Councilor Kim Janey had to fight back the tears as she praised Ayanna Pressley for being a role model for her, for the other four women on the Boston City Council, for people across Boston.
"You've always lifted up the voices of people who have not been heard, you've lifted up people who have been pushed to the margin."
With fellow new congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib in the chamber, Pressley listened as councilors and Mayor Walsh thanked her for her eight years of service on the council.
The women councilors in particular praised her for setting a path for them - when Pressley first won election, she was one of just two women on the council, and the first black woman, and now six of the thirteen councilors are women of color.
"For me, you are the great destroyer of glass ceilings," Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, North End, Charlestown) said. "You are the one who says 'why not?' wherever you go."
She said that Pressley, who has been open about her own sexual abuse, has turned her experience into help for so many people. "You exposed your pain, you have elevated the survival stories of hundreds, if not thousands of people."
She urged Pressley to go to Washington and do great things with her "squad" - which includes Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib - and to not worry about the council. "Girl, we got this!" she said. "Because of you, we are better, we are stronger."
Councilor Michelle Wu (at large) recalled how the first parade she ever marched in was the 2009 Pride parade - as a member of Pressley's contingent. She said she was struck by how "joyful, powerful loving and just so personal with each and every resident," Pressley was as she walked in the parade.
And she recalled how, as she marched in this year's Bunker Hill Day parade, a little girl came up to her and said "you must be on the City Council" and when Wu said yes, the girl replied, "You must know Ayanna Pressley!"
Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George (at large), thanked Pressley for many heart-to-heart talks, often over cake, and promised her, "We will always have your back - and you know us girls from Dorchester."
Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), said Pressley's election has helped decrease cynicism about the role of government and brought us a little closer to the Revolutionary ideal of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Addressing Pressley, whom he sat next to at council meetings, he added, "My friend, we're a lot closer now because of your election and you're going to do great things."
Councilor Josh Zakim (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway) recalled Pressley's grace on the campaign trail earlier this year - a trail they sometimes shared as he ran for Secretary of State. He said that as harsh as people were to him, they were far worse to her, yet she never lost her cool or graciousness, not even at the caucus meeting in his opponent William Galvin's home caucus in Brighton.
Mayor Walsh made a rare trip across City Hall to the council chambers to give Pressley a Paul Revere bowl - the traditional gift for outgoing councilors - and a Boston scarf so Pressley will remember where she's from while mingling with New Yorkers and other types down in DC.
Pressley, in turn thanked her colleagues and council staffers and recalled that at first, she resisted a friend's call to run for the council. But she said, the more she worked with girls and young women of color in volunteer efforts, the more she realized that they were being completely left out of so many discussions.
"I wanted to do something about this, I had to," she said. "I wanted to fight for girls, not to be their voice, but to lift up their voices." She said people told her that "saving girls wasn't a job for a Boston city councilor."
She said that in her first year on the council, at budget meetings she would ask department heads what they were doing to address the needs of girls and young women of color but was met only with silence. At the most recent round of budget meetings, she said, they came with "reports and binders and multi-colored tabs" to show what they were doing. "We proved them wrong."
But, she continued, that fight, and others, have helped improve things not just for girls, but for everybody. "Representative government only works when everyone is represented," she said, vowing to continue her work in Washington.