What Was the Silver Thing in Front of Nancy Pelosi During the State of the Union?

Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union recently, but many were distracted by the silver thing sitting in front of Nancy Pelosi.


Mar. 2 2022, Published 9:35 a.m. ET

Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris
Source: Getty Images

During a State of the Union speech that ran slightly longer than an hour, President Joe Biden discussed the war in Ukraine, the ongoing pandemic, and the state of the economy, but some people who watched the speech were distracted by something else. Namely, they were wondering what the silver thing sitting in front of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was, and why it had been given such a prominent spot in the frame.

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What is the silver thing in front of Nancy Pelosi?

As it turns out, the silver object sitting in front of Pelosi is a pretty historic inkstand. The inkstand is made of coin-silver, and it's believed to be the oldest surviving artifact of the House of Representatives. The artifact dates back to between 1810 and 1820, and it's a part of regular order inside the House chamber.

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Before the speaker calls each session of the House to order, the inkstand is placed on the raised platform. The inkstand was created by Washington silversmith and watchmaker J. Leonard, and was first introduced into the House in 1819. Its exact origins, though, are a mystery, as no one knows exactly who commissioned it or how it came to be an object which was used in the House.

The House archives say that the inkstand contains three replacement inkwells and that it is "adorned on both sides by swags and eagles." Each foot of the tray also features a snake, which is meant to represent both unity and wisdom.

Clearly, then, the silver inkstand was given its prominent position in order to respect the lengthy history of the American government and the role the inkstand has played throughout it.

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Biden's first State of the Union was historic.

Biden's first State of the Union address was not only historic because of its content and the time in which he was asked to deliver it, but also because there were two women sitting behind him. Traditionally, the people behind the president during these addresses are the speaker of the house and the vice president, and this is the first time that both of those roles have been filled by women.

Source: YouTube
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Biden's speech came at a time of tremendous turmoil.

Although Biden offered a strong and hopeful tone throughout his remarks, his first State of the Union came at a time of remarkable upheaval not just in the US but around the world. Biden is facing an aggressive Russian state that is hoping to destabilize western alliances, as well as ongoing inflation that stems from the pandemic and his administration's robust response to it.

The reaction to Biden's speech was certainly mixed, but he sought to comfort the American people, many of whom are finding themselves exhausted by the never-ending glut of events that seem to be sending the world spiraling out of control. Biden is facing a new world order, and it's clear that the years of his presidency will be transformative in ways he likely didn't anticipate.

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