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Glass Ceiling Busters Storm House and Senate

The Senate quietly shattered a glass ceiling this week.

The Rev. Dr. Patricia Bryant Harris, a Methodist pastor in Wilmington, Del., became the first black woman to serve as a guest chaplain in the Senate.

She opened the historic session of the chamber praying that the "result of all the works within this place free people, free nations from grief, hunger and pain."

Asked how she felt about the distinction of being the first African-American woman to deliver the opening prayer in a tradition that goes back more than a century, Harris, 61, told her local paper, the Wilmington News Journal, "I would put it in the terms of the young people today: Awesome. I'm from the First State, I'm the first African-American female to present the prayer. It was an awesome experience."

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a personal friend of Harris, said he was honored to welcome the reverend to "help get [the Senate] started on the right foot and to do not just the Senate's business and not just the business of our country, but the lord's business as well."

Not to be outdone, the House, led by uber glass ceiling buster House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first ever female speaker of the House, is also making history in the "firsts" department.

Pelosi announced this week that Jaime Zapata has been tapped as the chamber's new reading clerk, the first Hispanic ever to serve in that role.

Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, calls the appointment a "historic moment for Hispanics across the country, as they will now have a sense of pride when they tune in to C-SPAN and see someone from our community playing an integral part in the proceedings of the United States Congress."

The clerk is the person who reads the bills and resolutions put forward for consideration in the House, such as earlier this week, when Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) ordered the clerk to read his impeachment resolution against President Bush into the congressional record.

Zapata will leave his current job as communications director for the House Committee on Small Business and begin his new duties as reading clerk on July 28.

(Lemon water, Jaime. Drink lots of lemon water!)

By Mary Ann Akers  |  July 16, 2008; 3:43 PM ET
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Mary Ann,
Thank you for featuring this remarkable change in the policies of Congress.
You're right.
It does break a glass ceiling in many directions, including those within her church, who doubtless object to having a woman as minister.
This is a landmark bit of history.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | July 16, 2008 9:19 PM | Report abuse

I believe it will be a landmark when the distinctions first African-American, female, Hispanic, Irish-American, etc. are no longer relevant when acknowledging achievements. Then we will be the America that judges people, as Dr. King once said, "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Then we can celebrate a real landmark; becoming an America worthy of our motto, "Out of many, One."

Posted by: Gary Beamon | July 17, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Who is he, what are his qualifications? CAN HE REALLY READ?



Posted by: Roinct | July 17, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Just Great.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jim Garvey | July 17, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

So what is the big deal. I assume that Zapata is American, like the rest of us. Now if the record is being read in Espanol, then that would be news. However, it would also be grounds, in my opinion, for impeachement of Pelosi. Sounds like she is the heir apparent to Jesse (the not-ordained Rev.) Jackson. Keep stirring the pot of racism. My God, when will you people in Washington start doing the people's business?

Posted by: B D Flynn | July 17, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I presume the Rev. was there on her own merits.
It's ot breaking the glass ceiling if you get it because of your husband.

Posted by: Miri | July 18, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I praise the Lord for the Re: Bryant Harris Because He use her for the glory of his kingdom

Posted by: Luma | July 18, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Is he here legally? Is he a Legal American, Or a undocumented American?
Now that would be news.......

Posted by: jm MN | July 18, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Mary Ann, as usual another irrevelant fluff piece. When are you liberals going to get past the race thing? Why does it always have to be something you need to announce? Most american adults who have self-awareness and intelligence don't notice such nonspecific attributes of another person. Personality and decency pretty much do it for us enlightened ones.

Posted by: Adrian | July 18, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

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