For the first time in the 220-year history of the Republic, the appearance of President before a joint session of Congress was announced with the words: “Madam Speaker! The President of the United States.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, presided over the joint session to which President Bush delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night. Never before has a woman been in so powerful a position.

It is true that Pelosi was forced to engage in the unappealing work of making small talk with Vice President Dick Cheney for the better part of a half hour before the announcement came. But the new speaker was seen to smile broadly when the Sergeant at Arms of the House shouted the traditional announcement of the president.

Bush recognized the moment. Diverting from the prepared text that had been distributed before he entered the House chamber, the President said it was his “high privilege” of begin his address with the words, “Madam Speaker…”

The President then graciously recalled the service of the Speaker’s father in the House and extended his hand of the woman behind him.

The chamber rose to a rousing standing ovation, in what was certain to be the night’s most truly bipartisan moment.