The morning after the election, I received a powerful reminder of why so many of us choose public service as our life's work. While walking into my office, I ran into a group of schoolchildren who had come to visit the Capitol.
Talking with them reminded me of the solemn responsibility each generation has to the ones that follow. Their enthusiasm and energy spoke more powerfully than any words could that they are inheritors of the future we choose to build today.
This year, voters elected Democratic candidates from every region of America, giving Democrats the majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and entrusting us with a great deal of responsibility for building that future.
With their votes, the American people asked for change. They cast their ballots in favor of a New Direction.
They called for greater integrity in Washington, and Democrats pledge to make this the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history.
The American people called for greater civility in how Congress conducts its work, and Democrats pledge to conduct our work with civility and bipartisanship, and to act in partnership – not partisanship – with the president and Republicans in Congress.
I met with President Bush at the White House two days after the election, and we both extended the hand of friendship. We recognized that we have our differences, and we will debate them as our Founding Fathers intended, but we will do so in a way that gets results for the American people.
The American people called for greater economic fairness, and we pledge to work for an economy that enables all Americans to participate in the economic success of our country.
Nowhere was the call for a New Direction clearer than in the war in Iraq. The strategy of "stay the course" is not working, has not made our country safer, has not honored our commitment to our troops, and has not brought stability to the region.
The president's acceptance of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation on Wednesday is an encouraging step. It's an opportunity for a fresh start in Iraq, and I hope it's a precursor to a change in policy.
With integrity, civility, and fiscal responsibility as our guide, Democrats intend to move forward with the agenda for change on which we were elected. We will:
•Make America safer by implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission.
•Make our economy fairer by raising the minimum wage and ending taxpayer subsidies for sending jobs overseas.
•Make college more affordable by cutting the interest rates on student loans.
•Improve healthcare by allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices and promoting stem-cell research.
•Achieve energy independence within 10 years by investing America's energy dollars in the Midwest instead of the Middle East.
•Guarantee a dignified retirement by improving Medicare, protecting Social Security, and making it easier to save for retirement.
These items are not just the Democratic agenda; all of them enjoy broad bipartisan support. Democrats will work with members of both parties to secure their passage, because progress will not be victory for any one party, but for all of the American people.
Democrats do not see our congressional majorities as the end point in a long and hard-fought campaign, but rather the starting point – an opportunity to work on behalf of all Americans.
The American people – many Republican and independent voters among them – entrusted Democrats with their hopes and aspirations for themselves, their families, and their future. We are prepared to lead and ready to govern. We will honor that trust, and we will not disappoint.
• Nancy Pelosi is currently the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives. In January, she is expected to become speaker of the House, the first woman ever to serve in that capacity.