Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was on top of the world as she continued her post-health care reform celebratory tour of California with an appearance before hundreds of supporters today atop Nob Hill.

In an hour-long talk at the Mark Hopkins Hotel hosted by the Commonwealth Club, Pelosi said the reform translates to a healthier, more competitive and more resilient America that is willing to take risks as the country emerges from the Great Recession.

“This is not only about health care, it’s about a healthier America,” Pelosi said. She said the reform package will mean a new emphasis on preventive care and advances in research and technology.

Pelosi stressed that creative, entrepreneurial individuals are often forced to choose between health coverage for themselves, their children and their families or pursuing their dreams.

“Think of what that does for people with aspirations and the pursuit of happiness. Think of what that does for an economy,” she said.

Pelosi recognized that innovations spawned by taking entrepreneurial risks will drive the economic recovery, and that Congress needs to mitigate other risks to individuals that impede creative thinking.

“Everybody was excited about the prospect of freeing the American people from this anvil of costly health care,” she said, noting that it would potentially restore America’s competitive edge abroad.

On an individual level, Pelosi said, many groups of people will see immediate benefits from the reforms: adult children up to age 26 will now have the option to obtain coverage under their parents’ insurance; women will no longer pay more than men for comparable policies; and seniors will have better access to affordable pharmaceuticals.

Pelosi referred to “the AAA rating” of the insurance reforms as affordability for the middle class, accessibility for uninsured individuals previously blocked by pre-existing conditions and the accountability of insurance companies.

Pelosi, who was one of the strongest forces behind the passage of the contentious bill, stressed that greater access to health care will nurture not just individuals, but also nurse the economy back to health.

Over the long term, the changes to the health care system are anticipated to save $1.3 trillion dollars and have a positive impact on the national deficit.

“It is a sound fiscal budget policy that is important to economic health and to future generations,” Pelosi said.

But she also cautioned that Congress and Wall Street “cannot continue to put the American people at risk,” and spoke of the work ahead when she returns to Washington, D.C., next week.

Pelosi said the reforms would serve as a blueprint for economic stabilization going into the future by reducing the national deficit and creating jobs.

Health care is just one of the “three pillars” of reform prioritized by the Obama administration, she said, along with overhauls to educational lending and energy policies.

She said Congress would take up ongoing financial reforms, immigration policies and a treaty on the use of nuclear weapons.

This legislation does not address the needs of millions of undocumented illegal immigrants, who Pelosi said make up “a vital part of the economy.”

“Immigrants are a constant reinvigoration of America. That everyone who comes with their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations for a better future for children make America more American.”

Pelosi said Congress needs to address comprehensive immigration reform to reduce the number of undocumented workers and foster a community where everyone is health and contributes to the health care system.

Congress has taken steps to transform the educational lending system by directly providing loans to students, who Pelosi said were unjustly preyed upon by lending institutions despite the low-risk nature of the loans.

“It is a false economy to cut education,” she said.

“Nothing brings more money to the treasury than investing in education.”

Expansion of the Pell grant program has provided even more opportunities for students, but Pelosi said in spite of this infusion of cash, schools need to recognize that “we’re in survival mode.”

“This definitely ranks first, by a long shot,” in terms of what Congress has accomplished since President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, she said.

Pelosi said she felt at home in her congressional district of San Francisco–she has represented California’s Eighth District since 1987.

“In our city, we are blessed with a very creative community,” she said.

More than 500 people packed the ballroom at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on the corner of California and Mason streets as part of a speaking engagement arranged by the Commonwealth Club of California.

When asked by an audience member how she managed to endure months of long nights and difficult tension in Washington, Pelosi said dark chocolate carried her through.
“Dark. Very, very dark chocolate.”

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