When U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hands over the gavel to her Republican successor next year, it will mark the end of an era in U.S. politics, with the greatest impact immediately visible on domestic policy. But Pelosi, who has led the House Democratic caucus as either speaker or minority leader for nearly two decades, has also played a major role in foreign policy, deploying her considerable political skills in pursuit of what has been a mostly hawkish, internationalist worldview.
Since she became speaker—the first woman to occupy the position—in 2007 and then again in 2019, some of Pelosi’s most memorable moments came when she characteristically stood up to then-President Donald Trump. After Trump delivered his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in 2020, Pelosi rose from her seat on the dais behind him and, with all the cameras still trained on them, raised her copy of his speech and tore it to shreds as a sign of contempt.
Then there was the iconic photo from a few months earlier—released by Trump, no less, in a misguided effort to disparage her. It accomplished the opposite, showing the Democratic leader standing before the president and a roomful of powerful men, with a defiantly raised finger. The image became symbolic of Pelosi’s willingness to challenge the powerful.