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Pelosi honored with official portrait and emotional tributes at unveiling ceremony

By Kristin Wilson and Jack Forrest, CNN

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s official portrait was unveiled in a ceremony Wednesday at the US Capitol, with speeches from old allies and political sparring-mates who reminisced on her historic tenure.

The painting, which depicts Pelosi standing before the speaker’s chair in the House chamber and holding a gavel, will hang in the Speaker’s Lobby just off the House floor.

“This program was wonderful to me. It was like seeing the story of my political life revealed in front of me, not in terms of believing all the accolades, but in identifying with the persons who were presenting,” Pelosi said, thanking fellow California Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Lucille Roybal-Allard, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, and former Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

Boehner, who handed off the gavel to Pelosi in 2007 when she became the first and only female speaker, praised her as “one tough cookie.”

“You know the younger generation today has a saying, game recognizes game,” Boehner said. “And the fact of the matter is, no other speaker of the House in modern era — Republican or Democrat — has wielded the gavel with such authority or such consistent results.”

“You’ve been a fierce warrior for your party, but when the stakes were highest, you were willing to put the interest of the nation first and take the heat for it. Now that’s leadership. Leaders lead, Madame Speaker, and you Madame Speaker, have led,” he said. “And I’m here to say thank you for that.”

Pelosi and Boehner, who have long maintained a friendly rapport despite disagreeing on policy, embraced following his remarks.

“I would have been a little disappointed if he hadn’t gotten emotional,” Pelosi said of Boehner, who served as both her predecessor and her successor, and who teared up at times during his remarks. “He gave me the gavel. I gave him the gavel. I was present at his unveiling and he’s here today.”

Former President Barack Obama recorded a message thanking Pelosi and saying that “she will go down as one of the most accomplished legislators in the country.”

“Just last week, she helped keep marriage equality, the law of the land and even after insurrectionists literally broke into her office. She never stopped defending democracy here at home and around the world,” he said in the tribute. “While you won’t be in leadership anymore, I’ll still feel better knowing that your portrait will be looking down from these walls, fighting everyone who sees it to keep up the fight.”

Pelosi, who was designated “Speaker Emerita” in a unanimous vote by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee last month, announced in mid-November that she would be stepping down as speaker after leading House Democrats for two decades.

The announcement came just weeks after her husband, Paul, was violently attacked in the couple’s San Francisco home. He was present, wearing a fedora and a glove that he has donned since suffering injuries in the attack, along with the couple’s children at the unveiling.

Pelosi has thrown her support behind a new group of Democratic leaders, headed up by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries from New York, who who will become the first Black person to lead either major party in either chamber of Congress when he assumes the role next year.

Jeffries, 52, will represent a generational change from the current triumvirate of House Democratic leaders, who are three decades older than him.

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CNN’s Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.

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