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!)
Mary Ann Akers
July 16, 2008; 3:43 PM ET
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