Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks this morning at the San Francisco Interfaith Council Annual Thanksgiving Breakfast. The breakfast was held in honor of Rita Semel, who turned 90 this year, for her tireless advocacy for interfaith cooperation in civil rights, education, homelessness, and women's health. Below are the Leader's remarks as prepared for delivery:
"On Thanksgiving, Americans of all faiths and backgrounds come together with family and friends to honor a spirit of gratitude: offering thanks for the blessings in our lives; giving back to the less fortunate in our communities.
"At the San Francisco Interfaith Council, this spirit of Thanksgiving is not limited to a single day -- it defines your work every day.
"The SFIC is a place for people to learn; to strengthen our city and our country through dialogue and respect -- by recognizing the value of all traditions, the beauty of all faiths, the dignity of every human being.
"For all of us here today, though we hail from different backgrounds, our values are shared.
"The core tenets of our beliefs dictate compassion and conviction; inspire service to the needy and justice for the less fortunate; demand that, in the eyes of friends and even in the eyes of strangers, we see the face of God.
"Indeed, this spirit of pluralism and diversity -- this common desire to shed what divides us and celebrate what unites us: this is what makes SFIC unique and what sets our community apart.
"This is how San Francisco reflects the best of America's history of religious freedom.
"This is how SFIC lives up to the charge of our city's patron saint, St. Francis: to be "an instrument of peace.'
"Few more clearly embody this spirit -- and few have been more instrumental in advancing the cause and mission of SFIC -- than my friend, Rita Semel.
"She is an instrument of understanding and a pioneer of interfaith dialogue.
"From civil rights to women's rights, from serving the homeless to supporting Israel to empowering students, Rita helped form the SFIC to secure the common good.
"She has used cooperation and outreach to fulfill the biblical instruction: "Justice, justice, you shall pursue.'
"At the Jewish Community Relations Council, she effectively created the field of "community relations' -- strengthening ties within the Jewish community and establishing bonds with leaders and organizations of other faiths.
"She has long understood that "repairing the world' requires relationships; it demands our recognition that "out of many, we are one" -- one community, one city, one nation.
"In short, everything Rita has achieved has been defined by building bridges -- between cultures and religions and faiths.
"There is no better tribute to Rita's legacy -- to the bridges she built and maintained across decades of advocacy -- than the establishment of SFIC's Rita R. Semel Endowment Fund for Interfaith Work.
"It is the least we could do to express our gratitude to a great leader for making our city a place of understanding, tolerance, and compassion.
"In the spirit of Rita Semel, in the tradition of the SFIC, let us pledge on this Thanksgiving to continue the task of building bridges.
"In this time of economic struggle and challenge, let us continue to aid the needy, feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless.
"Let us continue SFIC's work: to open our hands and our hearts to the least among us; to turn faith into action and principles into progress.
"Let us strengthen our bonds of friendship and give thanks for the blessings around us.
"Thank you, SFIC, for honoring Rita Semel, for building bridges between communities, and for building a better San Francisco."