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Past and Future Come Together During a Busy Week in Washington

Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to lead the House as the Democrats took control of the new Congress. Earlier, funeral services took place for Gerald Ford, 38th president. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

American history was made, and remembered, this week in Washington.

On Thursday, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California became the first female speaker of the House of Representatives. The new Congress opened with Democrats in the majority in both houses for the first time in twelve years.

New members in the House include the first Muslim member of Congress. Keith Ellison of Minnesota placed his left hand on a Koran during a ceremonial swearing-in. He used a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson, America's third president.

But before the one hundred tenth Congress opened, Americans looked back at an earlier chapter in their history.

Funeral services and a national day of mourning took place this week for Gerald Ford. America's thirty-eighth president died on December twenty-sixth at his home in California. Mister Ford, a Republican, was ninety-three years old.

He was remembered as a likeable man who brought calm and healing to a nation torn by the political dirty tricks known as Watergate. But for many, that time in the early nineteen seventies also represents the end of a period of high public trust in government.

Gerald Ford became the only American ever to serve as president and vice president without election to either office. That was after he served in Congress for more than twenty years.

President Richard Nixon asked him to replace vice president Spiro Agnew. Agnew had resigned over accusations of financial corruption.

But less than a year later, in August of nineteen seventy-four, Nixon resigned because of Watergate. Had he not, Congress might have removed him from office.

The Watergate scandal is the name given to illegal activities by President Nixon's nineteen seventy-two re-election committee. The name comes from a group of buildings in Washington, the Watergate complex. A failed break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices there led to the discovery of the illegal activities.

The discovery came from an investigation by two young reporters at the Washington Post -- Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

President Nixon ordered his aides to hide evidence of the wrongdoing. A White House recording proved it. Soon after the tapes became public, he resigned.

Then, a month after Gerald Ford became president, he pardoned Richard Nixon for all offenses he may have committed. Mister Ford often said the pardon was a necessary step to unite the country. To this day, there is debate about whether he acted correctly. It meant Richard Nixon never had to face trial.

About forty people were charged with Watergate-related crimes.

Gerald Ford's decision may have cost him the nineteen seventy-six election. He lost to Jimmy Carter in a close race. Mister Ford's presidency lasted just twenty-nine months.

The former president was buried Wednesday at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I’m Mario Ritter.