary legislative record and leadership on this issue that led to our having dinner together. 

There are three elected officials that I feel I have had a personal connection with- even if only for a moment. 

The first is California Assemblyman Mark Leno.  He was a friend before he was in public office and being in public office has not changed his goodness and his kindness and he remains a good friend to this day without any political hitches to that friendship.

The second is Congressman John Lewis.  I met Congressman Lewis when he was in San Francisco on a book tour for his book “Walking With the Wind”.  At the time I was a board member of the Human Rights Campaign and I had the honor of introducing him to an audience.  I was in awe of him and his leadership during the Civil Rights movement.  He was very kind during our brief time together.  Nearly 7 years later I met him again at an event in Atlanta Georgia.  I went up to him to introduce myself and to mention that we had once met in San Francisco.  I was astonished that he remembered me and the circumstances of our first meeting – without any hint about the previous encounter from me or anyone.  Needless to say I was impressed that someone who probably shakes tens of thousands of hands a year remembered our encounter of years ago.  I was humbled by that experience.

The third was Mrs. Pelosi.  I was a board member of an AIDS service organization in San Francisco – Shanti – at the time (which was 1995).  I was co-chairing our annual dinner and we were honoring Mrs. Pelosi for her leadership in Congress on HIV/AIDS issues. 

Mrs. Pelosi was seated at my table with my friends, my immediate colleagues and my partner.  We all had a convivial conversation and then it was time for the award.  I was to introduce the Congresswoman and then give her the award.  My partner told me that as I was talking about her – she sat in her chair smiling and quiet.  However, when I mentioned in those remarks that I was a person living with HIV/AIDS,  my partner told me her smile disappeared and she seemed genuinely upset.  I knew that she had a number of freinds who had AIDS and died.  My partner and others present said her heart seemed to have become heavy hearing that the man she was just sharing a meal with, talking with and laughing with also had AIDS.  At that time AIDS was still pretty much a death sentence (protease inhibitors had not yet hit the market) and she had a visceral reaction to hearing my news.   I have never forgotten that moment. 

So this caring and compassionate woman who felt for me upon learing about my diagnosis  is not the villain portrayed by the radical right.  Her hallmark features, of caring, fairness and compassion are exactly the qualities needed in our legislators and sadly seldom are present.  Our Congress will be a better place with her as Speaker.


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