When President Joe Biden delivered his debut speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, history was made behind him, with two powerful women taking their places on the rostrum for the first time.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been in the position before during presidential speeches. But with the addition this time of Kamala Harris, the nation’s first female vice president, the two people seated behind and on either side of Biden as Americans tuned in on their TV screens for the primetime address were women.
“Madam Speaker. Madam Vice President,” Biden said proudly, turning to the women and clapping as he began his address.
“No president has ever said those words from this podium,” he added, “And it’s about time.”
The chamber, with a limited number of lawmakers on hand due to coronavirus guidelines, burst into applause, as First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff joined in the ovation.
It also marked a first of another sort: both the speaker and the vice president were wearing masks, another key plank of policies implemented in Congress beginning last year to guard against the spread of COVID-19.
Harris and Pelosi are the first and second, respectively, in the presidential line of succession.