When Ohio Rep. John Boehner was sworn in as Speaker of the House Wednesday, it offered a rare mirror image of the last gavel hand-off. In 2006, then-Majority Leader John Boehner, sporting a deeper tan than this week, handed the gavel over to California Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
The scene lent itself to the compare-and-contrast exercises politicos love so much, some even noting that Pelosi wore a more bipartisan purple suit in ’06 but a true-blue suit this week.
But perhaps the most striking difference was the difference in tone and length of the speeches. Pelosi gave almost a 12-minute defense of her record, lauding the accomplishments of the 111th Congress at length before shifting at the end to a gracious introduction for the incoming Speaker. Boehner’s speech, a surprisingly dry-eyed affair, was relatively modest at a little over 10-minutes long.
National Review editor Rich Lowry praised the humility of the speech, which began with a reminder that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
In 2006, when Pelosi was rightfully the woman of the hour, she nearly tripled Boehner’s speech length. He spoke for about seven minutes, calling the naming of the first woman speaker “a cause for celebration,” for Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Pelosi spoke for 19 minutes before calling all the children in the chamber down to the podium.
But when it comes to modern Speaker speeches, the length of Newt Gingrich’s outdid both Boehner and Pelosi. When Gingrich took the gavel in January 1995, Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt introduced him with a six-minute speech. Gingrich spoke for 35 minutes, covering history, faith, family, philosophy, the creation of the gavel he held, and de Toqueville, among other things.